Butterflies & Trusting God

Today's blog features a heart-felt message and an original illustration by our very own Dan Lietha. We invite you to see God in this timely message.

Scripture is there to guide us and give us much needed reminders of the hope we have in Christ. But do we always remember to turn to God and His Word in the midst of our troubles?

These last couple of years have been difficult for many—heartbreaking illnesses, loss of loved ones, isolation, and stress. Indeed, our lives have been changed. But through it all, many Christians have moved forward, day by day, holding on to the promises and reassurance of God’s Word. Scripture is there to guide us and give us much needed reminders of the hope we have in Christ. But do we always remember to turn to God and His Word in the midst of our troubles?
Christian author and speaker, Joni Eareckson Tada, has modeled something that I have found encouraging and helpful in this area. Let's start with some background on her story for those who aren’t familiar with Joni (pronounced, Johnny). In 1967, at age 17, she broke her neck in a diving accident while swimming and became a quadriplegic—paralyzed from the shoulders down. Now at age 71, she has spent the last 54 years in a wheelchair.
Unbelievably (humanly speaking), this great tragedy in her life has become an inspiration to many as she, despite her physical limitations, has achieved by God’s grace an amazing list of accomplishments. Here are just a few of them:
 
  • Author of over 48 books on disability and the Christian faith
  • Singer that has recorded several musical albums
  • Actor who starred as herself in a biographical movie
  • Talented illustrator (She draws and paints with a pencil or brush in her mouth.)
  • Internationally known speaker
  • Founder of the ministry, Joni and Friends
  • Host of the radio program, Joni and Friends, which is heard on over 1000 broadcast outlets around the world
  • International advocate for people with disabilities
 
She has also been married to her husband, Ken Tada, since 1982.
These many accomplishments are very inspiring, but even more so when you hear Joni talk about the deep dark valleys of depression she has gone through. She is very open about her early days of coming to grips with the new life limitations after her accident. Initially, she went through a deep depression, feeling her life was over and should be ended. And many times since—living the life of a quadriplegic—she has had low times.
When you hear her speak on her radio program or to audiences at a conference, she is just so bubbly and positively joyful. One might simply conclude that some people are naturally more positive than others, and that she must be one of them. Yet, she would be the first one to tell you that she has worked at it—every … single … day. She has hidden God’s Word in her heart (Psalm 119:11) through much time spent in Scripture, and she is constantly delighting in God (Psalm 40:8) and putting into practice the things she learns from God’s Word. One of the ways she does this caught my attention many years ago.
I remember Joni saying that one day she was praying and praising God for His grace and mercy in her life, and she felt a great peace and joy flood her soul. At that moment, a butterfly fluttered close by her. She said it was to her a symbol of God’s love and reassurance. Since that day, there have been many times when Joni has had a difficult day and a butterfly will flutter by, triggering thoughts of God's faithfulness. What a blessing! These butterflies have shown up at times in the weirdest places, such as the tops of high buildings, and Joni is so thankful to God for these little reminders of His care for us.

How many times have I taken common things for granted that I could be, and should be, thanking God for?

Some could say butterflies are not uncommon, and they fly by all of us—butterflies are nothing special. But Joni chooses not to see it that way. Her love for God and desire to give Him credit and praise (Psalm 9:1) for even a simple butterfly fly-by is what caught my attention. Her perspective of thankfulness (Psalm 106:1) as she endures life with difficulties that I know nothing about challenges me and encourages me.  How many times have I taken common things for granted that I could be, and should be, thanking God for? Not only have I missed the opportunity to praise our Creator, but I also have missed the blessing of having my perspective refocused on eternally important things.
It was in my childhood that I first heard Joni tell of her butterfly encounters at moments of need in her life, and it has stuck with me. Over the years, I’ve collected a few visual things of my own similar to Joni’s butterflies, and they have helped me to be more thankful. At times, seeing these items has snapped me out of selfish self-focus from my problems of the moment.
One of them is a red cardinal. When a flash of bright red zips by, it triggers a thankfulness for my ability to see vibrant colors and gives me a new appreciation for God's care and the creation He  made  for us. I like cardinals, and they are fun to see, but adding this meaning to their unexpected appearances makes them so much more special. Other things that cross my path from time to time have become visual cues to remind me to pray for friends. This practice of using visual reminders to praise God and be thankful to Him has been a great blessing to me. Thank you, Lord, for the reminders you send my way.

Do you have things in your life that prompt you to look beyond the troubles of the moment?

 We live in a world with many troubles, and yet we serve a God that is greater than any trouble we may face. Noticing “triggers” that encourage us to think of God more and to be thankful to Him will help us to more naturally live out Proverbs 3:5,6 (NKJV):

Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him.
And He shall make straight your paths.

Author Bio:
Dan Lietha joined Reasons for Hope in 2019 as our cartoonist and illustrator, developing images and speaker slides that challenge viewers to think biblically.  “Truth Jabs” is his newest cartoon feature, and he also produces an online educational video series called “Draw It & Know It!” instructing viewers in how to draw animals and think about them with a biblical worldview. Dan loves camp ministry and has spoken at camps and other venues over the past 15 years.  He lives in northern Kentucky with his wife, Marcia, and daughter, Hannah.
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