One of the greatest blessings of getting to raise your children and grandchildren on the farm is that they get to experience firsthand so many important lessons that prepare them for life and that point them to the God of creation. These experiences enable them to learn life's lessons and create special memories that will be with them for the rest of their lives. Much of their character and worldview will be formed by these experiences.
Just this past week, my grandchildren got to see another set of triplets born to one of our goats. They got to watch the laboursome birthing process, which itself is a miraculous event. They held and played with the new babies and watched them as they awkwardly bounced all around the barnyard. They also got to see three hens hatch out their new chicks, something the children had anticipated for about three weeks. One hen hatched out five chicks, one hatched out ten and another hatched out six, but two of them died.
Once the hens left the nests with their chicks, we got to examine the eggs that did not hatch. Some were unfertilized, others had partially or fully developed chicks that just never made it out of the shell. Some of them even showed outward evidence of being in the process of 'pipping' when they died. (The process where the chick pecks and kicks its way out of the shell.) Of course, there were plenty of questions about the ones that were not fertilized and the ones that died, especially those that died in the shell. Some questions I answered, others I either could not or did not.
One of the lessons that I did get to explain was how the pipping process was absolutely necessary for the chick to hatch out alive and be able to survive. Unless they go through this process of struggling to break through the shell on their own, they will most often die. If you try to help them and not allow them struggle for themselves, those that do survive will most likely not be viable.
There are many scientific reasons why this is so. For example: The chick must completely absorb the yoke before it can survive outside the shell. If you remove the chick before then, it will bleed to death. Also, the chick must learn how to breath before it is removed from the shell. When pipping, the chick positions its head below its right wing. The wings help keep the chick oriented inside the shell. As it pips through the first membrane, it begins to breath from the air sac between the membrane and the outer shell. This stimulates the chick to begin breathing with its lungs. When the air supply gets short, it pips through the outer shell and over a period of time varying from a few minutes to several hours, it basically cuts itself out of the shell with its beak (called zipping). Using its feet, the chick then struggles to push the eggshell apart so it can be free. Unless they go through this entire process on their own, they often bleed to death, their lungs do not develop causing them to suffocate, and/or their legs will not be strong enough to support their body weight once you pull them out.
This same analogy also applies to how we face life's daily struggles that we have to go through to mature and to survive. These struggles help to mold our character and our ability to persevere and endure the greater trails and temptations that we will experience throughout our lifetime. Surviving and successfully working through these struggles and trials, gives us hope and encouragement that we can survive the next obstacles we face as well.
From a Christian perspective, this same principle applies, but the hope we have is much greater than just the hope of surviving until the next challenge arises. Our hope is an eternal hope that far outlasts this life on earth. In Romans 5, the Apostle Paul puts it this way: "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."
To break this down a little, to be 'justified' means that through faith in Christ and what He has done for us through His life, substitutionary death and resurrection, God has declared us righteous; meaning that our guilt and the penalty of our sin has been paid in full and has been removed from our account. When He extended His grace to us through the shed blood of His son Jesus, He set us free from the power and penalty of our own sin. This reconciliation with God makes it possible for us to experience His hope and peace, but also gives us direct access to Him, despite any grief, sufferings, obstacles, failures or temptations we face in this life.
'God's Peace' does not mean a lack of negative experience or a freedom from heartbreak and great sufferings in this life. If fact, in John 16:33, Jesus tells us that in this world, we will have troubles and tribulations, but we can have peace knowing the He has overcome this world. He will see us through our troubles until He comes back to take us to Heaven to be with Him and with all Christians, for all eternity!
His Holy Spirit takes up residence in our lives when we put our faith in Christ. He promises that He will never leave us nor forsake us. We experience God's peace in the midst of life's storms; a peace is often beyond our ability to anticipate, comprehend or understand, because we learn that He walks with us through the storms. What Jesus has already done for us guarantees our future and guarantees our eternal victory. Our hope is in the assurance that God is with us and He will provide whatever grace we need to make it through the sufferings we face in life now and in the future.
As we continue to seek God during life's storms, or sometimes, as we look back after the storm has passed, we see that He was indeed present and faithful. Every struggle we face in faith conditions us to endure life's problems, much like a professional athlete that trains daily to become better. Nobody goes directly from little league to the Major's or from Pee-wee football to the NFL. Athletes must be disciplined and not give up. Every day they work to become stronger, more skilled, more knowledgeable and more confident until they mature and have developed the endurance and perseverance to perform in the toughest of competitions. Some days are better or easier than others, but if we persevere in our faith in Christ in our current struggles and temptations, we will develop Godly character and become more and more Christ-like. We cannot do this without the grace of God, but He offers new grace every day!
Paul tells us that when we remember that the ultimate victory has already been won, we can claim the peace of Christ in the most troublesome times. He tells us a hint of what we will become, but until then what we must overcome! In this life we will have troubles of many kinds that will help us and equip us to grow into spiritual maturity. We can rejoice in these sufferings not because we like pain or deny its tragedy, but because we know He is using life's storms and Satan's attacks to build our character and deepen our trust, confidence and hope in God and in His promises to bring us safely through whatever we face. In the end, He will take us home to be with Him for all eternity.
We do not need to pretend to be happy when we face violent storms, but we can have hope despite any troubles or trails we face, knowing that victory is already ours through the work and person of Christ Jesus! Even when we fail, He if faithful! Our hope is not in our ability to hold on to Him, but in His ability and desire to hold on to us!
Life is a series of 'pipping'. For now, let us just keep on 'pipping', getting stronger and more like Christ until we are free from all that binds us. We will win a few battles and we will lose a few, but in the end, ultimate victory is ours if we do not give up!