For those of you who know me, you know I don’t like birds. Due to a few childhood experiences of angry birds and being chased, I’m leery of them and they may or may not elevate my heart rate in their presence. But this morning, during my personal morning devotion, Martin Luther took a well-known passage of Scripture that uses birds to illustrate just how concerned God is about us and he spoke straight to my heart. Maybe it will to yours as well.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
And again we read:
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
We see how God cares for birds, knows what they need, and are reminded just how much more He is concerned about us–those He has created in His image, sent His Son to die for, and who He provides for and dotes over like a proud Father.
Sometimes I forget just how concerned God is for me though. I read those Scriptures above and I agree, but I don’t always let it speak to me. Familiarity can cause me to miss the gold mine of meaning and keep me from exploring how it personally applies to my life. But then other times God graciously brings it up and it is as if I am reading those words for the first time. I’m wondering if you can say this too?
Martin Luther begins his exposition on Matthew 6:26-27 by saying, “You see, He is making birds our schoolmasters and teachers.” In other words, as many birds that are in the air singing away at the top of their lungs and unconcerned about where their meal will come from even if they have a family to provide for, they are preaching, teaching, and challenging us like preachers and teachers. They are calling us to put our hope and trust in a God who knows.
A God who cares. A God who provides. A God who delights in caring for His children.
Luther tells us that when we hear birds chirping, we are listening to “an excellent preacher” who is exhorting us with the Gospel not by words, but as a living example. He follows that by driving it home in this way:
“Every day you see before your very eyes how the heavenly Father feeds the little birds in the field, without any concern on their part. Can you not trust Him to feed you as well, since He is your Father and calls you His children? Shall He not be concerned about you, whom He has made His children and to whom He gives His Word and all creatures, more than about the little birds, which are not His children but your servants? And yet He thinks enough of them to feed them every day, as if they were the only thing He is concerned about. And He enjoys it when they fly around and sing without a care in the world, as if they were saying: ‘I sing and frolic, and yet I do not know of a single grain that I am to eat. My bread is not baked yet, and my grain is not planted yet. But I have a rich Master who takes care of me while I am singing or sleeping. He can give me more than all my worries and the worries of all people could every accomplish.'”
Now since the birds have learned so well the art of trusting Him and casting their cares from themselves upon God, we who are His children should do so even more.
So I read those words and intentionally stopped to listen to the song being sung around me this morning (click the link to hear that song).
I let the birds minister to me and there were a multitude of them chirping away. Some more fervent and frequent, and others more calm and steady. They all had a reason to sing and they do this every day whether or not I am listening. They are not singing for me, but today they were singing a song I needed to hear.
I also heard the murmurs of people coming and seeking care from the clinic on the compound where I live. People who have come to a place in hopes they can find relief from their physical ailments and who are also being met with the gospel and care for their spiritual ailments.
Both the people and birds are doing what they know to do, and God is concerned and meeting their needs. Both have a reason to sing.
And then there’s me.
Lately, I’ve lived in the upper echelon of stress that is not maintainable. I become so tunnel-visioned that it has become difficult to take anything else into consideration other than the work, projects, and needs that are looming overhead. I’ve grown weary and tired and somehow have forgotten that God cares and is beckoning me to cast my anxieties on him (1 Peter 5:7) and to draw near to Him so that He can give me the rest I am longing for (Matthew 11:28-30). I’ve become so consumed with what I can and cannot do to the detriment of my own mind, body, and soul. I’m aware of this and this is why I’m taking a few days to get away (not geographically) with God. To retreat to the One whom my soul loves. To quiet my mind, refresh my heart, and relax my body. It’s not easy, but it is vital to my life, ministry, work, and schooling. Self-care these days has become an urgent need because I’ve lived too long on the opposite end of that spectrum and it shows. So today, I’ve begun reframing my view on birds and I thank God for using them and the people at the clinic to remind me of His love and concern for me as well. Their song and their trust are pointing me heavenward and I’ll never stop needing this reminder. Thankfully, all I have to do is stop and listen and I’ll hear this same song day in and day out.
I have a feeling I’m not the only one in this boat though. Maybe you’re in this place too. The stress and worries of life have squelched any ounce of joy that you may be able to muster up and the war within is exhausting. You are desperately longing for relief yet refuse to lower your defenses for fear of losing your perceived control. Maybe you need to hear that you’re not in control and that God is and He can fight this battle better than you can. Maybe you need to start following and stop trying to lead. If that’s you, you’re not alone. I get it. But even more than that, God gets it. And the good news is that only He can provide all that you need in a way that is specifically tailored to you and your heart.
There is peace to be had.
Seek the Lord.
Stop and listen to the birds.
Breathe deep and repeat.
Return to the One who is your source of life and peace.
In closing, I’ll leave you with an exhortation from Luther:
“Since you are Christians,” He says, “you dare not doubt that your Father is well aware of your need for all of this, of the fact that you have a belly that needs food and drink and a body that needs clothing. If He did not know it, you would have reason to be concerned and anxious about how to provide for yourselves. But since He does know it, He will not forsake you. He is faithful and willing to take special care of you Christians, because, as has been said, He cares for the birds of the air as well. So forget your anxieties, since you cannot accomplish anything by them. It does not depend upon your anxiety but upon His knowledge and concern.”
We cannot accomplish anything with our anxieties, but we can offer them up to God and He can remind us of just how faithful, loving, and concerned He is, has been, and always will be for us. We are worth more than all the birds so take heart.
Also, if you’re needing a great devotion for the morning, check this out: