Have you ever watched a caterpillar break out of its cocoon and fly away as a beautiful butterfly? I’ve seen pictures of it, but never witnessed it in nature.

Lately I have seen butterflies all over the place. When I was at the beach, I saw at least one butterfly a day on the beach, which I don’t ever recall seeing before. They were all white and beautiful. This past week at Georgia Tech Parents Weekend, I saw a yellow butterfly flitting through the stadium during the football game. I guess a Clemson orange butterfly knew better than to show up at Tech.

Seeing all of these butterflies reminded of a story I heard as a teenager. It goes like this.

A little boy saw a caterpillar on a branch outside of his bedroom window. He watched it with great curiosity. When the caterpillar started spinning its cocoon, he camped out beside the window to take it all in. He asked his father what the caterpillar was doing and his father explained the cocoon was a safe place for the caterpillar to rest and be transformed and if his son would be patient, he might just see a beautiful butterfly break out of the cocoon.

Ever day the little boy ran into his room to check on his new friend and see if there was any movement. Finally the day arrived. Just as the little boy found his perch by the window, he noticed movement. The creature inside seemed to be struggling to get free. The little boy had grown so attached to the creature and had such a tender heart, he hated to see it struggle. He ran and grabbed a razor blade and made a small slit in the cocoon, careful not to injure the creature.

What happened next was both amazing and perplexing. Just moments after the boy made the slit in the cocoon a beautiful butterfly emerged. It spread its wings and the little boy sat with anticipation waiting for it to take flight. As if understanding his thoughts, the butterfly spread its wings and took off from the branch only to crash to the ground and die.

Devastated, the little boy ran downstairs and outside to his new friend. What happened? What went wrong? This is how the father found his son, sitting on the ground holding the dead butterfly. When he saw his father he burst into tears and proceeded to tell him everything he’d witnessed.

Why didn’t he fly away, the little boy asked. Well, the father explained, I know you meant well by cutting the slit open and helping the butterfly break free, son, but the struggle the butterfly was going through to break out of the cocoon is what strengthens its wings so it can sore through the sky.

Today, I am in Kentucky visiting one of my beautiful girls who has gone through a lot of struggles. She has had to fight her way to freedom and restoration from a life of sex trafficking daily. At times it’s been so hard, she’s wanted to quit. She’s had good days and bad days.

God promised we’d all have those kind of days, the kind we’d like to forget [John 16:33]. However, this sweet girl stuck to the task, wrestling for her freedom just as Jacob wrestled God for his blessing [Genesis 32:24-29]. This week, she will graduate from her program and she will fly. God has blessed her with a great job, a beautiful place to live and a church family. Now, because she did the hard work, she will be able to soar far.

How about you? Do you feel like you’re in a cocoon trying to break free? Is it hard? Maybe it’s someone you love who is going through hardship. You hate to see them struggle and want to make it easier for them.

Just remember, the struggle is what makes you strong so when it’s time you can fly.