I was never really into bugs growing up but I did like collecting cicada “shells” that I’d find late in the summer attached to trees in our backyard. I had fun impishly placing these scary looking skin casings on my sister’s shoulder when she was reading a book or placing them in strategic spots where Mom would be surprised when cleaning the house. However, I never got to watch a cicada slowly do its delicate movements of squirming, stretching, and eventually climbing out of its hardened skin casing.
Last night as I was mowing the lawn I saw this little guy attached to a fencepost and he was about halfway done with his grand entrance. I couldn’t stay watching him since I needed to finish mowing and then eat supper. However, I was thankful that he stayed put long enough for me to snap a few pictures of him. Of course, he didn’t have a choice but to humor me as he was going to be strenuously laboring for quite a bit longer.
I’m sure we all remember in science class where we learned about the stages of a cicada’s life as it progresses from an egg, to a nymph, to an adult. The cicada’s life is really one of an epic journey with a bizarre ending. The female cicada will lay her eggs in the bark of a tree or on some branches. Those eggs will soon hatch and the infant cicada nymph will fall to the ground and burrow deep underneath the soil. After enduring an average time span of 13-17 years, this nymph will begin its long journey up out of the ground and begin digging itself out of the soil. Once it breaks through the dirt it slowly crawls up a tree or some firm object and after finding the spot it desires, begins to allow the heat of the fleeting summer’s sun harden its outer skin. Eventually this hardened skin splits with the pressure of an adult cicada trying to push its way out of an adolescent cicada’s confining exoskeleton.
After all this instinctive waiting on the cicada’s part, it will eventually crawl out of its hardened skin casing, dry off, and will enjoy the beauty of life for about 2 weeks to 40 days. That’s it—that’s all the time to enjoy life that the cicada gets: several weeks to enjoy the fullness of life after 13-17 years of preparation! During these few weeks, cicadas will have just enough time to regain their strength, enjoy the sweet sap of various trees, and do their part to help the next generation of cicadas begin their nearly lifelong journey to adulthood—even if it is only for an extremely brief lifespan in light of its journey underground.
As I reluctantly put my camera away and went back to mowing our small lawn, I couldn’t help but think that this poor cicada, for all the work it was doing, was on the losing end of the deal. In retrospect, this epic journey ended pathetically, or at least that’s how it seemed to me. All the waiting, toiling, and exertion of energy was rewarded with a few days of fresh air and enjoyment. And yet, this cicada was doing what God created him to do—to instinctively wait until the right time to come up to see the light of day, even if he would only enjoy the warmth of the summer sun for a short time.
As I put the lawnmower away in the garage, there were a couple of quick observations that jumped out to me from musing on this interesting insect. None of these thoughts are earth shattering, but hopefully they could serve as an encouragement to you in the middle of a busy week or perhaps in the grind of life which many times can feel like a suppressing and cramping wine-press instead of the calming and peaceful breezes of a relaxing beachfront.
1. God does not shortchange His children. God has called His disciples to deny everything their human passions embrace, to take up their cross, and to follow in the footsteps of His Son, Jesus Christ (Matthew 16:24). This is a high calling, a daily calling, and a calling that must not be taken lightly. And yet, the benefits of pursuing this supernaturally epic journey far outweigh the sacrifices that must be made on our behalf. The end of our earthly life is not an end at all but is the commencement of true life and vitality as we are translated into the very presence of our Creator and Savior.
The cicada turns into dust almost as quickly as it burrows up out of the dirt to briefly see the light of day. It will never enjoy life again once its tiny heart stops beating. And yet, there could not be a greater difference between the future of a cicada and the future of God’s children! Truly, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). Why? Because our future is so incredibly glorious and beautiful that no human this side of Heaven has been able to comprehend the grandeur of eternity face-to-face with Jesus. God does not give us a promise of eternal life and then fail to come through with His end of the deal.
2. Life on earth is short-lived. Life with God is eternal. Whether we have only several weeks to embrace earthly life or whether we have 80 more years to enjoy, we understand that in light of eternity, our existence on planet Earth is extremely short. This means two things. First, very soon all the pressures of life and the reality of living in a fallen world will soon pass away and we will be able to gaze into the eyes of our Savior and King. Secondly, while God has us here on Earth, we must make the most of every opportunity we have to glorify Him, to enjoy His glory, and to summon others to become worshipers of Him. Realizing the truth that, “Better is one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere” (Psalm 84:10) should drive us to make every effort to make that a reality in our daily lives.
3. Everything God does is purposeful and meaningful. God does not live and work in the realm of the random or in the courts of coincidence. Everything that God does, allows, and energizes was providentially calculated before the foundations of the universe were formed. From the forming of deep canyons under the oceans to the fleeting notes of the cicada’s summer song, God has purpose for everything He creates and ordains. If this were not so then He would not be the sovereign God that His Word describes. So, if life is not going the way we expected or even desired, that’s OK, as long as we are loved and known by the King as His sons and daughters. I’m sure it’s no fun for the cicada while it is struggling to free itself from its prison of sorts as it exits its temporary confinement. However, the cicada wouldn’t have it any other way—that is what is was instinctively created to do—and it performs its mission well. If God has purpose in everything He performs and ordains, then so must we have purpose and meaning as His image-bearers.
4. Life only gets better for God’s children. For the cicada, life only gets shorter, more tiring, and quickly, life passes away forever from its small frame. For God’s children, life only gets better, more real, and we begin to know the light of God’s presence fuller every day as we learn from His Spirit teaching us. We find hope in knowing that we will very soon see the face of His Son as He wipes away our tears with his nail-pierced hands and we anticipate the joy and fulfillment of singing the songs of the Redeemed in the Father’s presences for all eternity (Revelation 5:9-14).
As you hear the sometimes annoying song of the cicada during this time of the summer, take comfort in knowing that even the smallest of creatures in God’s animal kingdom is fulfilling His will and is bringing Him delight and praise. If God can find pleasure in the smallest of creatures–an insect who is here one day and gone the next–we know that He takes immense pleasure in those He has sacrificed all to claim as His sons and daughters. Indeed, as our Lord reminds us with His words of comfort and purpose,“I have loved you, My people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to Myself” (Jeremiah 31:3).
Perhaps you feel insignificant to God, even like we tend to view an insignificant insect like the cicada. Well, God has some good news for you! You are incredibly valuable to Him and so treasured in His eyes that He has given all to claim you as His children:
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
The call is simple–and yet is life-changing: Trust and Obey. Trust that God’s Word true and then obey His Word of truth to you today. If a small bug can fulfill its mission in life, how much more can we, who are indwelt with the all-powerful Spirit of God, fulfill every purpose of God’s good pleasure that He has planned for us:
“To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of His calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by His power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12).