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Too Chicken to Face Trials

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In the Virginia foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, my wife and I own and operate Restoration Acres Farm, a pasture-based livestock operation. We raise sheep, chickens, pigs, turkeys (and children), with a focus on stewarding God’s land.

As you can imagine we have a few irons in the fire, but the moment our chicken rearing begins is when we receive hundreds of one-to-two-day-old chicks in the mail from the hatchery. Chicks absorb the yolk sac inside the egg right before hatching. This allows them to survive without food or water for up to three days, making shipping them very easy.

In order to successfully raise chicks a brooder is required. A brooder is simply a structure used to raise baby chicks where the environment and temperature can be controlled, replicating what would normally be the broody mother hen’s job.

This is necessary because when chicks are young, they need a quiet, protected, bedded, dark space where the temperature is around 95 degrees. 

The soft fluffy down on a chick actually dissipates heat. Their feathers keep the heat in, so as the chick grows more feathers over time its high temperature requirements drop until they are about two weeks old and feathered enough to go out on pasture without supplemental warmth.

The chicks are transported to bottomless, covered, mobile chicken pens that move onto fresh pasture as needed. This is where they will spend the rest of their days growing, eating feed, foraging grass, catching bugs, and enjoying fresh air and sunshine.

When the chicks are ready to go out on pasture we corral them, catch them by hand, and put them in large crates. Around fifty chicks are placed in each crate.

Even if you’re not a farmer you can probably guess that the chicks don’t particularly like this process. After methodically chasing them into my make-shift corral (a tighter area they can’t get out of so I can catch them more easily) they are in a slight panic and starting to wonder what is happening. I imagine them thinking, “Wait, this guy who has been faithfully caring for us is acting a little aggressive all of a sudden.” 

I get into the corral area, set down an empty crate and start carefully grabbing chicks by the legs, holding anywhere from ten to fifteen at a time. This is when things get crazy. Chicks are running, piling on top of each other, jumping at the movement of my hand, and even scratching or pecking at me. And boy do they complain! It’s mass chaos to say the least. 

I often think to myself, while I’m listening to classical music with my noise canceling earbuds, “If I could only communicate what my intentions are to these things, they wouldn’t be fighting me and running away. In fact, they would be lining up to be put into the crates!” I say, “Chicks listen to me!” as I play out this wishful scenario in my imagination. “On the other side of this crate is thick green grass, grasshoppers and crickets too many to count, warm sun, fresh cool breezes and more space!” But I’m stuck in the loud chaotic reality.

I don’t blame them; the brooder is an amazing place to be when they’re a young chick. Warm, quiet, no drafts, safe, with a deep, soft, wood shaving bedding that smells fantastic. Sometimes in early Spring when Winter is going out with a fight, I’ll sit in the brooder to pray and meditate, taking in the contented chirping, warmth and peace.

Even though it’s a wonderful place, the fact is, if the proper timing is ignored and the chicks don’t get out of the brooder, they won’t be in the environment they need to grow and mature. But the chicks don’t understand or know this.

To the chick, this is a very uncomfortable, confusing, and panicked time where all they want is to stay in the safe brooder and avoid what seems like harm or death. To the farmer it’s a foreseen part of an essential process in order to provide the chicks what they need to grow, thrive and live an abundant life. 

The situation the chicks find themselves in can certainly be viewed as a trial from their point of view. To the chicks the crates are the threat, the trial, the discomfort. To the farmer, the crates are protection and thoughtful restriction, providing safe transport to the place of growth.

Every chick would love the place of growth. Green grass, bugs, sunshine and fresh air. But going through this trial certainly isn’t the way they would like to get there, even though it’s the only way they can get there!

How often, as God’s children, do we react the same as these chicks when faced with necessary trials in our lives? We want and crave a deeper relationship with God. We want to be spiritually mature. We want to grow. We want eternal rewards. But when we’re faced with the essential trial that can transport us there, we fight, kicking and screaming!

God’s Word gives a different way of looking at trials, a perspective that is often counterintuitive to us (and chicks):

“Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4).

“For You, O God, have tested us;
You have refined us as silver is refined.
You brought us into the net;
You laid affliction on our backs.
You have caused men to ride over our heads;
We went through fire and through water;
But You brought us out to rich fulfillment (abundance)” (Psalm 66:10-12).

I wish I could communicate with my chicks, but I will never be able to. Thankfully our situation as believers is different. God communicates to us through His Word. And what we see in His word is the necessity of trials and suffering in this life to refine us into the spiritually mature believer God wants us to be. If we always run away from the guiding hand of God when He allows or leads us into trials, we are delaying our potential spiritual growth and forfeiting eternal rewards. Just like the chick escaping the crate and staying in the brooder, we are running from the very trial that will take us to the place where we can grow.

When we face trials in life, we can consider it “a great joy,” as James says, because we know it has eternal value and purpose. Whether it’s for our spiritual maturation, eternal rewards or to discipline us: 

“…for the LORD disciplines the one he loves, just as a father disciplines the son in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:12). 

The result can be the same. If we trust, rest and abide in Christ, relying on His grace through the trial, we will come out on the other end refined, more mature and better equipped.

Reading and meditating on God’s word, abiding in Him, and transforming our minds are important as a believer so that when life’s trials come, we can view them not as harmful, but rather as God’s guidance and protection. That we may allow Him to lead us while we obediently trust Him, knowing He will provide what we need to not only get through the trial, but to become mature and complete in the process, lacking nothing, better able to serve and glorify Him. May we all as children of God run to His hands when we face trials, remembering that He knows what’s best for us. He cares for us, and He can give us what we need to mature and grow, leading us to abundance, even if the journey to that place of growth isn’t what we want or planned—the place where baby chicks can become full grown chickens.

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