by Patti Richter
A friend of mine has experienced God’s very present help in trouble. But after seeing so many signs of His watchful care, she worried that people might not believe her stories.
Luann and her family endured several years of great stress due to an injustice. A federal court case connected to her husband’s former business partners hung over them like a dark storm and threatened their well-being. Meanwhile, her parents’ health declined and they died within months of each other. And these events were only birth pangs before greater suffering set in. Luann’s husband received a sentence of restitution and prison for a wrong he had nothing to do with.
For those of us who stood with this family during their one-after-another losses, the story of Job came to mind. But we also observed God’s mercies on their behalf. Noticeably, the timing of each painful event seemed remarkable in the best possible way.
During this long season, Luann began to experience unusual assurances of God’s tender care, and they came in bright and living color. On many of her lowest days, a cardinal would perch within clear view. Luann could not recall ever seeing these birds come close before this time of suffering. Not knowing their official name, she had always called them redbirds. The cardinal visits provided much comfort since Luann believed the Lord was sending them her way.
One bird came calling after Luann’s family returned home from her father’s burial. Too sorrowful to do anything but seek the Lord’s encouragement, Luann was resting in a chair when she noticed a chirping sound. She jumped up to open the window shutter behind her—knowing what she’d find. The cardinal stood on a sprinkler head in the yard as if waiting for her. The beautiful sight consoled Luann’s heavy spirit that day, and she cried in amazement over God’s goodness.
Though Luann was thankful for each close-up view of a cardinal, she initially wondered whether God truly directed birds in this particular way. When she expressed her misgivings to me, I recalled the Old Testament account of a prophet sustained by the Lord through birds.
Elijah had risked his life by delivering God’s message of coming drought to the king of Israel. To protect Elijah, the Lord instructed him to hide in a ravine east of the Jordan river. And the Lord said, “You will drink from the brook, and I have ordered the ravens to feed you there.” (1 Kings 17:4, NIV). The birds obeyed the Lord; they brought Elijah bread and meat each morning and evening until he received his next assignment from God.
Luann called me one day to share yet another cardinal encounter. Afterward, I spent a few minutes resting on an outdoor settee with my dog curled up beside me as I marveled over God’s encouragement supplied to my friend. I further considered how I needed a bit of cheer for myself. That’s when a bird—a cardinal—flew down and perched atop the chair next to me. My bird-crazy dog somehow remained still, perhaps spellbound like me. We gazed in silent wonder for a long half-minute until our visitor flew away.
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning…. The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him. Lamentations 3:22-23, 25, (NIV)
Patti is the co-author of Signs of His Presence—Experiencing God’s Comfort in Times of Suffering. It is the story of Luann Mire, whose godly husband was blindsided by an indictment due to a former employer’s tax fraud. The resulting prison sentence and restitution took the once joyful couple into a long season of suffering as they fought judicial tyranny. Helpless to change her situation, Luann endured a painful examination of her life and found God faithful to His promises.
Join the conversation: Have you received encouragement from the Lord lately? Please share!