What the Birds Already Know

A watercolor of a single bird hangs on my bedroom wall, a lovely study in blues and browns floating almost without context in its frame– no leaves or world beyond, just the huddled bird perched quietly on its branch, the way they do when they settle in. I saw the canvas in the window of a gallery in the southwest, while we were on vacation, and immediately the words of Isaiah 26:3 came to mind: “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You.” It always strikes me how in the big wide world of winds and storms and predators and limitless skies, the songbirds fly fearless: fragile creatures of bone, and feather, and beating heart that live in simple trust.

Jesus said that all His creatures can live that way, because they know the Creator and trust His care of them. Lilies and sparrows alike have everything they need under His watchful gaze. Jesus even uses their total trust as evidence that we are needlessly worried for ourselves. He lays it out there as if the logic should be self-evident, as if our lack of understanding borders on the absurd: “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!” (Luke 12:28) 

Could it be that much of our stress and pressure and complex lives is self-inflicted and utterly unnecessary? Jesus stands firm on a simple theological truth that God is the Creator and takes care of all His creatures. Indeed, it is His job, as the Ruler of all, and the glory of His Name depends on it. That sounds so very basic and sensible, almost too simple to be true. But Jesus is reminding us of something that we actually once knew, a truth we lost long ago in the Garden: that our job was to work well for Him and be satisfied and fulfilled, and His job was to take care of us. Way back then, the Enemy planted in Eve’s heart the small fear that God had some hidden agenda, that perhaps He did not have our best interests in mind after all. That one small idea burrowed its way into the heart of us and grew the bitter fruit of mistrust, crowding out the simple dependence on the Creator that had once come naturally. And so we headed out into the world in all our blustering self-sufficiency, determined to prove we could do life on our own and maybe do it better…who knew what a weight of stress and striving and worry we were also claiming.

By now the contrast between those who truly know their Maker, and those who do not is quite evident. Jesus says it shows up clearly in what we are chasing after.  “…Do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them.” (Luke 12:29) Those who do not live trustingly in a good Father’s care run and chase and build and fret. But if we know the Father is taking care of our needs, that frees us up to pursue His Kingdom with our whole hearts, a much more rewarding endeavor in the long run. Jesus emphasizes His promise “…seek His kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” (Luke 12:31)

As we pursue simplicity then, we are being called back to  an understanding of ourselves as creatures under the Maker’s painstaking care. The Great One who “counts the stars  and calls them all by name” (Psalm 147:4) is fully aware of my needs for today and quite capable of providing the resources to fill them. And I can choose whether to live in trust that whatever He gives me today is enough, or to worry that He won’t provide and run around to find more. This daily minute-by-minute choice to trust is a spiritual exercise, a habit we are building, a peace and simplicity we are discovering. Every time I see that bird on his branch, I remember.


“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.” (Matthew 10:29)


“So I will call upon Your name,
And keep my eyes above the waves;
When oceans rise,
My soul will rest in Your embrace,
For I am Yours and You are mine…”
(Oceans, Hillsong)