A chickadee may have a bird-brain, but it can actually be pretty smart.
Especially if it lives in a harsh climate.
What does climate have to do with bird intelligence? As it turns out, more than you’d expect.
Biologists have discovered that chickadees living in the mountains or in northern latitudes, where the weather is more severe, were smarter than their peers living more comfortably down below.
Chickadees from harsher habitats had superior spatial memories and problem-solving abilities than those living in gentler climes. They were better at finding stored caches of food and at figuring out how to access a worm treat that scientists had cleverly tucked into a glass tube.
The harsh environment makes their brains work a bit harder.
Is there a lesson for humans in the example of the chickadees?
Yes, but it isn’t to move to a more wintry climate (take it from a Canadian who’s done her share of shovelling snow—it hasn’t made me smarter!).
The takeaway here is that there can be unseen benefits to the challenges we face.
Oftentimes, we try to avoid the difficulty of having to adapt to new situations. We crave comfort and predictability, especially physically. We protect ourselves from extremes of hot and cold, going directly from heated or air-conditioned houses and cars to schools or offices, spending as little time as possible outdoors when the weather is too hot or too cold.
There are even people living in Toronto, known for its cold winters, who don’t even own a winter coat! Called the “mole people,” they travel by underground pathways from their condos to the subway, and thence to work or play. They never have to deal with the harsh winter climate.
But is avoiding temperature extremes always best for us? Some scientists speculate that making our bodies work to adapt to cooler temperatures may aid in losing weight by increasing our bodies’ energy expenditures.
And what about with our faith? Are there spiritual benefits to having to meet challenges? I think there are.
We often want God to spare us from having to adapt to extreme changes in our lives. It’s sometimes not fun having to stretch and grow our faith. But God knows that a too-comfortable life can actually be costly to us.
Birds that find it a struggle to overcome challenges might not have what it takes to survive the cold winter and reproduce the following year.
Likewise, unless we get some practice in dealing with difficulties on an ongoing basis, we’ll be unprepared to face real tragedy if it comes. God knows that we need to develop a robust, battle-hardened faith to live in this world.
“You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” (2 Timothy 2:3 NKJV)
The only way we can get to the point where our faith can’t be shaken is if it has already been through some shaking, and has passed the test. The challenges we face, though often unwelcome, are purifying and strengthening our faith for future battles. And there’s no shortcut to achieving this type of unshakable faith.
“These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” (1 Peter 1:7 NLT)
If you’ve been through some harsh seasons of your life as a believer, take heart: like the little chickadee, you’re growing in unseen ways and will be better equipped to handle future challenges.
Your Heavenly Father, who makes us “smarter than the animals and wiser than the birds of the sky” (Job 35:11), loves you deeply. He will make sure that the trials you undergo will fortify your faith and be for your ultimate good.
Even a bird-brain can understand that!
© 2020 Lori J. Cartmell. All rights reserved.