Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. — James 1:2-4 (NIV)
I'm a firm believer that God uses his creation to teach us things. He once taught me about how strongholds are born by using a weed in disguise. Really.
So I'm not surprised that he's teaching me about perseverance through our cat Buttercup. Several months ago Cuppy, as we call her, developed a tumor on her right shoulder. We thought at first it was a simple infection and the vet drained it, yet it came back quickly. Our vet then tried to remove most of the tumor and testing confirmed what we feared. Cancer.
Unfortunately, the cancer was so aggressive, the incision wouldn't heal and the cancer came back. We turned to a wonderful group of vet specialists for guidance and help, fearing the worst. That our sweet kitty would have to be put down.
They gave us another viable alternative. Amputation. Since she was still in good health but suffering with this weeping wound, the best answer was to remove the entire leg and shoulder. Tests and x-rays confirmed she was a good candidate for such a procedure.
It's been a little over two weeks since her surgery, and I am in awe of this little animal's perseverance. By the next day she was getting around fine (with a cone protector!) and even navigated a tunnel we have running to a litter box in the garage. (We have four cats. There's no way that litter box would work in our cozy home.) She jumps easily to windowsills and has no trouble running (she looks like a bunny now). It's as if nothing changed to her. She's still the same kitty. We see her as different. However, she acts the same as she did with four legs. Amazing...
Every time I look at this cat, I am flooded with a multitude of feelings. Relief, gratitude, joy...and each time I am more clearly convinced God's hand was in all of this (her astounding recovery), and convicted he's using this tiny animal to teach me about perseverance.
Even as I write this I am understanding more. Namely, like Cuppy's three persevering legs, perseverance has three critical elements.
Trust. To persevere, we must trust God implicitly with our futures, even when things look their bleakest. Trust gives us the strength to continue and helps alleviate our doubts.
Faith. We must believe that God is good and wants good for us. His good—not the world's. Sometimes his best may not look good initially, especially in the eyes of the world. Yet his Word tells us over and over again who God is and what his character is like. He is incapable of evil. God's truth tells us he is with us in our trials and that he's allowed them for some purpose, for our good.
Obedience. It's not always easy to hang in there when things get rough. To use a cliché, we often want to jump out of the frying pan and into the fire. It's a good analogy though, because if we do that, we often make our lives more complicated and difficult. There's peace in abiding in God's plan and will for us. Even in the rough times. Obedience is a very integral part to perseverance, because if we were to take the easy way out (or what we perceive to be easier) we will lose out on a greater blessing and freedom.
For us who are unequally yoked, perseverance is a daily way of life. No matter how we've come to our situations, God has a plan and a purpose for us, right where we are. Though not easy, I believe in God's plan for my situation and marriage. I trust him completely to know what's best in this process of saving my wonderful husband, and I'm determined to remain obedient in whatever God calls me (which at the moment is more about changing me than him).
Like Cuppy, I want to persevere and overcome. I want to learn and grow stronger in my faith, trust, and belief in God. I want to see this to the end and receive God's blessing. And see my hubby come to faith.
So I'm persevering. I hope you are too.
Praying and believing,