Psalm 139:17-18 – How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand.

My cat Ham has been a friend and companion since his birth. The year after my husband, Randy, died, Ham came into my life. On the day Ham was born just outside my back door, I held his little life in the palm of my hand and marvelled at the wonders of creation. I think the Lord gave me Ham as a measure of comfort during a period of deep grief.

Ham continues to be a comfort. My favourite times with him are when he crawls into my lap and wants nothing more than to be loved by me. It is my delight to pet him and croon to him. I know his personality and temperament. He makes me laugh with his unique antics. We hang out together. We sleep curled up against each other. Sometimes he sneaks licks of milk from my cereal bowl.

Ham does things I don't like, too. He scratches the furniture and he leaves cat hair everywhere. He has thrown up on my new carpet. He tore down my kitchen curtains and claimed my clean bedspread as his sleeping spot. These behaviours can irritate and even anger me, but they don't change the way I feel about Ham – I just love him!

Ham got sick one day. He was unable to urinate; there was a blockage. I took him to the vet who treated Ham and I was able to take my faithful friend home again. According to the vet's instructions, I kept Ham confined to the bathroom, forced him to take medicine, and changed his brand of cat food.

Ham grew worse overnight. His bladder was excruciatingly full and he was unable to void. His usual mischievous nature was subdued and dull. I worried about him. I prayed for him. I laid hands on him. I pleaded with God for his life. The hours ticked painfully by as I waited for the vet's office to open.

At first I was mad at God – why me?! Haven't I been through enough already? Then I begged. Then I bargained. I tried to read scripture. Finally I wept. I couldn't get the niggling thought out of my mind that maybe the Lord had a mean streak. Maybe He enjoyed my misery. Perhaps He liked keeping me in my place that way.

Finally morning came and I lifted my listless, pitiful cat and carried him out to the car. As I drove him to the vet, I looked over at him, pain in his eyes, keening fear in his throat. I had to take him to the place he hated the most. I knew he couldn't understand that what I was doing would save his life. I hated to see him suffer. I was hurting inside to know that I had to allow him to be hurt and frightened in order that he get well. I tried to tell him, but he doesn't speak my language.

I thought again about what this trip to the vet was costing, not just in terms of dollars and cents, but in emotional turmoil. What makes this nondescript cat so valuable to me? Then it hit me — I love him. My love is what makes this animal precious to me. The bond we have built by spending lots of time together has deepened this love. There is nothing he could do that would make me stop loving him.

Suddenly, in a flash of understanding, I realized that the Lord loves me in this fashion. It is God's love for me that makes my life immensely valuable. I am precious to Him. He doesn't want me to try and be a creature different than I am. He wouldn't rather have a dog or canary or cat; he wants me, because he loves me. His favourite times with me are when I crawl into His lap and say, please love me; let me be with You. He wants to spend time with me. All He wants from me is a return of His love. Sometimes He may give me medicine, or have to keep me confined or require that I change diets. I may howl my most pitiful protests. I don't understand what He's doing. Why am I hurting if He loves me?

I'm realizing now that any suffering I experience has a purpose. The Lord wants me fulfilled in the purpose He has drawn out for me. He wants me to be the creature He always meant for me to be, and He is committed to this end. He won't allow me to run away from Him and hide where I think it's safe. And while I suffer, He suffers with me, because He loves me; He really loves me! He loves me enough to want the best for me and that means He loves me enough to allow temporary suffering for eternal good.

I believe the Lord allowed this experience with my beloved cat in order to give me just a taste of His infinite love for me, my value. The Lord is willing to risk loving me, even when that love causes Him to suffer. He suffered on the cross. I still can't get over knowing I am so valuable to Him.

Prayer: Jesus, I'm so glad that you love me beyond comprehension. Your love is what gives my life value. Thank you that you have a purpose in all suffering. Please help me to remember my worth in you and to keep trusting even when I don't understand. Amen.

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Kathleen Ageton <>
Wailuku, Hawaii, USA

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