Monday, April 30, 2018

Strength in the Struggle

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing”—James 1:2-4.

I’ve never seen a cow give birth from start to finish. I usually come across this fascinating bit of Creation either halfway through the process, or when the calf is already on the ground.

I was keeping an eye on the one last cow from the rancher’s herd, as I figured she’d give birth within the next day or so. As I watched her, she lay down. Then she got up, circled and lay down again with her back legs stretched out. I knew it was time.

I walked back to the farmhouse and informed my mother-in-law and my husband, Bruce, that the herd would expand shortly. Bruce grabbed the binoculars and spied on the mama cow through the windows. I took his cue and stepped out on the front stoop and peered through another pair of nocs.

The miracle of life is awe-inspiring. How could anyone even imagine God isn’t real?

We watched every inch of the calf come out. When it finally was lying on the grass, we took off out the gate and across the pasture to check out the rest of the process. I named it Slick…until we found out she was a heifer (girl). Bruce promptly named her Slippy.

All wet and fresh, Slippy blinked and looked around at her new world, and the show began.  A low rumble sounded from her mama’s chest as she spoke to her calf. She proceeded to lick her all over to stimulate her new muscles.

Little did I know, I would receive some much needed encouragement…again…by the simple hand of God’s creative touch.

Slippy’s spindly little legs did their best to support her on the slick grass. Then her legs gave way, and she sprawled out. It was kind of comical, but at the same time I wanted to run over and help her. However, I knew full well this is a natural part of the process and I had to let her work it out.

We observed her mama during the whole ordeal. She licked the calf for a bit, then moved away and munched on grass. She didn’t seem concerned at all as Slippy resumed her strenuous efforts. But I watched her mama’s eyes—her eyes never left her calf.

I noticed that Slippy had difficulty getting her hind end to cooperate as she struggled to stand. Suddenly, Mama turned and stepped beside her. She licked Slippy’s hind end and the upper part of her back legs, stimulating them once again.
By instinct, the mama worked on the parts of Slippy that gave her trouble. Then she moved off. 

Slippy started her mission again. She did a bit better this time—she got all fours on the ground. However, gravity prevailed and down she went again. But it was progress. I noticed that each time she struggled, she grew stronger. With the next attempt, she progressed a little more and fell less.

She never gave up, no matter how many times she seemed to fail, even when she toppled head-over-heels. She seemed to realize quitting meant dying. Her efforts weren’t just about getting to her feet. She needed to make it to the lifeline at her mother’s udder—the life-giving milk that would help her grow into a stronger calf and eventually to a mature cow where she could eat solid food—to grow up. (And, of course, to be strong enough to play with her bovine buddies in the pasture!)

In the struggles we face through the trials of life, we may feel as though the Lord has walked off. Or, if He’s standing next to us, it sure seems He isn’t doing much to help. But like that cow, He never takes His eyes off us. And at the exact time, He moves in and gives us exactly what we need, when we need it.

He also knows during the struggle, our muscles become stronger: faith-muscles, trust-muscles, etc. that have to be developed if we’re to stand strong.

Let’s be honest. Unless one thrives on drama, I don’t think anyone truly enjoys afflictions. The struggles we go through are hard. They’re frustrating. Sometimes it’s difficult to muster up the energy to try anymore. Yet, our very survival depends on us never giving up. And although we may assume, during our hardships, God has “left the building,” He hasn’t. Nor would He.

In fact, quite the contrary. Most of us have heard the verse, “He will never leave us, nor forsake us.” (Hebrews 13:5). Even though we may feel He has, our feelings are just that…feelings. And most of the time our feelings are not the truth.

The moral of my lesson that day? We all struggle—from the least to the greatest. It’s what we do in the struggle and with the struggle that makes the difference between life and death. The only real failure is if we lose hope and quit.

And I don’t know about you, but too many buzzards are hovering that are all too willing to swoop in, if I even think about giving up! 

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope”—Jeremiah 29:11.

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