When I was a child my family found a kitten. It was hungry and looking for food and finally allowed us to bring it into the house. We made every effort to provide a safe, loving home for the stray, but as hard as we tried, it just didn’t work. Part of the time we had success, but as the cat got older, it would switch from contented purr to attack mode without warning. The shock factor was definitely there as the hissing cat launched itself at one of us with claws extended and eyes filled with fury. We finally realized that our only option was to let the cat go. Our intentions were good, but the cat didn’t understand that we were trying to help it.

A friend of mine found herself in a somewhat similar situation when a kitten and older cat began visiting her porch. She knew better than to try to bring them into her house and even if she’d wanted to, neither was ready to make friends with people. The kitten was too young to be on its own and the older cat was injured from a fight, so she did what she could. She was able to get the older one to the vet where he was neutered and given antibiotics for his leg. In spite of her good intentions, they have disappeared.

In both situations we are undoubtedly talking about feral cats, sometimes called free-roaming or street cats. Whatever name you use, these untamed animals always call the shots, running their own lives without interference, even if they apparently need help to survive.

Ever know people like that? It breaks your heart. Your only desire is to help them, to provide what they evidently aren’t able to provide for themselves and you have their best interests at heart. Things may progress well for awhile—and then the hissing begins. I know families that are experiencing this heartbreaking dilemma. “I want to help my son, my grandchild, my sister (you fill in the blank), but they won’t let me.” From experience you know they can’t make it on their own, but they won’t let God or you help them.

It’s complicated to assign human feelings to God, but we know His character is love and He is filled with compassion. God made the ultimate sacrifice of sending His Son in order to restore fellowship with those who need His help—and we all do, no matter what we think. God doesn’t force Himself into our lives. He wants a relationship with Him to be something we want. He knows that some are not ready to allow Him into their lives, but His promise is “draw near to God, and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8). As people move toward God with sincere hearts, God responds by drawing near to them with His grace and mercy.

God’s Word tells us what God desires of us. He gives us opportunity to respond to His love, but it’s up to us. We may know those who have lived on their own, doing their own thing for so long that surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus seems impossible. Their lives have been so free-roaming that any other life-style seems impossible. My friend did what she could, but ultimately the decision of how the cats responded was out of her hands. How we respond to God’s love is ultimately our decision. He’s ready to provide all that we need for salvation or restored fellowship with Him as believers. He’s waiting to see our response.