This past Saturday night, my beloved dog of ten years died. He was probably one of the best dogs in the world. Of course, any dog owner would probably say the same about their own dog. He was a huge blessing to me, especially when I was all alone at an all-time low within my life. His comfort, warmth, playful personality and willingness to always be a welcoming friend was exactly what I needed, many times over. He always seemed to be that same energetic puppy throughout his entire life, even though he was currently reaching the age of twelve. His recent injury brought him down very quickly, and the unwillingness to go on became evident.
He lived a good life. The blessing that he was to not only me before meeting my wife and kids, but also to them for the last seven years, will not soon be forgotten. What a great experience it was to have our little Buster around to bring us such joy.
Grieving is something that we experience when something really hurts, and the death of a loved can be one of those devastations. We think about the “never coming back” aspect, the many deep emotional ties that we had with them and, many times, the “what ifs.” We think about how we could have done something differently while they were still alive that could or would have, somehow, prevented some sort of outcome. Sometimes we count up all of the things that we did wrong that had somehow hurt the person. We cry over their absence. We toil within our emotions, trying to comfort ourselves. We break down and weep at the oddest times.
The processes of grieving are never the same for any of us. There are so many aspects and dynamics. So many ways within the relationship that we had with the lost, intertwined with ourselves, shape the ways in which we grieve.
I had breakfast with my second cousin yesterday. He is twenty years older than me. My late father was his cousin. As we were spending the time together, catching up after our twenty-year hiatus, the topic of my father had surfaced quite a few times. It was a great morning spending time talking about the good qualities of my dad. As many know from my writings, my father and I never really had a relationship, and the little that we did have was usually one filled with bitterness and discontent. So, it was nice hearing about the funny and interesting experiences my cousin and dad had once shared. At times though, my cousin had apologized for telling me these stories about the experiences he and my father had shared. He was concerned about how the stories may have appeared as if he was rubbing in the happiness he and my dad had shared together, as if I was looking at it as, “good for you” type situations. I assured my cousin that I had not thought that at all, and I believe it was because he had known about the rocky relationship my father and I had while also considering the grieving I may have still been going through. I was actually glad to hear some of the good things about my dad. I knew he was a good man in many ways, but, unfortunately, I only had the opportunity to mostly see his negatives.
My cousin had to hold back the tears at times. He was so sorry for me several times throughout our long breakfast. The grief was evident in both of us. Not only were we both going through our own personal battles of loss: my father, his cousin and my dog of the night before, but we were also talking about the many things that tugged at our heartstrings. We also did a lot of laughing and held each other up with encouragement. We shared the personal wisdom we had both gathered directly from pain.
Pain is something that hurts us deeply, but it is through pain that we grow in the direction of strength. Throughout Scripture, I have read the stories of Old Testament, as well as the witnessing of Christ and Paul, and have observed how pain brought about discomfort, finding later that the same pain brought about endurance and strength. It gives me great comfort knowing that my Lord also knows these pains that we endure.
I don’t really know what my cousins’ beliefs are when it comes to our Lord, but I do know that he has some sort of belief in Jesus. In my personal faith, I bring every trial to the foot of the cross. Each painful experience is, fervently, given to the Lord in multiple ways. When I feel as though I cannot go on anymore, the power of prayer and meditation cleanses me of all calamity. He strengthens me and provides the hope that I so desperately need. He gives me comfort within the knowing of the trial being only temporary. Even when it hurts so incredibly bad, whatever “it” is, I rest assured in His provision.
I praise God this morning for the blessings that I, so, do not deserve! Oh, how our Lord delivers!
I pray this morning that if you are grieving, to let yourself grieve. Don’t beat yourself up within the many stages and varying changes. I pray that you give it all to God, and find refuge within His peace. When our personal, fleshy peace is out of whack, may we always remember that He sustains. He is always with us, and He is completely aware of all that grieves us. He is the refuge that cannot be found within the world. As we try to fight our way through this life, desperately searching for the things to mend the painful wounds, may we always remember that our Lord Jesus Christ has overcome the world, and He is the One who mends. May we keep our eyes towards the life without suffering in the world to come.