‘I admire your faith,” a friend wrote me as she traveled cross country. “But the human side of you needs to grieve too in order to heal. May His Grace comfort you at this time,” my friend wrote me. Less than 24 hours after my beloved two-footed dog Winnie who had been run over by a train years ago before she was turned over to me died unexpectedly in a 20-minute period after years of virtually perfect health, I knew all too well about the human side of grief – and the grace that comes with faith.
Winnie, who had been best buddies for years with blind Glory who ended up having both eyes removed, often could be found with Glory snuggled up right by her side. Glory had been turned over to me after being turned into a shelter emaciated, chewed up in lice, open sores, heartworm positive, missing patches of hair, with a litter of dead pups. What a combination they made. One without feet; one without sight. The Bibles teaches us to “walk by faith” and “not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:17).” In other words, God wants us to live our lives according to our faith in Him and according to His ways as the Bible teaches us instead of living by what we see, by our feelings and emotional reactions. But how does that work when it comes to grief? I have finally come to know the answer, after far too many experiences of loss and not understanding. But now I find myself growing as I grieve. I used to respond to loss by turning to alcohol, walling myself off from the world, bitterly resenting people for not comforting me as I wanted them to, feeling sorry for myself, turning my back on people so I could “protect my heart”, and the list goes on. Not anymore. Now, I pour out my heart to the Lord and put one step of faith in front of another – even when the tears fall.
God gave us tears to cry, but He also invites us into intimate and everlasting fellowship with Him when we repent of our sins and place our trust in Jesus who died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. This is but the beginning; for we are called not to just believe in Christ, but to follow Him by committing our lives to leave behind the ways of this world and to live our lives for the Lord. Following Christ does not come without grief; in fact, I have experienced far more losses since I became a Christ follower than before. But even as I cry my tears, even as my heart wrenches wondering how a perfectly healthy dog who was part of my little family could die with no known reason right in front of my eyes, I find in Christ the love of God, His grace, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, fellowship, joy, hope, and promise of eternity with Him.
As I lifted Winnie’s dead body into my arms from up on the floor where I had laid her body overnight because the vet was closed yesterday, I knew I did not have the emotional strength to lift her body. So I asked God to hold me as I held her. And He did. And He does. Then I placed my dear Winnie in the front seat of my car, drove her to the vet, and gave her back to the Lord who had given me these precious years with her. Has my heart stopped grieving because God is carrying me? Not in the least. For as my friend reminded me, I am human. But I am also a woman of strong faith. In Christ. And the Lord has all that I need, including every ounce of comfort that will help me walk through this and all else I face in my life.
A friend I called shortly after Winnie passed away told me, “I know you feel like you have a missing piece in your heart.”
My answer was quick and clear as I corrected her. “No, actually I don’t feel like I have a missing piece in my heart,” I told her. “My heart is filled with the Lord.”
By God’s grace, I have learned to grieve in a new way. Winnie is back in His hands. And my heart is in His hands also. Where His love enfolds me – for now, and for ever.
2Co 1:2 Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
2Co 1:3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort;
2Co 1:4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.
2Co 1:5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.