Find the Gift in the Pain

I never expected my dog to die at 6-1/2 years of age. Jack Russell Terriers normally live to 13 or 14. Our dear Bailey developed an autoimmune disease, and body organs shut down quickly in spite of medical care. A part of our family, he will be missed by all who loved him.

After making the tough choice to let him go, the emptiness was even tougher. I’m not sure which was worse—boxing away memories of Bailey that were studded all over our home, or dealing with the empty spaces when they were gone. I’ve dealt with this unwelcome pain in many ways.

I read Randy Alcorn’s wonderful chapter on pets in his book, Heaven, and found some sweet comfort there. My own blog last week, “How to Become a Serene Woman,” surprised me with some encouraging words. I also shared some words I read with friends (words that I want to repeat here): "While I may wonder about whether I'll be reunited with my pet in heaven, I am certain of one thing. My pet isn't wondering the same thing ... Pets do not ask 'What comes next'? This is a human question, based on human grief. I firmly believe that God takes care of all His creation."

I believe God has a special spot in His heart for all the creatures He has made. In the Christian worldview, God creates all things with purpose and dignity. He understands the groaning of His creation under the weight of sin and death (Romans 8:22).

What has helped me most is finding gifts in the pain. I’ve heard that we can always find lessons in our circumstances, but the concept of a “gift” may seem strange in a time of grief. In my process of grieving this week, God led me down the road of gratitude. Whenever I’ve felt the stab of painful memories, a quick prayer of thanksgiving healed each wound, giving it purpose. I'm giving thanks (1 Thess. 5:18) not for sickness and death, but for the knowledge that God is still in control, and He loves me and cares, and He walks with me, holding my hand (Isaiah 41:13).

It’s been little things that grabbed my heart and brought sudden tears—suddenly seeing his paw prints on the wood floor … finding a doggie biscuit under the edge of the couch … opening a closet door and having his bath towel fall out … seeing the shovel he used to drag around the yard ... watching a lizard sunning on the sidewalk, and remembering how our “Bales” loved to chase them. Each time, I thanked God for the memory, and the blessing of sharing it with such a sweet, faithful dog.

It takes time to heal, there’s no question about that. But I’ve always believed that a thankful spirit can soften any circumstance; and I’m finding it true in my grief. This kind of heavy-duty gratitude is a choice, for sure; but that’s what the Christian walk is about—making wise, godly choices in the daily struggles and opportunities of life.

Philippians 4:8 gives us things to think about … and one of them is “whatever is lovely and lovable” (Amplified). I’m choosing to remember the lovely memories, and I’m thankful for Bailey’s constant, loyal love. It’s one of the gifts in my pain.

What has been your most recent challenge? Are you struggling with grief? Can I pray for you?

For more help with Gratitude, see: "Priming the Pump."

1 comment:

Sandy Hancock said...

Gratitude opens our heart to God's blessings and the lesson we can learn from our circumstances. A lesson of greater dependance and faith in Him. This lesson learned will then brings us greater joy and peace.
Thank you for sharing and being open with us of your grief.