What the World’s Greatest Dog Taught Me About Faith

“If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever.”

The carrot laid untouched and uneaten on the floor. I picked it up, staring at it and wondering how I never noticed that we were not in the habit of picking up crumbs thrown to the ground by our children. In fact, whenever we went to someone’s house and they were forced to bring out a broom, I normally made a joke about just needing a dog. I currently have two dogs, neither apparently fond of carrots.

Eddie, our dog of 15 years, died last week. He never left any food untouched. In the moment it fell to the ground, Eddie was there to clean it up. Now the crumbs left for me to clean up painfully mirror the grief we feel, a stark reminder of this newly found emptiness. Eddie was the World’s Greatest Dog, how could we ever recover from that?

As a week has gone and passed, it feels as though we are expected to move forward from the trauma we endured last week. After all, life has to move on. But how can I move on when I see the events replay every time I close my eyes? I feel the weight in my chest, my heart heavy and physically aching. In the midst of the grief, I feel myself growing angry and find myself faltering in my walk with faith.

God, how could you allow this to happen? God, why did you allow this to happen?

My brother overdosed at 16. I lost my grandfather a year later. My childhood dog died after I had to make the call to have her euthanized in 2019. My grandmother died later that year from a stroke and Alzheimer’s. Within 6 months of that, I lost my aunt to breast cancer and within two years, we found out my uncle had cancer. He died five weeks later.

More than anything, I prayed for death to come to those I loved when it was time. That’s what we ultimately hope for, right? In the comfort of our homes, peacefully in our sleep. And yet, I have never known death to make that kind of visit. Death has always come tragically and unexpected.

This last week has cut me deeper than I ever would’ve anticipated and ultimately, I actively turned away from God. Texts flooded in from family and friends to offer support, “everything happens for a reason.”

But God, what is the reason for this?

To summarize my feelings, I felt betrayed. My mother-in-law gave me a great visual in that praying builds your army. I pictured it in our home, an army lined up in the front, ready to battle evil for the protection of our family. Was my army broken? Did I leave our back exposed? I wanted and needed to rationalize it. And then I heard a song.

God, Turn it Around by Jon Reddick. Obviously, we can’t turn the outcome of the events around, but I felt lifted up by the lyrics. The song reminded me to continue to keep my faith in Jesus. I felt angry and alone, but I was reminded that God’s time is always the right time. It has to be. I cannot bring myself to believe otherwise.

God, make this mean something.

“He is up to something. God is doing something right now.”

Even in the dark and desolate place that I stand, I have to believe that He is doing something in our lives. I have listened to the song over and over, each times bringing tears of sadness but also tears of hope.

“He is healing someone. He is saving someone. God is doing something, oh, right now. He is healing someone. He is saving someone. God is doing something, right now.”

James 1:1-4 NIV explains that it is through our trials that we learn to persevere.

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, 

To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:

Greetings.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 

I went to my Bible to read the verse, but it didn’t bring me understanding. Couldn’t I learn perseverance in a different way? Isn’t that what my life has continuously taught me? I’ve gone without food, electricity, and gas. I’ve been isolated, abandoned, and mistreated. I’ve fought my way out from despair and failure every single time, but now I was forced to process the traumatic death of my dog. Haven’t I persevered enough?

These are the very real emotions and thoughts that have gone through my mind. Faith is not easy. Faith is not something that will always make sense, but it is something that has brought peace and forgiveness to my heart. God has walked me through each and every trial that I have faced, proving time and time again that He is where I will find comfort and guidance. God led me through hardships and each time, I have come out with more knowledge and understanding.

We see in John 11:32-35 NIV that Jesus understands feelings of loss and grief.

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come alone with her also weeping, he was desperately moved in spirit and troubled. "Where have you laid him?" he asked.

"Come and see, Lord," they replied.

Jesus wept.

Jesus knows the pain that we experience. Jesus knows our deep rooted feelings of distress, heartache, and grief. I find comfort in this, knowing that even in my weakest moments and often when I feel most alone, He knows my experience. Jesus knew He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead and despite that knowledge, He still stood by others and opened Himself to feel their pain.

I have felt a calm come over me within the last couple of days. I still feel grief, but after I was able to process the resentment and anger that I was beginning to feel, I prayed. And honestly, it just seemed to disappear. I don’t think it was any coincidence that my mother-in-law told me yesterday that I was calmer with the loss of Eddie than I was with the loss of Sam, the dog I lost in 2019. Why was that? Eddie’s departure was certainly more heartbreaking, but where did that sense of calmness come from?

It would be easy to dismiss it and believe that I am more experienced now, but with that we still go right back to the lessons on perseverance that God teaches us. I was able to navigate through the loss of Eddie a little easier because I had already experienced the loss of Sam. I feel lighter because of Him. He never left my side, not through my grief in losing Sam and not through my grief in losing Eddie.

Every time that the house grows silent, I think of Eddie. When I look into my backyard, I think of Eddie. I cannot even begin to explain the number of times that I have looked at the backdoor, thinking he was there waiting for me to let him in. The pain of knowing that I will never hear his bark again haunts me. I struggle to find the words to explain how difficult this loss has been, but I continue to pray and continue to trust that God will see me through it. There is no other option.

I deeply believe that we experience hardships in life to be able to support others. I have been able to offer support and comfort to friends who have painstakingly lost a pet or loved one. The power of grief is incredible, but with others by our side to remind us that we are never alone, the burden of it all becomes lighter. Just as Jesus experienced the pain to stand by our side, we experience the pain to stand by others. Without that, what power would we hold?

 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us.
Romans 8:18 NIV

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