By: Terry Sternad
As we travel the journey of grief, especially in the early stages, it is difficult to see God helping us along the way. The familiar poem Footprints explains that when we look back on our lives and do not see God’s footprints next to ours during our hardest times, it was actually Him carrying us through our hardship. The worst time in my life was when my six-year-old son died. It was in that sorrow that I came to know Christ. Since then I have been able to see how God is working in my life and how He continues that work to this day.
God At Work
My favorite story to illustrate God at work in our lives, especially in the hard times, is about one of my all-time favorite dogs, Abby. Abby was a Jack Russell Terrier, full of life, energy, and personality. I loved that dog as much as it is possible to love a pet. I called her “The Chosen Dog”, but Abby had a few problems. She was a little nervous, high-strung, and she had a bad kneecap. I had to make a decision between an operation on her kneecap or letting it get worse over time. I knew that the operation was the best decision for her, but I also knew that it would be terrifying, stressful, and painful. As much as I hated putting her through that, I decided to let the veterinarian operate.
Where Is My Father?
I hated to leave her at the animal hospital. I cannot express how bad I felt for her, but I left her there because I loved her and knew that it was the best decision for her quality of life. Let's think about this situation from Abby’s point of view: “Here I am in a strange place with other dogs and people that I don’t know. Dad still has me, but I am nervous and scared. Why is a stranger taking me away while my dad is leaving me? I’m really scared. He put me in a cage around other dogs in cages and left me alone. Where is my father? I am so scared. Oh no! Now another stranger is taking me away. He is putting something into me and it hurts. I’m having a hard time waking up and I don’t know where I am. I hurt and I do not feel good. The more I wake up the more it hurts and I don’t understand what has happened to me. I want my father. I want to go home. Please, somebody, help me!” As a true dog lover, I make sure to take care of them to the best of my ability and spare little expense in their care. I think that this story is a good illustration of God allowing us to experience terrible, painful situations because He loves us and knows that it is for our own good.
He Has A Plan
I believe that our pain and suffering hurts God just as I hurt for Abby. I also know that God has a plan for my life. As awful as it was to lose my son, God allowed that because He knew my future. He knew what my life could be like if I would allow Him to use that loss.
He knew every interaction that I would ever have with other people for the rest of my life. I am blessed to see His plan unfold in my life as I try to serve Him better every day. I am honored to be able to use what God did in my life to help others who are hurting just like I was. God is good. He is loving and cares for us, even when we can’t see Him or understand why He allows awful things to happen in our lives.
There are two verses that I love for assurance that God cares and that He wants us to use our suffering for the good of others:
Isaiah 41:10 (ESV) tells us “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
God will be with us to strengthen and comfort us in our darkest hour, especially for those of us who have suffered from devastating grief:
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (ESV) says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
I pray that you will be able to see Him work through your sorrows and know that He is there for you, carrying you when necessary.
Terry Sternad is the father of three, one of whom is with the Lord. That loss brought him to Christ and is foundational to his life and ministry to those who grieve. Terry served as interim Director of Men's Child Loss and facilitates GriefShare groups for his churches in Ohio and Florida.