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It is unusual to consider grief a catalyst for growth.  When grieve comes into a life, it seems as though life stops.  But it does not.  It only gives the appearance of coming to a halt.  In actuality, personal character is further developed when a significant loss occurs.  Letting pain grow us, however, is a choice.  A choice to accept or to resist.
 
God expects us to grow.  Loss, life’s trials, and the unexpected turns in the road, are experiences that God can and does use to conform us more into Christ’s likeness.  But the choice to accept growth is daily.  When loss and grief enter a life, God knows this is a prime opportunity for faith to build and character to become more like that of Jesus.  Growth is available this week through grief.  Will growth be your choice?
 
Jesus, we need You.  You are the One, the only One, with the love deep and skillful to guide growth out of endings.  Thank You, Lord, for walking with those who grieve.  In Thee, Lord Jesus, Amen.

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Ease is less likely to produce faith than trials will.  Trials are attention-getting.  They force a view of self that often requires adjustments.  Grief is a trial.  The kind of adjustments one makes during grief are spiritual, emotional, physical, financial, mental.  Even if changes are not wanted, if they are given to Jesus, He can use them in a meaningful way.
 
If you are suffering from a loss of some kind, expect life to be filled with unexpected emotional twists.  You are in a trial.  But the God of all comfort wants to accompany you through this time.  Will you let Him?  It takes a tiny bit of faith to say Yes to let Him walk with you.  But if you agree, you can expect the supernatural help of the Holy Spirit to come into your life to help you each day.  The choice is yours each dawn.  May you choose Jesus.  He wants to be with you.
 
Lord, trials hurt but You heal.  Lord, help those who hurt to open to You so that You can be the comfort needed, and be the reason why trials can have purpose.  Thank You, Lord, for Your steady presence that always want to be near to those who ache.  In Thee, Amen.

Time is a gracious element.  It may seem as though it is not but is the place where healing and answers have an opportunity to surface.  Sometimes loss and the attendant emotions of loss make one want to resist the passage of time or wish it way quickly.  However, humans are on God’s time table.  Therefore, whatever happens in the span of life has meaning and timing according to His wisdom and plan.
 
If time is challenging you in this particular season of your life, meditate on the Christ who loves you, who is with you, and who is already ahead in the future; a future as close as tomorrow.  Jesus knows the details of your days better than you do.  He has reasons for the unfolding of your hours that you cannot know nor are meant to.  Faith is always about dwelling in the unseen and unknown and cultivating trust.  Grief gives one the opportunity to see the faithfulness of God–at all times and through all seasons.
 
Lord, You are the Creator.  You are the Giver of all of our days.  Thank You, Lord, for what You have provided and for what You continue to provide.  Whatever this portion of time holds in this season, may deeper faith take hold as You hold those who grieve.  In Jesus’ living Name, Amen.

Effort is victory.  Satan would like nothing more than to defeat the efforts of Christ’s own by sending lies, indifference, and weakness into minds that are transferred to steps.  Grief weakens.  It takes away energy and motivation.  If one is not careful, grief can give Satan a foothold into a life and attempt to destroy witness and hope.
 
Jesus blesses effort.  The slightest will do.  The faith of a mustard seed is indeed enough.  Calling out the Name of Jesus is to have a mass of strength and power to shield and fortify.  Even if you do not FEEL strong in the battle of life when experiencing grief, the effort of calling His Name summons His power and you are at once empowered to carry on.
 
Lord of Life, we know that Satan is real and his tactics are many.  Satan will use human weakness and vulnerability to kill, steal, and destroy.  By the might of Thy Name, Lord Jesus, may Your Name fight for those weak due to grief or any other kind of life pain that lessens resolve.  May faith be bold in Thee in times when human strength fails.  How we trust You, Lord Christ, our Warrior, Amen.

FORGIVENESS AND A  SHIH TZU

Then came Peter to Him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times?  Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, until seven times but, until seventy times seven.        Matthew 18:21-22

Recently I was visiting my uncle and his good-natured shih tzu.  I am an early riser so I got up about 5:00 in the morning, put on a pot of coffee, and decided to take the dog out for a walk while the coffee was brewing.  It was already quite humid on that particular summer morning but it did not stop this happy little dog from investigating the landscape and exploring to his heart’s content.  He stayed near me and eventually he was ready to go inside and began to go up the steps into the house.  Suddenly he stopped and he began to chew on what I thought was a foreign object that could be harmful to his body, his digestion.  I spoke to him and then I tried to take it from his mouth.  He did not like that.  He nipped at my hand but did not break the skin.  I stood there and watched him; shortly thereafter he stopped chewing and wanted to go in the house.  The family has been cautioned that while this little dog is friendly, one thing he does not like is to be disturbed when he is eating.  But in this instance, I disturbed him in the interest of his well-being. He did not know that.  Time would reveal that thankfully whatever he ate did not make him sick.  He was just fine. 

When we went back into the house, he followed me around calm and happy.  But I was unsettled.  He might have bitten me!    This was out of character for him.  He knows me when I come over and knows I play with him when he brings me his toys.  He is accustomed to me petting him and being attentive to him.  Given how amiable he is, I was surprised he would nip at me.  He did not break the skin but for me the matter broke our fellowship.   But not for him.  He went about in his usual manner with me.   I admit that it was with some trepidation I petted him after he ate his food and drank his water.  He followed me around while I prepared my coffee and puttered around the kitchen.  Then he followed me as I took my coffee to the guest room and went back to bed to read for a while.  He jumped on the bed, curled into a ball, and settled in for a nap.  It was as though nothing ever happened between us.  All was forgiven. 

Pets have something to teach us about unconditional love and forgiveness.   Jesus said we are to forgive 70 times 7.  Creatures that become part of our family seem to have forgiveness down.  For them, to forgive is something they simply do.  No instructions required.  Do I forgive that easily?  Do you?   For us, forgiveness may take time depending on the incident, the person.  We can be reticent to interact with someone if there has been offense.  The Lord makes room for that but He still wants the end result to be forgiveness.  No barriers.  No barrier to create a chasm that allows Satan to come in and agitate all the more and get one to thinking that the offense is unforgiveable.  Jesus will forgive anything.  We are to forgive anything.  He wants no barriers to the possibility of closeness with that person—perhaps even closer than we were before we or they did something to offend.

When we forgive, we become closer to Jesus.  Forgiveness is not acceptance of an act that occurred but it is a pardon for it.  Do we not all need to be pardoned at times?  I do.  Others need my pardon.  They need your pardon.  When we forgive each other, we keep our personal communion with the Lord and keep unity in the Body of Christ.  Even if communion with others is from a distance, in the spirit realm there is no division.  This pleases God.  Whatever pleases Him surely pleases those who love God.

When our pets die, these great and small creatures leave with us life lessons about unconditional love.  Part of the grief that comes due to pet loss is because of the absence of their unconditional love.  Sometimes when we have had a challenging day at school or work, to come home to the dog or cat is as a healing balm.  When that is gone, it hurts.  We make our lives with these creatures and they help make us who we are.  Indeed, pets have a place in our hearts and when it is time for them to leave this life, we grieve. 

But as with any relationship of merit, would we stop forming relationships to be spared the pain of loss?  Short or long in duration, the Lord allows us to gain from all of our exchanges.  God’s way is such that He soothes loss with time, with the presence of the Holy Spirit, and with the arrival of new interests and renewed purpose.  Furthermore, in His blessed kindness, He restores memories to be a source of joy and gratitude for having made the memories at all.

Pet loss is painful because pets are a source of real love and affection.  If you or someone you know is experiencing grief due to the death of an animal, do not minimize these feelings.  Talk, cry, have a memorial service, look at pictures, and remember that creature.  It is not inconsequential to lose anything or anyone inspiring love.  Give place to what has been and trust God to give place to what shall be.   In memories and in the making of new ones, God shall bring new life and new hope.  He is the God of Life. 

Lord, thank You for the treasure we know with pets.  They are evidence of Your blessings.  May we continue to trust Your heart and Spirit in times of loss.  May we recognize the value that pets offer us as we try in earnest to conform our character more into the likeness of Thine own.  In Thee, Lord Jesus, Amen.

Recognizing an ending is one thing.  Accepting it is another.  When we have miles to walk between a loss and integrating it into our lives, it is a challenge.  Grief takes us to places we never thought we would find ourselves; unusual places in emotion, location, and wonder.  Grief is a map of sorts but the problem is we often do not know where we are going until after a season of grief is lived out.
 
Grief does pass.  We do journey to a different place and time.  Life does take on new meaning and hope does come.  Jesus is all about hope and new beginnings.  He is all about life.  Because of the comfort of Jesus, we have the strength to carry on and the reason–God wants us to.  For now, that is enough.  It is all that is needed.  So even when days are challenging due to loss, know that belief in Jesus alone makes the day one of purpose and one of hope.
 
Lord Jesus, Your steady presence helps us in times of grief, lonliness, and wonder.  Help us to remember that You are always there, and that You will always be our sustaining strength to bring us to days of lightness and peace.  In Thee, Amen.