With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you;
I will give thanks to your name, O Lord, for it is good.
The book of Psalms is full of emotion (cries, expressions of grief). King David writes in the middle of pain and fear for his life “I will sacrifice a freewill offering to you; I will praise your name, Lord, for it is good”. What I love about David, is that he doesn’t ignore his feelings or bury them in the ground; he acknowledges them, but he doesn’t become a slave to them either. David’s problems were terrifying and real but he chooses to express his pain, sorrow and struggles to God rather than letting them dictate his life. Many of the Psalms he wrote ended by focusing on the truth of who God is instead of how he is feeling. Our feelings change but God’s character remains the same.
There’s something incredibly powerful in declaring and singing that God is good and worthy of praise even when our circumstances and feelings are challenging the nature of God’s goodness and love. Worshipping through trials is powerful.
Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.
It was about 5 weeks ago. I remember telling someone, “I am so tired of being so callused. I just want to feel again.” It was after something very tragic happened. Something most people would absolutely cringe and probably have nightmares over. I have worked in the State and Federal Prison systems for over 18 years and on a Monday, which was no different than any other Monday, A man was killed on my watch. I knew he was as good as dead, and I felt nothing. I did my job, tried to do my part in ensuring he had the chance of “making it” but the blade had hit it’s mark, and the man wielding that weapon had accomplished his mission. Nothing I could have done would have saved him. The assailant was cold and calculated. He waited for the exact time when he knew he could do the most damage, invoking his revenge quickly and efficiently.
Now, I have seen this time and again. Over the years I have seen men do horrible things to other men. Rape, torture, and homicide. I can not remember the number of times I have done chest compressions on someone, plugged a hole in someone's chest with my fingers, cut someone down from a rope, or even looked at a man's wounds as he tried to act like he wasn’t hurt or scared. Up until this point, I never batted an eye. I never gave it a second thought. I have been assaulted many different ways as well, and my bravado would have me chalk it up to “It comes with the territory.” But on this any given Monday, something hit me. I am not sure what it was. Maybe it was the Lord? Maybe. But something made me stop and think, why doesn’t this bother me? I want this to bother me.
Don’t get me wrong I don’t think I entirely lack empathy. I hurt for my loved ones (Friends & Family) when they hurt but not like I think I should. Not like a normal human-being. Not like a real and true christian. Am I a real and true christian? I love deeply, but I don’t think I love like “normal” people. Maybe everyone feels like that?
Be careful what you wish for is a common saying.
On November 6, 2018 our beloved Dog, Henry was tragically hit by a vehicle. It was tragic to say the least. He was alive when we got him to the vet. He was licking my face. Because of his alertness I was hopeful and encouraged that he may be okay. Maybe some broken bones but okay. This was not the case. He was badly broken and would have no quality of life. Our big boy was not gonna make it. My wife and I had to make the hard decision. I watched my wife as she literally convulsed in grief. I tried desperately to hold it together and to be strong for her.
To spare you the details, Henry died as peaceful as possible as we loved on him. We took him home and gave our children an opportunity to pet him, love on him, and say their goodbyes. In that moment as I held his head so our daughter could kiss his face one last time, I broke. My heart broke. I felt something deep. And I wept. I felt.
The next day was harder than I anticipated. I woke up thinking I heard him sniffing at the foot of my bed as he often did in the mornings. But he was not. I wept again. As I drove into town to run errands, I passed a restaurant and a man was walking with a dog that looked so much like Henry. Matter of fact, same breed (Great Pyrenees), and I wept. I was desperate to hold it together. But I couldn't, and I wept. I turned around and pulled into that parking lot. I parked clear on the other side and got out. I just wanted to watch. I prayed for God to take the pain away. I told Him (God) how stupid I felt for being so emotional about a dog. At that moment some 200 feet away, that dog turned around, and saw me. She immediately started running towards me. I froze. She stopped right at my feet, sat down and pressed her head against my thigh and looked up at me. Yep you guessed it….. I wept.
I got on the ground and just hugged this dog and she just let me. It’s like she knew. My body heaved as I wept over this animal. The owner was gracious and let me and just asked “are you okay brother?” I apologized and briefly explained how me and my family had just lost Henry. He was very gracious and said “take all the time you need.”
Two weeks ago, my nephew and his fiancée lost their baby boy Roman James. And then, this very evening, November 7, 2018 my wife received a phone call her beloved uncle had passed away. How much more can we take Lord?
The answer? ALOT. If we trust in Him.
Look at Joseph. His brothers tried to kill him and then they sold him into slavery. After being bought and “exported” to Egypt he found a nice job. But being a hardworking, wise and handsome young man caused him more trouble than he ever thought. An ambitious lady put her eyes on him. After declining her “friend requests”, he was “sued” for sexual harassment, and because the lady’s husband was not only the offended partner but also Joseph’s boss, judge, and ruler, poor Joseph ended up getting undeserved punishment in jail.
Look at Job. Tragedy struck and Job lost his wealth. Next, a storm took the lives of all his children. Then, a debilitating disease that left his whole body covered with painful boils came in to finally kill him.
Look at David. Even after David had been anointed king and chosen by God, he still had to run for his life. Some scholars believe he had to run for his life from King Saul between 7 and 10 years. David grew frustrated from his constant running and hiding, having to live in caves and always in hiding, In the last two verses of Psalm 27 David wrote: “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.”
Look at Paul. We know the Apostle Paul suffered many trials by the hand of man (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). But beyond that he suffered some type of trial by the permission of God. Paul called it a messenger of Satan and begged God to remove this “thorn in the flesh.” Yet, God chose to allow Paul to suffer with this affliction (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). There are many speculations for what this problem was, but we are not told clearly in the text of the Bible. Whether we know the exact nature of the problem there is a lesson to be learned that can apply to each of us. Paul endured this trial which caused him to depend more upon the Lord. He was told by God that the affliction was to show the power of God through a weakened life. When we are weak, sick, in need, persecuted, or distressed for Christ’s sake, then God can show himself strong for our benefit and for His glory.
Now, I have to say it, I am in no way comparing my plight with these great men. But I want to make sure I recognize the examples. The lessons to be learned so to speak. You see in my grief I realize I have a responsibility to use these situations to teach my children, my wife, and my friends what grieving looks like. How to grieve with grace. How to be vulnerable and transparent. How to allow others to hold you up and support you. How to allow God to work and comfort the broken hearted. How to lean on God, and worship Him regardless of our situations.
Writing helps me process all of this. And if you have taken the time to actually read all of this, Thank you. But even if nobody has made it to this sentence, God has used this to help me put things in perspective. This doesn't mean I am not going to still grieve and hurt. Of course I am. Honestly, as bad as it hurts, I am grateful to God I am beginning to feel again. A deeper feeling then I can remember ever feeling before. Hopefully this is the beginning of breaking my heart so I can do more when it comes to caring for others. Adding value to other people's lives.
It's almost poetic and ironic that God would use the tragedy of losing such a big handsome furry dog named Henry, to break my heart open. Now, I do not believe God orchestrated the accident that took Henry from us. But He can and will use it. Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” I believe the loss of Henry helped me to start feeling again. It is helping me become a better vessel at sharing the love and compassion of Christ to a world who so desperately needs it.
Thank you Jesus for giving us Henry. We love you and miss you Henry, and we are blessed to have had you in our lives. Thank you for loving us so well!
Dan Ousley - Worship Leader - StoneBridge Baptist Church