I had a plan for what I was going to post today, but then something happened on Thursday night that changed my focus. I returned home from my late work meeting a little after 9:30. I was sitting in my living room, reading blog comments and checking Facebook, when I heard my cat Tom meow loudly in the other room. We went to see what was happening and found him lying on the floor in respiratory distress. My husband and I rushed him to the emergency vet, leaving our 16-year-old son at home.
Sadly, Tom did not make it. A blood clot to the lungs took the life of my ornery but loveable cat. He was only 9 years old. He will be missed dearly. But having heard the news from the vet, I knew that the hard part was still to come. We had to go home and tell our son that the cat he loved, his birthday present when he turned 7, didn’t make it. We decided to take Tom back home with us to let our son help decide whether to bury him or have him cremated.
Because I was planning to work only a partial day on Friday anyway, because of an eye exam, I decided to just take the whole day, and my son stayed home with me. (This is a kid that never misses school, even if he is sick, but he just was so upset he wasn’t up to it).
At one point in the day, as we were talking about Tom, my son said, “You know the really bad part? After you guys left to go to the vet I stopped everything I was doing and just prayed that God would make Tom better. But He didn’t.” Suddenly, I was at a loss for words. All I could say was that I was thankful Tom had died with us around, and not out carousing around (as he was known to do) so that he would just not come home, leaving us to worry and wonder what happened to him.
Now, I have learned from years of Bible study, prayer, and experience that sometimes God’s answer to a prayer request is “no” or “not now.” I have learned and firmly believe that God sees the big picture and that when the answer is “no” there is a good reason even if I don’t know what it is. I trust God with the answers even when I don’t understand, because I have a lifetime of experience that I can look back on to see that He was faithful in the important things.
I know that in our broken world, pets and people die. It would be impossible for God to answer every prayer that someone or some pet not die. But I also know that God cares about the pain we experience. John 11:25, the shortest verse in the Bible, says “Then Jesus wept.” This happened at the death of Lazarus, who Jesus knew He was about to raise from the dead. I believe Jesus wept here because of the immeasurable compassion He has for us when we experience loss and don’t understand the bigger picture.
But having learned all this through years of Bible study and experience didn’t make it any easier to answer my son, who hasn’t had that experience and doesn’t know the scriptures as well as I do. As I thought about this later, still trying to figure out what I can say to him, I realized that the faith and trust in God I have now isn’t something I can just hand over fully formed to my son. It is something he must learn himself, though his own Bible study, prayer, and experience. This experience is one step in that journey of faith that he must travel.
My prayer now is that my son will see how this experience has taught him compassion for others who experience loss. I pray it will ultimately act as the mortar in his faith, helping to hold it strong in the face of greater loss that he is sure to experience in this life. I am thankful that God holds all the tears he cried over poor Tom in a bottle, mingled with the tears of our Savior, and that “God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4 (NLT).