Growing Through Grief

Seeking relief from a steady diet of news programing in the last months, Monique and I have been watching Public Television for the past several weeks on Sunday evening. We have been captivated by Masterpiece Theatre's series, All Creatures Great and Small, based upon the novels of James Herriot. These are about the adventures of Herriot (pen name for James Alfred Wight), a Yorkshire veterinarian who is practicing his craft in rural England during the 1930's. This series is pure, softly-paced, beautifully set and thoroughly entertaining.

Galloping Stallion

Samuel West, who plays Siegfried Farnon, Herriot's boss and mentor, commented in a recent podcast interview about an especially touching episode in which James has to put down a beautiful race horse. The animal is in great pain because of an inoperable bowel constriction. Others attending the horse are openly reluctant to take such extreme measures because the animal is prized and has great financial value to its owners. 

James is conflicted because he cannot help alleviate the suffering and decides there is only one course of action to take and that is to euthanize the stallion. This will be James' first experience with this life-ending procedure!

In his reflection, West commented about Herriot's character development through all of this, "We learn more from the dark places, from the failures or from the disasters about ourselves and where we are and how we can cope with them than we ever do from our successes." (source: Apple News Podcast, 1/25/21 transcript). I thought immediately of the many persons we read about in Scripture who went through deep valleys of grief and loss to come out on the other side having grown in their trust in God. 

I have been in a small group study with some church friends for the past six weeks. We have been engaged in a "deep dive" into the intriguing life experiences of Joseph (Genesis 37 -50). Joseph progressed through his turbulent teenage years where he went from being spoiled by his father Jacob to being the victim of his brother's jealously. He journeyed from favor to disfavor and nearly experienced death at the brother's hands. His next years would bring grief at many levels: personally, relationally, occupationally, and spiritually.

Joseph would become a slave in the household of a ruthless Egyptian official named Potiphar.  He would be thrown into prison after being unjustly accused of sexual misconduct when in truth he was the real victim of harassment. In confinement, he would earn the trust and confidence of those who guarded him day and night.  Again, he would experience favor but yet could not change what seemed to be his hopeless and unfavorable situation. Years would go by until Joseph would finally emerge from his constraints by God's intervention and by using the gift God gave him for interpreting dreams. Pharaoh would eventually elevate him to the highest position of ruler in the land of Egypt, second in power only to the Pharaoh himself. From this position, Joseph would fulfill his life purpose in "the saving of many lives." (Genesis 50:20).

Joseph is an inspirational example of growing through grief by God's grace and providential plan for his life. He survived multiple experiences of favor and disfavor, discouragement and despair. Grief is how we react to loss in our lives. The story of Joseph is how he reacted with faith and trust in the One True God. It is true by my experience as well that "we learn more from the dark places...the failures...the disasters...than we ever do from the successes." God is growing us through the valleys, the challenges that come our way, the painful losses and disappointments. 

Life is full of grief experiences. How you react when "the bottom falls out" says a lot about your willingness to trust in the God who shapes and controls your destiny. God promises to give His comfort, joy and renewed purpose when we react in faith! "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." (Romans 8:28 NLT). 

Trust that God is working in our grief! He's growing us according to His good plan!

Mike Keppler, retired pastor, 
active churchman and
doting grandparent. 


  1. A great word from my friend who has consistently displayed what he has written!


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