My religious beliefs are not something that I choose to talk about here. It’s not because I’m ashamed of them – rather, it’s that my beliefs are very close and very dear to me, and I choose not to place myself in a position where I’m getting messages trying to convert me to another way of thinking. I’m here “simply for dogs,” not to discuss religion.
I will say, though, that my spiritual path has not led me down traditional Christian lines. I’m pointing this out simply to give context here. I know that probably most of my readers adhere to traditional religions, and that Christianity is likely predominant. Therefore, probably more Christians are struggling with pet loss than practitioners of other religions.
For that reason, as I write, I’m going to avoid phrases like “Christians believe,” “Christian dog owners,” and so on, and just assume Christianity as the default religion for most people who are reading this post. I’m going to speak in a “Christian” voice, and take a Christian perspective, even though I am not a Christian. If you are of another persuasion, leave a comment, and if possible, I’ll try to create a post that will help you to get through the loss of your dog in a way that is consistent with your beliefs.
Now, let’s get to the question.
In Accepting the Inevitable – How to Deal With Your Dog’s Journey to the Rainbow Bridge, I talked in detail about how you might feel in the face of your dog’s death, and pointed out that a lot of the time, grief is founded on guilt. Did you call the vet in time? Did you fail to notice that something was wrong? Did you just not love your dog enough?
We could, and do, beat ourselves up horribly about questions like these. And yes, maybe you did miss something. Maybe you could have acted more quickly. But we can only do our best, and self-flagellation after the fact changes nothing and serves no purpose. You might never be sure if you got everything right, but one thing you can be sure of is that God is not punishing you.
You’re asking, “Why did God take my dog?” Is He mad at me?
We have such a tendency to blame ourselves when we lose a dog. Why do we do that? Why do we think it’s “all about me” and all about something that we might have done wrong? Why do we think that we have somehow “sinned,” and God is mad at us?
Maybe you accidentally ran over your dog. Maybe you didn’t watch him closely enough, and he ran out the door and into traffic. These are mistakes, not sin, and God is not punishing you.
Sin would be a deliberate, malicious act – abusing a dog or neglecting him. I think God would probably not look kindly upon you over something like that, but if you’re even asking, “Why did God take my dog?” then I’m thinking you’re not a sinner. Sinners are people who do horrible things to animals, from spite, maliciousness, or simply because it’s easy. A loving person who might have screwed up is not a sinner. There is no sin, and nothing that needs to be forgiven.
When I was a child, I had a friend, Pat, who had a sweet little 10-week old puppy named Jenny. She was a mix of some sort, and she was prone to crying at night. My friend’s father was a mean drunk, and one night, presumably trying to “sleep one off,” the little dog’s crying annoyed him.
I’m not going to tell you what Pat’s father did, since even today, it upsets me. Suffice it to say that in the morning, there was no more Jenny.
If we want to talk about sin, then Pat’s father fits the “sinner” requirements in my books. In fact, if there is a Hell, I hope there’s a special place there for him.
So, have you sinned in the way that you’ve treated your dog? Probably not. But I know that you’re probably leading up to another question.
Okay, so you’re thinking “My dog got cancer and died. Is God punishing me because I disrespected my parents? Because I shoplifted? Because I didn’t go to church often enough?”
I highly doubt it. Look, I know that the conventional wisdom is that God has a close personal relationship with all of us, and maybe he does. But given everything that’s wrong in the world, does it make much sense to think that he’s looking around for “sinners” and killing their dogs as a way of punishing them?
I’m thinking not.
Of course you could make the argument that God has a long-range plan, and that he might just be waiting and watching for you to screw up. Again, though, I doubt it.
Think of it this way – God is supposed to be just, and loving. Why wouldn’t you think that if you were making a huge mess of things, he’d let you know in some way, and give you a chance to change your behavior? After all, that’s what loving parents do. Our earthly parents tell us when we’re messing up, and give us an opportunity to do better. Wouldn’t a loving God do the same thing? He wouldn’t just punish you without telling you what you’d done wrong and giving you a chance to improve.
Now, let’s bring Jesus into the picture. Theoretically, he died to that all of our sins could be forgiven. There’s a doctrine in most Christian sects that states something along the lines of “Once forgiven, always forgiven.” In other words, if you believe in God and in Jesus, all your sins, past and present, have already been forgiven. So God is not punishing you by means of your dog’s death – he’s not punishing you for anything!
Your dog died, and that most indisputably does suck. If you’re a Christian, though, you believe that God has a plan. So your dog’s death could have a reason that’s completely unrelated to your personal failings.
When my friend Neila lost her Rottweiler, Dennis, it was right around the time that the massive tsunami hit Indonesia in 2004. Neila was a complete mess, grieving so terribly that I was seriously worried for her mental health, and her physical health as well, since she wasn’t eating, and barely taking enough water to keep a bird alive.
Although I’m not a Christian, Neila is, and the way she got past the loss of Dennis was to put it in context – she figured that God had a lot of souls coming to Heaven following the tsunami, and some would be very frightened. Neila figured that maybe God needed a “greeter” at the gates of Heaven – a good, noble dog who would let people know that he’d be there if they needed a kiss, or a smile, or just a loving creature to hold onto.
Who’s to say Neila wasn’t right? Losing Dennis sucked, but maybe God had a reason. Maybe He needed a good dog to help Him.
I think a lot of it boils down to faith – if we believe that God really does have a plan for us, then maybe it makes sense to think that he’s taking our dog for a higher purpose. If you are a Christian, and you trust in God, then you assume that’s he’s got things under control.
Getting back to the idea of punishment, in the first book of the Bible, God created animals to be the companions of man. So why would he punish a dog for something you did? It just wouldn’t make sense.
The other thing to consider here is that the “Old Testament” God was a pretty “smitey” guy. But the New Testament is supposed to represent a new covenant. The New Testament God is kinder and gentler, and it just doesn’t make sense to think that he would say “Okay, you’ve been a jerk, so I’m going to kill your dog,” or “You’d better pull up your socks, or some day your dog is going to be toast”? Does that sound like the New Testament God of love and live? I don’t think so.
Think about the ways you speak of God. You probably tell people that he’s good, and protective, and answers our prayers. Do you end the conversation with “Oh, and by the way, if you’re bad, he’ll kill your dog”? Again, I don’t think so.
Now, let’s get back to something that I’ve already pointed out. If you believe in Jesus, and you have accepted him as your savior, then you should know that there is no more punishment. Jesus died for your sins, and now they are all forgiven – the sins that you did in the past, the sins that you are doing now, and the sins that you might commit in the future. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 tells us that Jesus took on all our sins, and died for them. He took any punishment that we might richly deserve. Of course that doesn’t mean that God might not chastise you from time to time, but we’ll get to that in a bit.
Although we might be chastised, though, we will no longer be punished. He’s not mad at us any longer, because Jesus took the punishment for us. Therefore, If you’re asking “Why did God take my dog,” the answer is, “He didn’t.”
God’s anger has been spent, and now he deals with us on a day-to-day basis. If you have feelings of guilt over your actions, that might be God chastising you and trying to guide you in a better direction. He might still send some adversity your way, but he will do it to instruct you, not to punish you. You could think of this as the loving correction you might receive from a parent, whose job it is to train you up the right way.
A loving parent might send you to your room to think about what you’ve done wrong, but he certainly won’t kill your beloved pet (unless he’s like Pat’s father, in which case he’s not a loving parent, so it’s a moot point). It’s the same with God. He will correct you, but he will not punish you harshly by taking away your beloved dog. Instead, he’ll try to guide you, through Bible verses like Titus 2:12 and Acts 7:22; 22:3; to learn how to change your ways.
Adversity has nothing to do with sin, and sin has nothing to do with adversity. Adversity is given to us to strengthen us when we’re weak and make bad decisions. Making a bad decision isn’t the same as sinning, and although you might suffer certain consequences, they will be of your own making, and will not involve consequences as severe as the death of your dog.
Keep in mind, too, that sometimes bad things happen for perfectly natural reasons. Your dog runs into traffic and gets hit by a car? That’s simple cause and effect, not an action on the part of god. Your dog eats something toxic and dies? Again, don’t put it off on God – it’s just something that happened.
Could God have stopped these things from happening? Maybe. But remember, he did give us free will and responsibility for the consequences of our own actions.
Could Satan be involved in your dog’s death? Well, if you’re of a Christian denomination that believes in the Devil (and not all do), then maybe you’re blaming the wrong guy if you’re asking “Why did God take my dog?” After all, Satan doesn’t like us being happy, and he’s quite pleased when he gets to destroy that happiness. Maybe Satan killed your dog.
I know this sounds a bit twisted, but in the Bible, Job was plagued with all manner of aggravation simply because he was favored by God. He lost his animals, his home, and his health, and he’d never done anything wrong! Christian religion is also replete with tales of martyrs who were called upon to suffer, not because they were bad, but because God loved them.
I admit I have trouble getting my non-Christian head around this concept, but if you actually believe that God took your dog, consider that it might not be because of something you did wrong, but because of something you got right!
Again, though, the loss of your dog has nothing to do with sin on your part.
We tend to thank God for the blessings that come our way, so why do we blame Him for adversity? If we assume that He’s in control, we can also assume that he’s stable – not an angry, vicious, vengeful entity who would kill a dog because we somehow screwed up.
As I’ve previously stated, I am not a Christian. Some believe, though, that even people who don’t believe in the Judeo-Christian God can be punished by him. Nowhere in the Bible, though, does it suggest that God will take the life of a dog or another pet to punish and unbeliever. After all, what would be the point?
Take it easy. All the evidence in the Bible, and all normal logic, would suggest that God didn’t take your dog to punish you. He might have had another plan that required the loss of your dog, but it wasn’t to come down on you for anything you might have done.
Think of it this way – God knows everything. He knows if something bad is going to happen. When it does, he might use that bad occurrence to teach us a lesson, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t going to happen in the first place – it would have happened whether you’d messed up or not.
If you believe that nothing in the universe happens without God knowing about it, then you’ll know that God has foreseen (and maybe even planned for) your dog’s death. It doesn’t mean that God killed your dog. All creatures have a time when they’re designated to stop living, and that includes our dogs. When that time comes, God might use it to show you what His plan is, in the same way that he uses all other events in our lives to guide us along the path he has mapped out for us.
He doesn’t cause it, though. He doesn’t punish you with your dog’s death, so if you’re asking “Why did God take my dog” it’s not out of spite. It’s just part of the natural order of things.
Yes, He is supposed to be. But no two situations are the same, and God will handle each and every situation in the way that He feels is best. You might lose your dog, but again, it’s not because you’re being punished – it’s simply because God always knew that he would allow it to happen, and it would happen when he was ready to allow it.
We live, if we believe what we read in the Bible, in a corrupted world, where we are all in a state of suffering and dying. Our pets don’t get a pass on that. So, if your dog dies, then “Why did God take my dog” is not the right question. The right question might be more along the lines of “Why has God allowed our pets to keep us company in a fallen world”?
I think it’ because we need them. And sadly, because they’re sharing that fallen world with us, they will also get sick and die. Sometimes, we can delay it a bit, but eventually, death will come to our dogs.
What troubles me about this is that maybe humans deserve this fate. Dogs don’t.
The question, “Why did God take my dog” is one that is often screamed out in agony following the death of a beloved pet. I’ve been down that road before, more times than I care to think about, but since I’m not a Christian, I’ve never said, “God, why did you take my dog?”
If you are a Christian, why not just ask? After all, aren’t you supposed to have a close, personal relationship with God? Ask him why he felt that he needed your dog more than you did. Then, wait for an answer. It might not come in a spoken word, but could appear in something that happens later on (the Indonesian tsunami is a good example). Or it might just come in a feeling of peace, where you feel that whatever reason God had, you can accept his judgement. Keep in mind, too Romans 8:28, which tells you that everything happens for a purpose.
I don’t think I’ve really even begun to touch the tip of the iceberg here. There is so much more that could be considered in regard to this topic. And I can’t give you a complete answer to the question, “Why did God take my dog?”
Finally, though, I think I can say with complete confidence, that if you are a Christian, and you believe that God did take your dog, you should take it on faith that he had a reason. And that the reason had nothing to do with sinful behavior on your part.