(Does God punish us by taking our pets away?)
Why do we have this insatiable desire to blame ourselves whenever we lose a beloved pet? We do the same thing when a human friend or family member is suddenly taken from us, too. But why? What’s the reason for it and why do we believe God may have purposely allowed their passing because of something WE did wrong, for some indiscretion on OUR part? Some even say that God personally reaches down and snatches them from us, simply because we’ve displeased Him somehow. It’s only human to blame ourselves and it’s very common, too; but there’s no basis for it, is there?
“Is it something I did?” Well, first of all, there are times when, yes, it was something we did that caused them to pass away—but it was only an accident. It wasn’t what we intended or wanted to do but, sadly, it happened nonetheless. And we cry. Some of us have accidently run over them with the car or even started the washer or dryer not knowing they were inside and then, when we find out the awful truth, it’s too late—and they’re gone. And, oh, the terrible pain that comes with it. Yet, again, these are not things we intend to do; they’re accidents. But they’re not sin.
But then there are some people who are monsters, deliberately causing harm and death to innocent little creatures. I’m not talking about hunting here, which is really another story when you get right down to it for, whether we like it or not, God has ordained and allowed us to eat meat. Rather, here I’m talking about people who purposely go out and kill pets or other animals out of spite and out of wickedness, even expedience or just for laughs—you know, for something to do.
When I was a little boy, someone put a bullet into the brain of my favorite little cat, Bummer, and left him in the frozen snow to die—which he did. And a part of me died on that cold and wintry night, too. We’ve all heard stories of such killings, like those who tie puppies or kittens up in a potato sack and throw them into the river to drown and, quite frankly, they’re worthy to have the same thing done to them, as well. That’s a given. But we’re not talking about accidental deaths where there is no fault, or monsters that have no respect for life.
No, the question we’re asking is this: “Am I being punished for something I did? Did God allow my little kitten to get cancer and then to suffer and die an agonizing death because I did something wrong?” Or even, “Did I do something that caused God to allow someone else to deliberately kill my dog?” Maybe it wasn’t a human. Maybe a coyote got a hold of my poodle (as happened to someone out here recently) and tore him up, carting him away into the night, making a meal of him. Was it something I did for God to allow this? Am I being punished for some wrong I’ve done? Is that why another creature from the wild took my precious one away from me by the scruff of a broken neck into the night? Never to be seen or found again? What could I have done to deserve this?
“Is it something I did?” Well, if you’re asking this then you can pretty much bet that it wasn’t! Think about it for a moment. If you’re asking this, it means you don’t know the answer—right? You really don’t know if you’ve done something to anger God so much that He’d take your pet away. And if you don’t already know the answer, then chances are you haven’t done anything worthy of this and you’ll go on wondering for weeks and months—or even years—without an answer. And why do you think you’ll never receive an answer? It’s probably because there is none and there was nothing you did in the first place. That’s why.
Now I say “probably” here because sometimes God will delay in letting us in on any reasons “why” things have fallen out the way they have. It may be years before the time is right for us to understand what it’s all about, and that for various reasons. But, for the most part anyway, you’d think He’d let you know by now if it involved sin, wouldn’t you? After all, wouldn’t that be why He allowed this in the first place? That is, so you’d know it was related to that sin and that He wants you to let go of it? Doesn’t that only make sense? I mean, don’t our earthly parents at least let us know why they’re chastising or punishing us? Of course they do; and God Himself is not ignorant of the wisdom involved here. If you’ve done something to upset Him, then He’d let you know about it. But since you don’t know, then He hasn’t.
One of the most basic and cardinal rules of chastisement and correction (and everybody knows this, don’t they?) is that when you chastise or “punish” a child, or a student, or an employee, or even your dog or cat, then you must be sure they know why they’re being punished. Isn’t that right? Isn’t that what we learn from all the experts? You can’t just punish a child or pet without them knowing why. What good is that? They’ll never be corrected of their “wrongdoing” if they don’t know what they did.
And, though our “punishment” has already been borne by Another (more later), yet He must still seek to lovingly “correct” our mistakes when we make them. But, how is He to correct us without our knowing what we did? Certainly, if we’ve erred, He would let us know what we’ve done, wouldn’t He? [It goes without saying, of course, that we must also live a life that’s open to His leading and His speaking to us. Otherwise, how can we expect to “hear” His voice? He doesn’t send telegrams or text messages, you know.]
Now, don’t you think our Heavenly Father also possesses the same wisdom and understanding inherent in all of nature when it comes to the disciplinary matters of His own? Of course, He does! And, what’s more, this wisdom is of such purity that it can only have come from Him in the first place! So why do you think He’d chastise you without your knowing what you did? Well, He wouldn’t—and that’s all there is to it. So, why are you worrying about it? And if it turns out there is something you need to know and He wants you to know it, then don’t worry; He’ll let you know—when the time is right. But I’ll bet there’s nothing there.
And yet again, He doesn’t always want us to know what’s going on behind the scenes so, at times, there’s no answer for us. But, either way, it doesn’t necessarily mean it has anything to do with sin in the first place. Besides sin, there are many other reasons why He allows adversity to come our way, and we’ll mention a few of them later. And whether He decides to let us in on it or not, we must faithfully trust in Him; for He knows what’s going on and He has everything under control.
But do you really think God would wipe out and snuff the life out of an innocent creature for something YOU did? Is that what you think He’s like? And is that something He would do? Instead, isn’t it possible that some lying, invisible enemy may have whispered these things to you? Our God, the God of the Bible, is a good God—perfectly good. He is loving and kind and His tendermercies are upon all His creatures (Ps. 145:9)—especially those that have done no wrong! He is “loving toward all He has made” (Ps. 145:13 NIV) and He’s too good to stoop so low for such tricks. Now I can see Him taking YOUR life for something you may have done—but that which He has imparted to one of His innocent creatures? I doubt it very much—and so should you.
But let me see if I’m getting this straight. You’ve done something wrong somewhere along the way and God must have seen you do it, and then He got mad at you. So, then He decided to teach you a lesson and punish you for it by taking the life of your little cat or dog, right? And this, even though you may never have a clue as to what you did. Is that about it? And then, He’ll let you go on and on, maybe for the rest of your miserable life, wondering what it was.
Oh, yeah. Now that really sounds like the God of love and life that the Bible reveals, doesn’t it? Well, I don’t think so—I really don’t. But is that part of the “gospel” that you believe? Is that part of your testimony when you tell others of the good and loving God who wants to save them and start living in their hearts? Do you warn them that if they give their lives to Christ that they’d “better be good” or He just may kill their favorite pet some day? Well, if it’s what you believe, then you’d better spread the word! Don’t leave this stuff out when you’re telling others all about Him and about how good He is. They have a right to know this from the start. But I doubt if even you believe it.
OK, enough dancing around the issue. Let’s get to the bottom line before we go any further here. And here I’m talking primarily to those who have become the children of God through Jesus Christ. But there’s something in it for all the others, too. The fact of the matter is this: if you’re a believer in Christ and have been born into the family of God, then there is no more “punishment” for you—ever. There is none! When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, He took all our punishmnet in His own body, suffering all the eternal (as well as temporal) pain and torment that the wrath of God would otherwise have inflicted upon us. That’s what the gospel is all about, isn’t it? That Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins (1 Cor. 15:1-4), suffering for them in our place? Taking the very punishment that we deserved? That’s why it’s called the “good news!” This is what believers are supposed to believe. Though we still sin, there’s no more punishment. Chastisement, however, is another story and we’ll get to that in a moment.
In Old Testament times, before Christ came, certain animals were to be sacrificed for the sins of God’s people. But even then, it was not a “punishment” for sin, nor did God “take” the lives of these innocent creatures either. The sacrifice was “atonement” for their sins, not punishment—and that’s a big difference. Besides, if the animal was the one who died, why say that the sinner was being punished? He got to live! Either way, of course, an animal had to die; but in order for God’s people to have a relationship with Him, the problem of sin had to be resolved. It was not optional. There had to be atonement for sin. His justice and wrath must be appeased and whoever sinned, together with the priests, was to “offer” the innocent life unto God in place of his own. This, of course, was only a temporary arrangement and was only until the real Lamb of God appeared—for only a sinless man, and not the blood of animals, could truly atone.
Now there were other times when the lives of animals were taken as “punishment,” but even then there was more to the story than just that. And we’ll look at that at another time.
At any rate, God does not punish us anymore. His justice has been totally satisfied by the work of Christ on the cross and we’re no longer the object of His anger and wrath. This is what the Bible means when it speaks of “propitiation.” The death of Christ has propitiated God and has made atonement for us in appeasing His wrath (1 Jn 2:1-2; 4:10). So, if He doesn’t punish us anymore, then He hasn’t punished you by taking your pet away either.
Instead, He now deals with us as our loving “Father” and all He does in our lives from now on is with the purpose of conforming us to the image of His Son. That is His purpose for us now. When He sees us in sin, He doesn’t get angry with us and seek to punish us for it, for the punishment has already been paid. The anger has already been spent and His legal requirements for justice have already been satisfied. Instead (and because He loves us) He wants to see us delivered and set free from these things. And so He works through everything that comes our way to untangle us from the mess we’re in. Yes, He still allows adversity, which comes to us through the enemy as well as the corruption of a cursed and fallen world. But now He uses it to bring us closer to Him and to help us grow, becoming more like Him. And all this, through the good and the bad, is called “chastisement,” but one that no longer seeks to punish.
But even though we’re His children, we still err and He still sees it; and He’ll still react to it, too. Only now this reaction is as a loving Father and not a punishing judge; and this is how He leads us and guides us in every area of our lives. His chastening is properly seen as discipline or “correction,” but the original meaning of the Biblical word is much more broad and inclusive than what we’ve come to believe. It includes any and every thing necessary to correct and train up a child in the way that the child should live—not just adversity. It includes correction by means of verbal instruction, both positive and negative. This word is translated as “instruction” or “instructor” in 2 Tim. 2:25; 3:16; Rom. 2:20. It is also rendered as “nurture” in Eph. 6:4 and as “taught” or “learned” in passages such as Acts 7:22; 22:3; and Titus 2:12. Now these don’t sound like “punishing” words, do they? Or He may correct us by bringing us a “word” either from the Bible itself or through another brother, or sister, pastor, or whomever He may choose. Correction includes anything He may choose, not just adversity, to get the idea across that we need to alter our ways to be set free.
And we also need to understand that He allows adversity that has nothing to do with sin at all! And we see this in many different ways. Sometimes our faith is merely being tried and tested (Jam. 1:2-3; 1 Pet. 1:6-7; 4:12). No sin. Just trying and testing so we may know if we’re in the faith or not. And sometimes He allows adversity to strengthen us (1 Pet. 5:8-10). Again, there’s no sin involved. He’s just strengthening us when we’re weak. Then, too, we live in a cursed and fallen world and almost all that comes our way comes quite naturally on its own. No particular sin on our part, but we’re just being battered by a fallen world. And what about all those times when we just make down right bad decisions? Most often it’s no sin to make a bad decision; it’s just a bad decision. But we suffer for it just the same!
Then, too, there’s the matter of “natural consequences.” These are things that “naturally” happen to us as a direct result of the mistakes we make, whether they’re sinful or not. They’re not caused directly by God (which would then be a “supernatural” consequence), but instead they follow the general rule instituted at creation that we’ll reap what we sow (Gal. 6:7-8). Do you cheat on your wife? Then she may leave you. God doesn’t tell her or “cause” her to leave you. She just does. Much of our suffering comes from these natural consequences.
And let’s not forget Satan and all the fallen spirits on his side! A lot of our troubles and sorrows come directly from him; but you can bet he’s not troubling you for any “sin” you’ve committed! He’s not wreaking all this havoc for something “bad” you’ve done. He loves it when you disobey God. What he really hates is when people repent of their sins and start doing good deeds! Much of our pain, therefore, comes to us not because we’ve done anything bad but rather because we’ve done something good! And Satan, who really hates that, tries to destroy us and ruin our lives for it.
Have you ever heard of righteous Job? Look at how much he suffered. He lost it all: including almost all his family (only Mrs. Job lived), his home, and his animals! And what about Jesus? What bad did He ever do to deserve all He suffered? Think about it. And don’t forget the apostles and all the martyrs throughout church history who have suffered and lost their lives, too—not for any sins they committed, but rather because they chose to do good! According to the Bible, we are called to suffer in this world, but not for our bad deeds. Did you ever think you might have lost your pet for something “good” you did? Well, maybe you should think about that, too.
While it’s true God will also allow Satan to have his way with us as part of His “chastening” us, yet it’s not as punishment; and we must also understand that, more than likely, it has nothing to do with sin.
Now all these things (and many others) can be seen as the chastening of God in our lives, brought upon us or allowed so He may achieve His ultimate goal in us: being conformed to the image of His Son. You can see, then, that there are other explanations. And I’ve only mentioned a few.
So let’s not arbitrarily blame God for everything that comes our way. Satan would surely love it if we did. He would love to have us blame Him, for he knows it’ll make our lives even more sorrowful and confusing—not to mention being weakened in our service to Him. Instead, let’s follow the advice of Scriptures: counting it as joy and rejoicing (Jam. 1:2-3; 1 Pet. 4:12-19) when trials and adversity come, knowing that God is in control and that He’s promised to work all things out for the good of those who love Him (Rom. 8:28). And, knowing also, that there are many ways that He can use to “chastise” us, with or without suffering.
So forget the idea of being “punished” by an angry God. And away with the idea that He kills our pets when we do something stupid! Besides, He will not punish the same sin twice, for that would be unjust. And Jesus has already suffered for our sins—once for all (Heb. 10:10).
Now I’ve been addressing the believers in Christ who trust Him and are the adopted children of God. But as for the unbelievers (those who reject His offer of forgiveness and life), unfortunately they’re still the object of His justice and His wrath. They’re still under a death sentence, being condemned already (Jn. 3:18), and Judgment Day is coming when they’ll pay for their own sins, since that’s their choice. Their “punishment” is on the way and then they’ll know the wrath of God; and they will not be happy.
However, even for the unbelievers, I can’t see God punishing them in this life by taking their little pets from them, either. Not because of anything they’ve done, of course. But rather because God is good and He has no need, or desire, to destroy the lives of innocent creatures just to punish them. Besides, what good would it do?
So don’t worry. He didn’t reach down and take your little Scruffy, or whatever, to punish you for sin. But that’s not to say He didn’t “allow” it for some other reason, as part of His overall plan for your life. For this He will do, yet not in the way we’d normally think.
We would normally think that: first we sin, and then God allows something bad to happen to either correct us or teach us a lesson and so on. And although it’s still conceivable (but not as punishment, remember), it’s hardly the rule. Instead, it’s more like this: Since God is all-knowing, He already knows that something bad is going to happen to us at a particular time and, when it does, then He will use it to correct us (or teach us a lesson) regarding some shortcoming, or sin, or just to lead us in another direction and so on. In other words, the “bad thing” He allows is something that He has always known was going to happen anyway. And, what’s more, it would probably happen whether we ever sinned or not! But when it does, then He can use it for our own good.
Nothing happens in the universe without His knowing all about it and “allowing” it to be, so even the death of our pets has been knowingly allowed. He has always known your pet would die at a certain time on a certain day, and that He would allow it to be that way, too. And now that that dreadful day has finally come, perhaps He’s able to reach you in a way that He was unable to before—if there’s a need to, that is. Now He’s able to instruct you or teach you about something you may not have thought about before. And now you’re open to thinking about it. But He doesn’t have to “take” them away to do this. He can wait until their time comes around, and then He’ll speak to us. What’s the rush?
All creatures are appointed a time when they cease to live and that includes our pets. They all die—we all die—because we live in a sinful, fallen world that has been cursed. It’s natural to this world now. God doesn’t go around whilly nilly killing either them or us. We will all die some day and God just happens to know when that day is and what the circumstances of that passing will be. And when the time comes, it comes no matter what. And God, as our loving Father, is able to use this tragic time for His purpose in our lives, as He’s able to use every other event (good or bad) in our lives, to teach us something both about Him and about ourselves and to guide us in the way He wants us to go.
But He doesn’t have to cause it to happen. He doesn’t “take” our loved ones away or personally bring this stuff upon us merely because we’ve fallen somehow. It’s already coming on its own without any need on His part to instigate it. If anything, He will grant us extensions so that our sufferings are delayed and even made less than they otherwise would have been. He waits patiently and then speaks to us at just the right times. This is all a part of His “chastening” us.
But don’t get me wrong; God is still God and He knows best just how to go about chastising or correcting His children. Every situation is different and He will handle each in the way He sees fit. And, if He desires, He may still choose to allow tragedy to come our way, maybe even as a “direct result” of a particular sin or uncleanness in us. No one can put God in a box and no one can know all His ways. Yet, even then, it’s still something He has always known that He would allow and when He would allow it.
And then the Bible also reveals a sense that the actions of humanity as a whole have been responsible for the suffering and death of all creation. But it’s traced to the Garden of Eden and not to our present individual sins.
We live in a fallen and corrupted world where everything has been corrupted and cursed (Gen 3) and is therefore in a constant state of suffering and dying. Our pets suffer and die, not for “particular” wrongs that we as individual owners have committed but rather for what the representative heads of the human race (Adam and Eve) set in motion by the very first act of rebellion in the Garden (Gen. 3). It was then that all of creation fell and became corrupted and began to die (Rom. 5:12)—both physically and spiritually—and has been suffering and dying ever since. And this will continue to the end of the age when God will put a merciful end to it all and restore all that He’s made. And then He’ll usher in His glorious Kingdom in the New Heavens and the New Earth (Rev. 21:1-5) where we’ll live with Him and His restored creation forever.
So if our pets get sick and die, then it’s because they live with us in a fallen world where we, too, get sick and die. Sometimes we’re able to delay it somewhat, but it will always come sooner or later. The only difference is that we deserve it and they don’t. And our day will come, too, which is appointed to one and all, and we’ll stand before our Maker to give an account of what we’ve done.
But, in the most unlikely event that there is something else you need to know about why He’s allowed your pet to die, God is certainly able to enlighten you about it and why you’ve had to endure the painful loss. But, if He hasn’t already told you such things, then why believe in them? Why believe they exist? You don’t have to believe it. And if He ever really does tell you something, then you can believe it.
But for now, why not just ask Him about it and leave it there with Him? Wait on Him. If there’s something you need to know, He’ll let you know—when the time is right. Meanwhile just trust Him while picking up the pieces of your broken heart, and moving on. Do all you do, and endure all you endure, for His sake. Just remember that somehow, and in some way, “all things work together for good to them that love God; to them who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). This is what He’s promised us.
Believe me, we haven’t even scratched the surface here. There’s so much more to be looked at on this topic, and eventually other “Articles” will be added to address some of it. For example, some worry they may have made an idol of their pet and that God took them away for that. Is this an exception to the “rule”? Well, it’s an issue that needs to be looked at and, Lord willing, I’ll address it soon.
Note: More discussion on the topics of Articles such as this can be found in the book, “Will I See Him Again? (A Look at Pets in Heaven),” by Tom Waldron. The book is available from Amazon.com (see home page of “Mybutchie.com” for link). Also, please feel free to e-mail me with any comments or whatever you may have at: