Saturday, I had to take our eleven year-old German shepherd, Jake, to the vet to be put down. Besides the usual ailments that come with aging, he had tumors growing on his stomach, and severe hip dysplasia. Rebekkah and I agonized over the right time to do this. His quality of life had been decreasing a lot lately, and his suffering had increased. It was time to end his suffering.
Obviously, the whole thing, from the decision it was time to say good-bye, all the way up to burying him, was very, very sad and I am flooded with grief, and questions about the souls of the animals we have loved so deeply. If the soul of the animal goes on existing, then my decision for Jake was only one of complete mercy and knowing he is happier gives me peace.
However, if these souls of our pets simply cease to exist at the moment of the death of their body, then it just seems cruel to have ever let them live and love us at all, laboring and suffering under the human’s curse, and coming into a shadowed sense of self-awareness that the wild animals never seem to attain, all without the offering of hope in our next life that He has offered all of mankind? The animals’ breath, like ours, was God’s breath. He gave us life in the same way.
Somehow, I find the idea of God ending anything or anyone abruptly, inconsistent with all that I know about Him and His nature of love. If all humans have eternal souls, the saved as well as the un-saved, then why would God not grant that same benefit to all who were given life from God’s own breath? No. Every molecule of this universe is a miracle unto itself, complex systems exist within other ones, a planet balanced perfectly in the cold, indifferent blackness of space…around us, we see a creation that testifies the existence of God in each leaf, blade of grass, drop of water. The God who designed and created this earth is meticulously thorough, and spectacularly complex. He does nothing unbalanced, unjust, or without compassion.
God never does anything that isn’t perfect. I believe He has a perfect eternity for the animals too, whether it be in ours or in something specifically for their eternal happiness. Jake might want something different than just being my pet. I like to think Jesus is having some of the angels dress up like postmen so Jake can chase them around heaven.
In Problem With Pain, C. S. Lewis speculated on the eternal fate of animals, suggesting that at least tame animals might enter heaven through their relationship with humans. Because of the domestic animals having a sense of “self”, they fall beneath the sanctification we live under. C.S. Lewis was clear to state that he was not imparting divine knowledge; he was simply guessing, based on what he knew about how God works.
Following Lewis’s example, I did the same thing. Jake’s very existence in my life has often brought me peace, safety, comfort, and pure happiness. I truly lost something valuable this week. I want to know if it is gone forever. So, I did a simple list about what the bible says about God and the animals He created before He created the humans who messed everything all up.
What I know about God in relation to animals:
- God created them, and He considered them to be good. Genesis 1:26
- Our first job as human beings was to care for them. Genesis 1:26-27
- He knows each and every one of them, down to even the simple sparrow. Matthew 10:29
- In the story of Jonah, the people of Nineveh were spared destruction because God wanted to have mercy on their children and the animals. (see Jonah 4:11).
- Noah’s ark was designed and built to save a tiny little human family, and a butt-load of animals.
- There are most certainly horses in heaven. (Revelation 6:2–8; 19:11; 2 Kings 6:17).
- God holds the lives of animals in His hands (Job 12:10).
- He, Himself, feeds them (Psalms 104:21–30; Matthew 6:26).
- They were created for His enjoyment (Revelation 4:11).
- God never forgets about them (Matthew 10:29; Luke 12:6).
- People who mistreat their pets are judged by Him as “cruel” (Proverbs 12:10).
- Those who treat their pets kindly are called “righteous” (Proverbs 12:10).
- He tells us that the beasts, the birds, the earth, and the fish of the sea all know by whose hand they were created by, and in His hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind. Job 12-7-10.
And the list went on and on and on. I simply couldn’t include all the many verses that showed how much the Lord cared for the animals.
Using all that I know about the Lord, His nature, and His word, and added with the tons of versus that shows He cares for them, I believe all animals, domestic or not, have a perfect plan He set in place for their existence as well. God designed this delicately balanced, amazingly complex planet, and placed it into the depths of an ever-expanding universe, knowing full well we would never be able to explore most of it, but would spend generations trying to grasp just the very idea of what our universe might have hidden for us to explore.
He designed the oceans and the amazing mysteries we still have yet to uncover about it. Who knows how many breeds of animals and fish have lived and died without even one human laying eyes on it? Why did He create them, if not for us? I believe He created all of this for His own good pleasure.
He has never showed Himself to be anything but spectacularly thorough about every single part of this incredible creation we call earth, right up and including, our own salvation plan. For Him to not have set something equally perfect up for the souls of the animals seems like it would be an oversight, and He simply does not do anything that isn’t absolutely perfect in every way.
Jake is in a perfect place God designed for him. Anything less would be so unlike our Creator.