It’s been almost a year since my beloved dog, Tessa, died. In 2002, I adopted Tessa, a one or two year-old dachshund mix from a small dog rescue in Locust Grove, Virginia. She remained my “bestest little girl” for the next eleven years. Unfortunately, last fall she was diagnosed with lymphoma and passed away about eight weeks later.
Missing her and thinking about her this week made me revisit the idea of how God views animals and why we, as humans, love our animals so, so much. I started philosophizing a little bit, and I realized that dogs’ love for their human companions greatly resembles God’s love for us. Dogs are faithful, loving, and forgiving. So is God. Dogs desperately want to be near us as much as possible. So does God. Relationally, there are some parallels, and it makes me wonder if the Lord put these beautiful animals upon the earth to remind us of His pure and unconditional love for us.
The Bible says, But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness (Galatians 5:22). I look at Chase and Trinity--the two dogs we have now--and I see all of these qualities. They are mostly peaceful, but always joyful. There is nothing like being greeted by Chase and Trinity at the end of a long, hard day. They wait all day (longsuffering) for our return. Once we come through the door, the celebration abounds! Jumping around, squealing with delight, spinning and whirling with such intense excitement at our homecoming as to be overwhelming at times. I imagine that is the sort of welcome we will receive in heaven one day.
“Ask the animals, and they will teach you...In God’s hand is the life of every creature, and the breath of all mankind.” (Job 12:7 and10)
Dogs can teach us about kindness and goodness if we watch them closely. Unless unbalanced or abused, most dogs are happy to meet new people, welcoming them with wagging tails and lolling tongues (even if the person the dog meets doesn’t like them). I once heard a minister say, while pointing to a golden retriever brought to the pulpit, “The best Christian in this room is this golden retriever.” We all laughed, but who could dispute it? No human has the capability of being wholly kind and good. "There is no one righteous, not even one…" (Romans 3:10).
As for how God feels about dogs, and animals in general, His word tells us, Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.b (Matthew 10:29). So we know that God cares for all His creatures. And I believe He sometimes employs them supernaturally. There was a story out not too long ago about a man injured in a house fire. “Go get help!” he told his dog, and she ran long and hard out to the road where a police officer was trying to find the burning house. The officer said later that something told him to follow the dog; he heeded the voice, followed the dog, and she led him straight to her person’s house. (See video below)
“The Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.” (2 Thessalonians 3:3)
One final parallel: the connection between God’s protection and that which a dog instinctually performs. A woman with whom I used to attend church once told me that she had never been angry with God in her life, because she viewed Him in the same way she viewed the German shepherd she’d had as a child that often protected her from her abusive father. She saw God as standing in her defense just as her dog had. I found that touching, and it secured a comparison in my mind. Sometimes it's hard to really, truly feel or understand God's love here on this fallen earth because so many things compete for our time, attention, and feelings. On the other hand, nothing and no one loves us, wants us, or protects us like God. When this lady told me her story, just for a moment, I caught a glimpse of God's love for me. He loves me unconditionally--like my dog--even more than my dog, and He will fight for me. It gave me chills, because I knew how much my dog loved me. And if my dog loved me that much -- how much more God loved me was really something.
Obviously the comparison I’m making here only goes so far and only represents one component of God, as He is also holy and righteous and just. But if He ever wanted us to catch a glimpse of His unconditional and joyful love for us, He created a wonderful example in a four-legged companion animal whose English name uses the same three letters as His own.