Pets and Suffering

What can pets teach us about evil? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We’re awfully odd. Many of us take in creatures that are predators. They hunt and kill other smaller animals and eat them. It’s not anything pretty to think about. These creatures also eat their own poop and sometimes we have to clean up their poop for them. We know them as cats and dogs.

And why? Do we want other animals hunted? For some, this could be the case. My family’s first cat came because we had a mouse problem, but before too long, the reason for the treatment of the cat was not mice, but just a love for the cat. From then on, we were getting cats just because we loved cats.

Some people get dogs for the purpose of hunting. My in-laws, however, have a dog and they now have their second one after the sad passing of Nessie last year. While some value dogs for hunting, my mother-in-law was not pleased when Nessie brought a dead squirrel to her.

Nessie would eat her own poop. That sure isn’t an appealing thought to have. For our cat Shiro, I have to regular scoop into a litter box and clean out his. That’s also not a pleasant thought. With Shiro, we end up spending a good deal of our money making sure that he is taken care of.

And for what?

For Shiro, it’s just companionship and comfort. There’s something nice about having the little guy come sit on the arm of the chair when I play a game or watch something on TV. Sometimes, he seems to want me to hold him for a little bit and then he’s done and wants to go his own way. I love the little guy, but it would be hard to really put a finger on why. I just do. Taking him in though was realizing we would have to make sacrifices.

When we first got him, we had been apartment hunting and someone had abandoned him and he wandered the complex looking for food. We went back one more time and we were told the pound was going to get him the next day. We decided to take him in. Very few people supported that choice, but we did it. I don’t blame them for being skeptical about it. It costs a lot of money to take care of a pet and they had our best interests at heart, but now most of them also know taking him in was a great decision.

Yet that first day, he didn’t think so. I remember going into the apartment office and there Shiro was and the staff had a maintenance man trying to catch him so we could put him in a kitty carrier we had got. His first time with us was spent taking him to the vet to check on shots and matters like that. That’s hardly a good introduction.

Slowly though, he came to trust us. Our first night with him, he had ran under the bed, so Allie and I just went to sleep. Around 2:30 in the morning, I heard the cat crying. Now I had told Allie she wanted the cat the most so he would be her responsibility, but being the good and loving husband that I am, I did what any good and loving husband would do when the cat whines at that time of night.

“Honey. Wake up. The baby needs you.”

As it turns out, we both got up and stayed with him for about an hour and he actually ate for the first time. As it turns out, for awhile, he would only eat when Allie was watching him. As I wrote this, I just now heard his food machine go off indicating breakfast is ready, and it saddens me now because like the first time, he had to go to the vet today.

Nothing serious. No need to worry. It’s just a regular check-up. Still, that sound is a reminder of his absence. On the way, Shiro whined some and I am sure he doesn’t care much for me right now. After all, I put him in a kitty carrier and he hasn’t got to eat.

Now the difference between a cat or a dog or any other animal is a finite distance. The degree of difference between a human and God is infinite. We can never fully understand God. The interesting point about the passage of “My ways are not your ways” is really not about that, but about how God is so willing to forgive the wicked when we are so not. The wicked fear turning to God for judgment. God tells them He is not like us. He forgives. They just have to repent before they can receive it.

So it is that right now, assuming Shiro is still cautious as they have to get him anesthesia to work on him, he probably does not understand why he is there at all. What did he do to deserve this treatment? Now I am not saying that Shiro is thinking like we do, but I am sure it is confusing. This is just a way of saying that if a cat could think like we do, could he understand this?

Not only that, but when Shiro communicates to me, I don’t always understand. I rarely do really. I don’t speak kitty. I don’t know exactly what a purr means or what a meow. I’m pretty sure I understand what it means when he hisses at me, but that’s about it.

There is also a difference in that I can feel compassion for Shiro. Possibly, his whining could motivate me to not put him in a cage and take him to the vet, but that would not be love. That would be just me acting for my own interest in not wanting my cat to think ill of me temporarily. It’s not really a loving thing to do.

If this distance is hard to understand, then imagine the much wider gulf between man and God. Part of the whole problem of evil is when we assume that God must give a justification for His actions. No doubt, we want to understand a lot of them, but isn’t that a high presumption right at the start to assume that if God exists, His actions must be in the wrong?

As one who holds to impassibility, I also don’t believe God has feelings for us in any way. This does not mean God does not love us or care for us, but it does mean we can’t change God in any way, which would include emotionally. This is really a good thing. Do we want it that we could blackmail God in some way by pulling at heartstrings and have Him do things for us just because He wants us to think well of Him?

God will do things to us at times knowing we will not understand them and that we will even resent Him for them. We will accuse Him of being in the wrong. God does them anyway. He does them because He knows what it is that He seeks to accomplish for the good.

Does this mean we cannot love God if He does things to us that hurt us that we don’t understand? Not a bit. Understanding why someone does something, even if it seems cruel to you, does not mean you cannot love that person. There’s one person many of us do love that does things all the time that we don’t understand and are hurtful and we love them anyway. That person is ourselves.

How many of us love ourselves, but we do things we don’t understand to ourselves. We want to lose weight, but we open another box of Oreos. We want to stop drinking, but we wind up going to the bar. We want to love our wives more, but we’re watching pornography instead. We want to save money, but we go on a shopping spree. We can say we get some pleasure from these actions, but how many times are we doing something and asking ourselves, “Why am I doing this?’

Yet we still love.

We love because we seek our own good. To love is to seek the good of that which is loved. Even the person attempting suicide in some way loves themselves. After all, they want to put themselves out of their pain and misery. In a twisted way, they want something better for themselves. It is a wrong way and it is too much an emphasis on self, but it is still seeking the good.

If we cannot understand our very selves and we cannot fathom how we could explain things to our pets, why do we think we could understand God or that He could even explain things to us in a way that would make sense to us? The problem is likely so multi-faceted that it’s beyond us. What we have to ask is overall, do we trust God even when there are aspects that we do not understand. That is not a requirement to love after all, as we do the same with ourselves.

Hopefully, before too long I will pick up Shiro with a good report. He will be angry for awhile, but in the evening if I get in some gaming or watching something, I hope he will be right there next to me. Perhaps I don’t know why I care about Him, but then I don’t give God anything He needs and He could do just fine without me and yet He has a great love for me.

Maybe it’s best to just accept it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

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