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)

A Tribute To Smokey

Do we treasure the life that we have with those we love? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It happened Saturday and came out of the blue. None of us were expecting it. My wife got a call from my mother, probably because I hadn’t been feeling well and my Mom didn’t want to tax my voice. Anyway, I heard my wife asking about “her” over and over and knew something was wrong. At the start, I thought it was my aunt Ruth back home. It wasn’t, but it still wasn’t good news. I had an idea what was going on when it came to talk about “putting her down.” You don’t say that about your aunt.

You say that about pets.

Growing up, cats have always been a part of my life. The first one was a cat named Subway, so called because we lived in a mobile home and she ran under it first when we got her. I remember when we had to put her down, though I didn’t understand why. I did know we wouldn’t be waiting long to get another cat. The house was too empty. I was already looking in the classifieds in the newspaper.

That weekend, Stormy came into our lives.

When I left home, Stormy was still there. Then, one day later on, sometime after I had married, my Mom called to tell me she had lost Stormy. I had no idea he was in bad health. Stormy had been her favorite and losing him was a major hurt to her.

Along the way also, Allie and I rescued a cat. That was interesting since she’s always been a dog person, but a cat was our first pet. Apparently, cats are with me wherever I go.

Shortly after Stormy’s passing, my sister worked and got my mother a new cat that she wasn’t expecting. This one is named Reagan. Then my Dad was out doing his work and found a place with a cat that was super affectionate, but they had to get a new home for. I don’t remember the reason, but my parents talked it over and before too long, Smokey came to live with my parents.

Smokey had been playing all the week earlier last week, but then Friday things changed. She didn’t want to move and she actually screamed when my Dad tried to pick her up, which is unusual since I have been around her several times and never heard her make a sound. They knew something was wrong. They took her to the vet and found out it was kidney failure. Medicine could help some, but it would only be a couple of weeks of pain. They were all together when they decided to put her down.

After being with my in-laws when their dog Nessie was put down, I have asked a couple of vets. They have all told me the same thing. Putting an animal down never gets easy.

When things like this happen, we always say we’re going to learn to treasure more the time that we have with the ones we love. We don’t. It is our human condition I think. We so hunger for eternity that we think every moment is like it. When things are good, we take them for granted and say “It will always be like this.” When things are bad, we lose hope and say “Things will never change.” We always want to take the present moment to be eternal.

Eternity is not with us yet. We should not treat the moment like it is. When good times come, celebrate them and be thankful, but do not take them for granted. When hard times come, mourn them and seek to change them, but do not act like the story is done at this point.

Either way, cherish the people that you love. Celebrate them. My parents, I am sure, thought there were several years to be had with Smokey. They were wrong. I know when Nessie died, my wife was saying she wished she’d spent more time walking the dog instead of doing other things. That time can never be reclaimed. Don’t waste what you have.

For those wondering, I do think a strong case can be made for animals being in the afterdeath. I recommend listening to my podcast with Dan Story on his book Will Dogs Chase Cats In Heaven?  Please in your prayers be remembering my parents in the loss of Smokey.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Will Dogs Chase Cats In Heaven?

What do I think of Dan Story’s book published by Kingdom Come Publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I didn’t really know what to expect when I got Dan’s book in the mail. I had requested it for a possible interview especially seeing as I am married to an animal lover. I don’t hate animals or anything, but I’m not the most crazy about them. Generally, I’ve been a cat person and when it came to choosing our first pet, as luck would have it, Allie found a cat that she just fell in love with. Our little treasure is a white Turkish Angora, possibly another breed as well, named Shiro, the Japanese word for white.

Dan’s book is about addressing the question of if animals will be found in the afterdeath. Some of you might think that there is not much that can be found on this topic. I could understand that, but Dan really brings out a lot that you wouldn’t consider. It’s not light material either. It is a serious look at science and the text.

Dan also includes many stories of animals and their interactions and the way that they think. Many of us are quite interesting to hear about. If you’re an animal lover, you will go through this section with a smile on your face. Dan has done immense research drawing stories from all over the literature.

Dan also does go into eschatology here and I was very pleasantly pleased. Dan rightly gets that Heaven is not some far off place in eternity and this world is an afterthought. No. This is the world that we are meant to live on. This is where we are to fulfill our purpose. The final reality will be the marriage of Heaven and Earth. This will be far better than Eden in the end.

Dan interacts with a number of great biblical scholars in this work. Great minds like Richard Bauckham and Anthony Hoekema show up in this work. He will also interact with many philosophers like C.S. Lewis and Peter Kreeft. If you know works of apologetics, you will recognize names in here.

Dan’s handling of the Biblical text is also very careful and reasoned. Some passages that you would think have nothing to do with animal resurrection are brought in, such as Jesus being with the wild beasts in Mark. I came to this one with skepticism as well, but Dan made a good argument and having it backed by Richard Bauckham gives some credibility.

There are some minor points I will disagree with Dan on still. I am not convinced about a literal millennial kingdom, but I don’t think that that is necessary for the thesis in the book. The points I saw of disagreement were over peripheral points and none of them were substantial to the main thesis of the book.

Animal resurrection is something we can hope for and it’s not a hill I’m willing to die on yet, but it’s certainly one that I think a strong case has been presented for. I think anyone who is interested in this question should look at the information presented in this book. It’s a good and short read that is readily approachable by all.

In Christ,
Nick Peters