I understand that the decline and death of a dog is not a major event in the larger scheme of things. But, our 10 year old golden retriever is having health issues which may lead to his death and it is difficult to watch. Compared to the loss of a spouse, parent, sibling or child, this is a very small hurt, but a real one none-the-less.
There is something in us that balks at death and is rightly angered by it. Yet in our response, we must be careful to understand our part in the root cause of death. We, like our first parents, begin life in rebellion against God. Apart from Christ we are by nature people who choose the behavior that caused death in the first place. In Romans 8:20 Paul tells us that the creation was subjected to futility by our rebellion and that creation groans to be released from that futility.
But God, combining love and justice, opened a way for us to experience life. Jesus took death upon himself so that we might have life. Death was defeated on the Cross. In Christ we are made alive (Ephesians 2:5).
We still must face the temporal consequences of our rebellion. God, in his wisdom, has not removed the consequence of physical death. As C. S. Lewis noted, statistics prove that one out of one of us dies. While I am not anxious for my own death or the death of those I love, I do see physical death as a mercy.
In Romans 7 Paul laments his inability to conquer his sinful tendencies. If Paul could not master himself fully, it is unlikely that I will do better. We know from Scripture that we will not fully expunge sin from our lives. John tells us in 1 John 1:10 that anyone who claims he does not sin is a liar. I ask myself this question in the face of death, would I want to continue forever in this state of partial cleansing? In the absence of fear of the process of dying, the answer would be no, I would prefer to move on and be with Christ. The result of that reunion would be the removal of all trace of sin in my life.
So while we must experience the physical deaths of friends and relatives, in Christ we have the hope of future reunion. While the pain of separation and the suffering leading up to death are very real, the sting is reduced for those who are in Christ.
I find comfort in worship of a God who wept at the grave of a friend, who understands that death and dying did not have to be. We have a God who grieves alongside us in the small hurts and the large. Pain, suffering and death did not have to be and Jesus experienced all these in his Earthly life. As one who has been through the pain, Jesus can connect with my experience and show me hope that I will emerge the better for it.
I will close with Hebrews 4:15–16 from the Amplified Bible:
15 For we do not have a High Priest Who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses and infirmities and liability to the assaults of temptation, but One Who has been tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sinning.
16 Let us then fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace (the throne of God’s unmerited favor to us sinners), that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find grace to help in good time for every need [appropriate help and well-timed help, coming just when we need it].
Thank God that we don’t have to go it alone.