I remember one Sunday evening a couple of years ago. Liverpool were playing Chelsea in the Premier League. Liverpool were drawing 1-1 to a superior team. The game seemed to be playing itself out for a draw when an unlikely figure popped up and scored. Glen Johnson, Liverpool’s then right back beat their defence and slotted home the eventual winner. Me being a Liverpool fan through and through completely erupted. When someone screams or shouts in my house, Scottie inevitably joins in with his barking. So after my jumping and shouting I shouted, “Scottie!!… To the garden!!!!” I ran outside to continue my celebrations and my dog followed suit, joining in in the euphoria of the moment.
I loved that dog. That was one of my fondest memories I have with him. Just a few short years later though, tragedy would fall on our family as we said our goodbyes to him. He was put down in January 2015. It was a really really sad time. They say time heals all wounds, but I don’t think that’s the case. You just learn to move on and keep going with your new reality. And I think of him every now and again and remember my memories with him and I find myself deeply frustrated. The line that always comes to my mind is ‘this isn’t right’. For all the talk that death is a natural part of life it does little to diminish what seems like a serious injustice to our lives when we lose someone close. Jesus had the same problem when it came to Lazarus in John 11. The English text tells us that he was ‘deeply moved’ (v38). The Greek word used is something much deeper than that. Jesus ‘bellowed with anger’. Want to know what God thinks of death? Look at Jesus’ reaction here. He hates it! He is so frustrated that his creation has succumbed to death. He is angry that sin has brought about ridiculous amounts of pain and suffering for the people he called ‘very good’ when he created them. The fall from Genesis is being felt to this day. And Jesus was also part of that. Lazarus was his friend.
Death isn’t part of God’s original design.
Something about it all seems completely wrong. Sin entering the world has corrupted everything and it absolutely sucks! It frustrates me that Scottie is gone, yeah he’s at peace, but I’m here and he’s gone. I should be happy in the company of my dog void of pain, void of suffering, void of tears. I shouldn’t have to look at trees in winter and feel downcast at the lack of leaves because of the time of the year. The plants that wither and die due to temperatures changing, the animals who live off the land who die out due to not having enough food. I shouldn’t be so angry that my body has its limits, like only having one good eye or having an annoyingly bad ankle that hurts every time I play football, the sport I love so dearly. Creation itself is frustrated at the state of our world. It waits for its liberation from its bondage and decay. It absolutely sucks. It waits for Christ to come again and make everything right, where injustice will be justified, where death has no sting, where friends are reunited, where families come back together, where heroes of the faith sing of their praise to God, where the biggest tree and the smallest blade of grass can sing out, where animals roam free and bring joy to those around them.
I have heard the argument that animals don’t go to heaven. Well I am on the completely other side of that argument. Going to heaven and seeing Jesus face to face will be a glorious sight and I can’t wait for it, but my dog will be there too. I might be bold enough to say that heaven won’t feel like heaven if my dog isn’t there. Maybe you have to have a pet of your own to understand the unspoken love for them. New heaven and new earth will be so much better than what we have now, the trees will be bigger and brighter than ever before and will stay that way forever. I will run in a field one day with Scottie chasing after me with Jesus laughing alongside me. I have my hope in the resurrection and the perfection that comes with that. Eternity with my brothers and sisters in Christ is going to be awesome, but for now I stay here, till he returns or calls me home. But I know I’m not alone during my time here. I know that God weeps when I weep, he laughs when I laugh and he sits in silence with me when I can’t put a sentence together because I can’t understand a situation. So hold onto hope, keep going. What we experience here on earth with our pain and suffering is but a breath on a window compared to infinite comfort of eternity with God.