My wife and I were recently awakened by the tears of one of our children. They’d found our dog, Nellie, dead on the floor.

Nellie was a cross-eyed Chihuahua who had brought our family so much joy. She was about as good a dog as a Chihuahua can be.

As the tears flowed, so did the questions.

Why did Nellie have to die? Why did God take Nellie so soon? Will we see Nellie in heaven?

While some may consider these questions silly, I don’t.

The longer we live on this fallen planet, the more sorrow we face. Some suffering is small, and some is great, but it all hurts. Some families experience tragedy early and often. Our family has been spared significant tragedy, but times like these still leave their mark.

After a little while, we were able to talk about what we were feeling and the questions we were processing. Here are a few highlights.

1. We know why our pets die.

Death is one of life’s saddest and most certain realities. Whether it be a pet or a fellow image-bearer, few things sober us like death. A cold, stiff body that lacks the life it once supported is a heavy reminder that something is tragically wrong with our world.

The Bible tells us plainly that when Adam and Eve revolted against God, a curse was put not just on humanity, but on all creation (Gen. 3:14, 19). Because of this, death comes for all of us, humans and animals alike.

In Deuteronomy 6, God gives Israelite parents this charge: “You shall teach [my commands] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (v.7).

Discipleship in the home happens as we live together—and as we bury pets together. Some may want to shield their children from discussions of death, but we don’t. We tell our children that death exists because of the curse of sin. All of us will die; even our beloved animals are not exempt.

2. We don’t know why our pets die when they do. 

Death comes for all of us in a time and manner that’s mostly unexpected. Nellie was, as far as we could tell, a healthy little dog. She seemed to go peacefully in her sleep. I’ve lost other pets in much more traumatic ways. When my daughter looked at me and asked, “Why did she have to die now?” I simply held her and said, “I don’t know.”

When we love someone, it always seems our time with them was too short. I encouraged her that our family loved Nellie well, and she loved us in like measure. I also reminded her that we need not fear losing those we love; instead, we should love them as well as we’re able while they’re with us.

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SOURCE: The Gospel Coalition
Garrett Kell