Have you ever run away from something, and I don’t mean something that might threaten your life? I mean, has there been a time in your life when you ran because you didn’t want what was in front of you, so you did a 180 and took off like lightening in the opposite direction?
Most of us, if we’ve lived for any length of time, can remember at least one of those times, maybe even more than one. As Christians, that running most likely involved running from God. Not too many believers would say that in some way at some time they didn’t run from what God was telling them to do. After all, there is a little Jonah in all of us.
Abraham Kuyper, the journalist, once wrote,
“Our heart is continually inclined to rebel against the Lord our God. So ready to rebel, that O, so gladly, were it but for a single day, we would take from His hands the reins of His supreme rule, imagining that we would manage things far better and direct them far more effectively than God.”
What do we do when we find ourselves running? What do we do when we see someone else running?
If it’s us who’s running, chances are that we don’t even see it. But if it’s someone that we simply know, either from church or just an acquaintance, we may be tempted to sit in judgment, as if it’s simply their weak constitution or their lax moral integrity that might cause such a detour. We might simply shake our heads in feigned remorse, thinking, “What is he thinking? Doesn’t he know that he can’t run from God?”
If it’s a loved one, maybe a child or a spouse or sibling, the pain can be almost immobilizing. Suddenly all memories of our own course changes are almost non-existent, and the only things we can think are, “What is he doing? Doesn’t he know that he can’t run from God?”
I don’t know….can we?
Let me remind you of how Jonah did. In Jonah 1:1, we read:
Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah…
That means that God literally let Jonah know exactly what He was thinking.
Then in verse 2, God said to Jonah,
“Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.”
This was not what Jonah expected. After all, he was the Lord’s prophet. He was supposed to go and direct his prophecies to the nation of Israel. He wasn’t supposed to go to Israel’s enemies and prophesy so that they might be saved. What in the world was God thinking?
Maybe we should think of this in terms that are closer to home. Maybe the little Jonah in you might sound more like:
“God doesn’t want me in this marriage! He wants me happy, and I’m not happy here! What is God thinking?”
Or maybe this:
“God wouldn’t want me to miss out on a better lifestyle. He says that I will get the desires of my heart, and my heart desires that car or that dress or that house (that I can’t afford). He wouldn’t keep me from it, would He? What is God thinking?”
Or maybe our child’s little Jonah says this:
The little Jonah in all of us might say slightly different words, but it’s pretty much the same thing. All of us have listened to the little Jonah some time or another, and we all run for exactly the same reason that Jonah ran. Verse 3 says,
But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.
The truth is that this running isn’t literally from God, since we, as His children, are always and forever His and in His loving care. However, what we can and do run from is what the literal translation says is the “face of the Lord.” Jonah was trying to get as far away from where he would be confronted with all that God is. When we run, we run from the same thing, which generally means we run from the church or our church family or anything else that might remind us of who God is.
There is a reason that many have called Satan the “travel agent of distraction.” If he can get us away from the “presence of God” or the “face of God,” then he can also deceive us into thinking that we can get away from it, which consequently keeps us from healing and love and peace. Warren Wiersbe wrote in his book, Be Amazed,
“It’s possible to be out of the will of God and still have circumstances appear to be working on your behalf. You might be rebelling against God and still have a false sense of security that includes a good night’s sleep. However, God in his providence was preparing for Jonah a great fall.”
But the good news is that God always provides a fish, doesn’t He? He always provides exactly the right storm at exactly the right time so that even though we may be distracted temporarily, we are never permanently lost.
Jesus said in John 6:39,
And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose none of all that he has given me.
If you are running from the face of God today—refusing to go to church, avoiding your Christian friends, finding every excuse in the book for not getting involved with your believing family—genuinely reflect on the little Jonah in you. God will not lose you, but I can promise you that it is no fun in the belly of the fish! Bow before the throne of the One who will never leave you nor forsake you and come home. Unless it is God you are running toward, you’re headed for the storm.
And if it is a loved one who is running from God’s loving face, take heart and never lose hope. The promise that Jesus gave in John applies to every one of His children. The fish is coming. Keep praying and keep your eyes fixed upward. God will bring him home.
After all, there is a little Jonah is all of us, but there is a great God who owns our hearts!
To read more from Dr. Deb Waterbury, visit debwaterbury.com
Easter. Let’s put all those controversies aside about whether or not we should hunt eggs or have a bunny or whatever else people want to argue about and talk about how lonely those hunts can be. The kiddos might be hunting wildly for those multi-colored eggs, but look around when that’s happening. What you will invariably see are men and women standing alone or even in little bunches, smiling as if they are enjoying the afternoon, but what they are really doing is wishing that someone…anyone…would notice how utterly miserable they truly are. Of course, some are having fun, but some absolutely are not. The kicker is that pretty much no one notices whether they are or not, and they certainly aren’t telling.
Why is that?
It’s kind of funny that we live in such a streamlined society where everybody is connected to everybody, and yet for the most part, we are utterly and completely alone. Even conversations at tables in restaurants these days are neglected in favor of checking your Facebook status or email or texts or Twitter. I’ve sat and watched two people sit together for dinner and never even look at one another, their attentions fully given to whatever handheld device they own at the time. It’s never been more hazardous than now to walk down the street for fear of any number of passersby running right into you because they’re looking down at their phone instead of where they are walking.
This plague, though commonplace in mainstream society, has unfortunately permeated our Christian lives, as well. Some of us may live in extremely populated areas, but for some reason we feel nothing but loneliness and isolation from those around us who share the most amazing gift of all time—Jesus!
I have often traveled to Harare, Zimbabwe, this time of year so that I can speak at Easter conferences, and I am always overwhelmed with the words so many of the women there speak to me. Had they not been speaking Shona, the native language of most of Zimbabwe, the words they were saying would have been exactly the same words I’ve heard over and over again here in America: “I’m so lonely.”
It’s not that they are alone. Few of us are ever alone, but the pain of loneliness is rampant among Christians.
How very sad that is.
So I began to ask myself why that is the case. Why are members of an eternal family, truly those who are now the bride of Christ, suffering from such a condition? I mean, I can almost understand how unbelievers might feel lonely. After all, what do they share with others but a constant desire to figure out how to be happy or content or joyful? We, however, have been given the key to such things, and we share that key with millions of other people, many of whom live right in our neighborhoods. If not there, at least there are those with whom we attend church or bible study.
Why are so many of us, all over the world, still so lonely?
I’m convinced that it’s not loneliness that has plagued our existences, but isolation. Most of us have a tendency to isolate ourselves, either in our sadness or our sin. We might reveal some things, but for the most part, we live under the misapprehension that our suffering or our sin is somehow more extreme or more dire than anyone else’s. Either that or we delude ourselves into thinking that we don’t want to burden anyone else with our problems, so we keep them to ourselves, simmering just beneath the surface of the smiles we paste on in public.
Consequently, many of us who have reason for the most joy experience pain that is both unnecessary and unwarranted, which is just the way Satan wants it. If he can convince us of this lie, then what we should be presenting to the unsaved world—peace and joy that surpasses all understanding—is buried beneath a mountain of misery that lives inside of our heads.
This is precisely why we are to be who God intended His children to be, and that is relational. We are to belong to a body of believers, not so that we fill a square in the account journal of our sanctification, but so that we can build one another up, hold one another accountable, and fellowship together. We need our brothers and sisters and we need to seek them out. Living inside of our own heads is exactly what Satan wants because there is no relationship there.
My heart hurt for the women of Zimbabwe, just like my heart hurts for every man and woman I meet who suffers from this plague. It hurt so much that the focus of my work has streamlined to one of building discipleship and relational connection between believers all over the world. This is a plague that should not be, and all of us must do what we can to extinguish it however we can.
What can you do to either break out of this isolation or help others to do so? I pray that all of us seriously consider the ramifications of a body of believers who segregate themselves from every other part of the body in horrible isolation. Move toward relationship with your brothers and sisters. After all, heaven isn’t going to be a lonely place. God meant for us to seek relationship with each other and the beauty that comes with that while we are here on earth.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony….Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:12-16)
March 1, 2015 11:35 am
Message from my friend, Daniel:
“Joy, call me ASAP.”
I tried. No answer. I tried again, and still no answer.
I knew in an instant something had happened to my husband, Brent, or else he would have been the one calling me. I was praying my son, Blake, was safe.
The few minutes that went by seemed like hours, but finally I was able to talk to Daniel. There had been an accident at the Imperial Sand Dunes where they had gone camping for the long weekend. A bunch of them, including my husband and son, had gone, and five of them were in our sand car. My husband was driving, my son in the passenger seat and our friend, Daniel, and two other adults were in the back seats. They had been going up and down Test Hill.
If you have driven to San Diego on I-8 about 20 miles west of Yuma, you’ve seen it. It is the big sand hill just north of the interstate with the American Canal running along the base. Trips up and down the hill had been done hundreds of times throughout past trips. This trip, the third time down the hill and as they were making a U-turn to go back up, they lost control. The front wheel of the car caught in the sand and sent them flipping up into the air and over a large berm. They crashed down hard and rolled into the canal at the bottom of the hill. The water was about 20 feet deep.
Daniel said everyone in the car was able to get out, except my husband. They had tried to swim back down to the car, but the current was too swift, and they were not able to reach the car. I was praying he was able to get out of his seat belts and had just been washed down the canal in the strong current and was holding on to the edge somewhere.
I was in a panic on the phone. My daughter watched me. She was frightened and confused. I had to get there as soon as possible. It was a three and a half hour drive. I was ready to go, but I wasn’t in the position to drive myself and my daughter. I was able to contact friends to take me, and my daughter was able to stay with my best friend. It was a very long drive. I got a call about half way there that they had pulled the car out of the water, and my husband was still strapped in his seat. He had drowned.
I was numb. My only goal now was to be there for my son. Just as we were nearing the turnoff, I saw the severely mangled car on a trailer on the highway going the opposite direction.
Finally I was able to be with my son, and thankfully he was physically uninjured with the exception of a few bruises. They didn’t want him to see the car being pulled out of the water so they had taken him away from the crash site. He was in the RV. As I walked in, he ran to me. He was crying and scared. I held him, and I had to tell him his daddy was dead. His fear turned to anger. How could God let this happen? He threw his bible down. I told him it was okay to be angry. God has big shoulders and could take it.
“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8
The ride home was even longer and extremely painful. We arrived home and I now had to tell my daughter her daddy was dead. The only peace I had during this was knowing that Brent knew Jesus and he was in heaven.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
Brent was kind and loving. He was a good father. My children’s earthly father was gone, but their Heavenly Father, has been, and will continue to be there for them.
Up until the morning of March 1, 2015, my story consisted of being a wife and a mom to an 8-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter. I was a daughter, a sister, a friend, and a pharmacist. The list goes on, but just like that, in an instant, “wife” was swapped out for “widow.” I was a widow?!
We all have a story and this was NOT how MY story was supposed to go! Instantaneously and violently the pages of the story I had written had been ripped out and replaced. My story, as I believed at that point in time, was rewritten as a horror story, a horror story filled with body-trembling fear, chest-crushing anxiety, disbelief by the minute, extreme anger and any other terrible emotion imaginable.
Several days after the accident my son and I were talking. I asked him what he remembered. Did he remember being in the water and how he got out? It was just assumed that my husband had helped him, but if my husband were able to help Blake, I believe he would have gotten out also. Blake said he remembers the wheel breaking off, the car flipping and landing in the water. Then he said he tried to lean forward and wasn’t able to move. The car has five point harnesses which aren’t necessarily easy to get out of in a calm situation, let alone under water after a crash. He said he just wanted to go to sleep. He looked up and could see the sun shining down through the water. He said he prayed for God to help him get out of the seat belt. He leaned forward again and was able to get free and swim to the surface. He was wearing shoes and a heavy jacket so that made it difficult to swim. God immediately answered his prayer for help to get out of that car.
As I look at the original message from Daniel, for only the second time since it was sent, I am now two years into the pages of my “new” story. But is it really a “new” story? Perhaps to me it is, but as far as God is concerned, it isn’t. My story was already written specifically for me by Him. He knew exactly what was going to happen that March morning, every day before and every day after. We all have a story given to us by God and He trusts us with those stories.
God allowed the accident to happen. My faith and trust in God was great before the accident, but they have grown exponentially since. Looking back on it, I can recall specific situations before the accident where God was preparing me for this part of my story. People say, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” I believe this statement is true as long as you allow Him in so that He can help you handle it. I could not have survived any of this on my own.
This journey has been anything but easy. There has been extensive pain throughout, both seen and unseen, but with His presence there has been unexplainable peace, answered prayers, major growth, multiple lessons and blessings experienced. He has a plan for my story, and I will continue to trust His plan with all my heart.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
“This is not my life.”
“Those are not my children.”
“That is not my husband.”
Have you ever looked around at your life and thought any of these things? I mean, this isn’t what we signed up for, right? No one told us the day we walked down that isle or the day we graduated from school or the day we heard our child’s first cry that things would one day take us to the brink of despair.
That’s someone else’s life. That’s not mine.
But then one day it is. One day you wake up and all those women whose lives were battered by unfaithful spouses or lost children or sickness or death are suddenly not just remote prayer requests. No longer can you abstractly look at those sad and torn lives and feel sympathy. Now you are smack in the middle of empathy. You’re living it, and the only thing you can do is look around and wonder, “What happened?”
The truth is that if you’ve been an adult woman for longer than three minutes, you will have experienced these emotions, and you’ll experience them more than once. We were never promised a rose garden in this life, and for the most part, we realize that.
But sometimes it’s not just a weed-infested garden that we find ourselves in the middle of. It’s a pool of sticky, slimy toxic waste, and we think, “Nope. This is not my life.”
What are we to do in those moments? What does a Christian woman do when even getting out of bed seems abundantly out of the question?
I have recently experienced yet another of those seasons in my life as a woman, wife, and mother, and I was struck with these thoughts in rapid succession. Huddled in the corner of my bedroom, lights off, and curled up so tightly on the floor that my joints ached, the despair caught me almost off-guard. I wasn’t even crying correctly because I couldn’t breathe well enough to make a sound. I just rocked and gasped for air. And then my thoughts changed from “This is not my life” to “I have to fix this!”
Isn’t that the way we are? That’s how God created us women. We manage things. Paul referred to women as the “managers of the house” in Titus 2:5, and managers manage things. Consequently, our first instincts are to manage our situations.
It only took me a few minutes, however, to realize that I couldn’t manage anyone out of anything this time, and instead of moving from that realization toward Christian resolution, I moved toward anger with God.
“I know You think I’m this strong. I know You think I can handle this, and I know You said I wouldn’t be given anything more than I could handle, but I’m not this strong! This is too much!”
Of course, I didn’t actually yell these things out loud, although I have before. No, this time I screamed with boldness in my head. I really was confounded by God’s apparent misidentification of my supposed strength. I needed Him to reconsider.
Have you ever felt this way? Are you feeling it now?
I am ever amazed at our Father’s grace. I’m in awe of His constant and abiding love and patience toward us. He could have yelled back at me right then. He could have struck me down completely for my irreverence. That would have been warranted.
However, what He gently did was fill my head with these words:
Debbie, I do not ordain these things in your life to point you to your own strength. I ordain them to move you toward Mine.
You see, it will forever be our propensity to try and make things about us. It’s my knee-jerk reaction to bolster my own fortitude and figure things out, and then to be angry when I’m just not strong enough or smart enough or tolerant enough or when I feel forced to do things on my own. This is unfortunately an anger that when harbored will quickly turn into bitterness.
Indeed there are a lot of bitter women out there, and among them is no small number of bitter Christian women. Why? Because we simply aren’t strong enough, and truthfully, that was never God’s point.
Everything is about Him, and these times are meant to bring attention to Him, to His strength, His love, His mercy, His care, His tolerance, His grace, and His perfect plan.
What do we do as Christian women in moments of such complete despair that we can’t even breathe?
I was pouring out to a dear friend in the middle of this—which, by the way, I highly encourage you to do—and she reminded me of exactly what we are to do when we look at the life we now live and wonder how it all went so wrong so quickly. She reminded me of Psalm 121,
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
When you are on your bedroom floor and the pain is beyond your ability to bear, you do the only thing you can do, you do the only thing you should do, and you lift up your eyes.
Jesus told us in Matthew 11:28-30,
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
There are going to be moments in these lives as pilgrims in this foreign land when we are nothing less than confused by the things that happen. We can become downcast in our souls over the heartache inflicted on us by the ones we love the most, and we will gaze at our circumstances with a sadness that feels insurmountable.
What do we do?
We lift our tired, tear dimmed eyes toward heaven and unto our Father. We rest in His divine and loving purposes. After all, we have a hope that the world does not share, a hope and an assurance that we do not serve a God who is an “absentee Father.” Our Lord is fully involved in the lives of His children, and He has promised us that He has a plan, a plan that will not harm us but will bring us a hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11) He has promised us that all of our lives are purposed for our good and His glory. (Romans 8:28)
So, my sisters, lift up your eyes to the hills. From where does your help come? Your help comes from the Lord, the very Maker of the heavens and the earth.
Do you sometimes find yourself saying things that your parents used to say to you, only to grimace and think, “Was that me?” I know I do—a lot. One of the things I used to tell my boys all of the time was that they just needed to be patient, that whatever was happening to them at the time wasn’t the end of the world. It’s just a season. It will all work out. It’s not as bad as you think. You’re being too dramatic.
Don’t miss the forest while you’re looking at the trees.
It’s a wonder they didn’t murder me in my sleep.
And now that I’m older and my boys have left the nest, I find myself in circumstances often where I remember saying those words to them, and even to others, and then find myself thinking that things ARE that bad. There’s NO WAY this is going to work out. This ABSOLUTELY IS as bad as I think. And I’M NOT BEING DRAMATIC!!
I certainly do not intend to write another article on being patient in the midst of trials, knowing that God is at work in all of them. Christians, by and large, know that Romans 8:28 is in every one of their bibles. They know and they’ve heard that God has a plan, just as He promised in Jeremiah 29:11, and that His plan is for their good. The problem arises when that plan doesn’t feel good. The confusion manifests when that plan makes utterly no sense.
What is God thinking? He has to see that this is not good! Why would He hurt me this way?
The issue becomes almost incredulous when we live in the middle of circumstances where seeing the love of God reconciled in the things He allows to happen is just about impossible. When our marriage ends, or a loved one dies, or we lose our houses or our jobs or our children—how do we see the forest of God’s love in the middle of rotten, stinking, dark trees?
I don’t have an answer, but what I do have is the same thing that all of us have, and that’s the bible. The stories and words of God are purposeful, and at the expense of beating this bush again, let me just remind you, and me, of the story of Job.
You remember Job, right? This guy did it all correctly. He was a righteous man, and by Old Testament standards, his riches and many children and great life were a direct result of this righteous life. God had blessed him above and beyond his fellow man. Job was living large, but he did so while humbly serving his God.
Can you imagine how he felt that day when he lost everything? In one fell swoop, Job lost his fortune, his livelihood, all of his children, and finally, his health. He had no friends who sympathized or offered him compassion. His friends assumed these horrible disasters happened because of some hidden sin that needed to be confessed. Even Job’s wife turned on him.
Can you imagine how this man of God felt?
I know that most of you have probably studied, or at least read the book of Job on occasion, and you’ve also most likely labored through it.
And yet, God put it in His Word, and we know that He did so because Job demonstrated for us the endurance of a believer’s faith, even when the entire world falls down around his ankles. Mind you, Job didn’t take it quietly. He yelled—a lot. He screamed at God and at his friends, asking why and what was going on?
The trees were falling, and Job was lost in a cataclysm of endless pain, but he never denied that God was God.
Now, cut to the forest that Job didn’t see, the forest that God showed you and me at the very beginning of this story. This is the forest we would all do well to remember when our own trees block our view.
When Satan came to God and told Him that he had been traveling around the earth, what was God’s first response? Job 1:8 records the Lord as saying to Satan,
“Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” (ESV)
In essence, God looked at Satan, and His very first thought was, “Have you seen My Job? I love My Job! Did you see how awesome Job is? Look upon My son, Job!”
I don’t know about you, but the idea that God would single me out while addressing the angels and say something like, “Have you seen My Deb? I love My Deb!” is a thought I would treasure above all else.
And when Satan asked to test Job, God allowed all of those horrible things to occur because He trusted Job. God looked down upon his child, and He trusted Job so much that He allowed Satan to take everything from him but his life, and God did this because He knew that His servant, Job, would stand in his faith. God knew that He would then use the testimony of Job for all time as a witness of unswerving faith in God’s very “God-ness.”
God looked upon this man and said, “Have you seen My Job? I trust My Job so much that I will allow him to be tested so that I might use him.”
This was the forest of reality in the heavenly realm that Job didn’t see because he was surrounded by the trees of this mortal existence. However, this beautiful forest was always there, even when Job didn’t see it.
My sisters and brothers, there is a heavenly reality occurring every millisecond of every day beyond our human sight. The trees of our lives may be falling and rotting all around us, but the essence of our faith is to emulate Job’s. The essence of our faith is in knowing that God is God, and though we don’t understand His ways, we know that they are ultimately good and right. Our faith comes from knowing the forest is there, even though we only see trees.
Most especially, though, we must remember that when God chooses to bring or allow horrible things in the lives of His children, it’s not because He doesn’t love them or is punishing them. It’s because He is choosing to use them. He’s building our stories, much like He built Job’s story, so that when He has delivered us, He will use us.
I know that when tragedy hits my life, God is in heaven saying, “Do you see my Deb? I trust my Deb so much that I choose to use her. I will deliver her, and once I do, she will be a vessel used to My glory.”
That, my friends, is a forest upon which we should focus, even in the midst of these sometimes very ugly trees.
For any of you who know me, you are aware that I am a lover of dogs—big dogs. I grew up with a King St. Bernard named Moochie, and since then I’ve owned a black Lab, a yellow Lab, a Golden Retriever, and two Great Danes. Currently my husband and I are the proud parents of a feisty toy Yorkie named Levi and a massive 220 pound Great Dane named Hattie. We got Levi first, but he claimed my husband as his almost immediately. Shortly after, I got Hattie when she was eight weeks old, and she has been my baby ever since.
Even as I write this, her massive head is lying in my lap. I do love her so.
However, just given the plethora of animals I’ve owned myself, it’s a proven fact that most of us outlive our pets, which means that as pet owners, chances are that each of us has had to say good-bye to them at one time or another. This morning a dear friend of mine wrote me to ask for prayers because she and her children are going to have to say good-bye to their sweet dog. It’s heartbreaking, and for those of us who have gone through such a horrible process, their deaths are painfully hard.
More than once I’ve had women ask me if we will see our pets again in heaven. This is such a good and important question. Our pets are a part of our families; so naturally, we want to know if we will get to see them again. I believe that we will. As a matter of fact, I believe that the bible clearly supports that we will. I believe with my entire heart (and based on much biblical research) that I will be surrounded with my big babies for eternity, along with all of my believing family and friends. If you are a Christian and have had pets you have had to bid farewell to on this earth, then I also believe that you will see them again in heaven.
Wonderfully, I’m not alone in this belief. Many theologians agree with me and have written excellent resources on just this subject. Why, even John Wesley wrote the following when speaking of our pets:
“Something better remains after death for these poor creatures …
that these, likewise, shall one day be delivered from this bondage of corruption,
and shall then receive an ample amends for all their present sufferings.”
(Wesley, John, The Works of Reverend John Wesley, A.M. Vol 2 of 7,
Forgotten Books, 1912, p. 56)
John Piper wrote the following poem when speaking of eternity:
And as I knelt beside the brook
To drink eternal life, I took
A glance across the golden grass,
And saw my dog, old Blackie, fast
As she could come. She leaped the stream—
Almost—and what a happy gleam
Was in her eye. I knelt to drink,
And knew that I was on the brink
Of endless joy. And everywhere
I turned I saw a wonder there.
(Piper, John, “Glorified,” http://www.desiringgod.org/poems/glorified)
How can Mr. Wesley and Mr. Piper and countless other acclaimed and well-known theologians make such a claim?
First of all, I think it important to point out that Christ did not die for our pets, at least not in the way He died for mankind. People are made in the image of God. Christians are partakers in His divine glory and have been redeemed by the blood of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Our sins have been forgiven by this act of propitiation. Animals are not people, so they don’t need a redeemer in the same way.
However, having said that, I also think that Jesus did die for animals in an indirect sense. According to Romans 8, we know that Christ’s death for humanity purchased redemption for everything created, since everything created was brought down due to the sin of mankind. Romans 8:21-23 tells us,
The creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (ESV, emphasis added)
These verses indicate that our resurrection and the redemption of our bodies bought by the sacrificial blood of Jesus will extend to all creation. What Paul is saying is that on the New Earth after our resurrection, the animals who once suffered because of the fall of man and the “groanings of the earth” will be joined with us for all eternity, enjoying the glorious redemption of perfection brought to us in eternity with our Lord.
There are so many passages that speak to God both bringing judgment and blessings on men and animals because of man’s sins and respectively, because of God’s grace. (Exodus 9:22-25; Jeremiah 7:20; 21:16; Ezekiel 14:12-13, 17; Deuteronomy 7:13-14; 28:1-4)
Likewise, John the Baptist testified in Luke 3:6, “All flesh shall see the salvation of God.” The Greek word here translated as “flesh” is sarx, which is inclusive of all flesh, not exclusive to just mean mankind. “All flesh” includes animals. In essence, then, this great prophet was saying that mankind and animals will see the coming redemptive earth.
One of my favorites, though, is how the psalmist exclaims the relationship between God and His created in Psalm 104. In verse 24 of that psalm, the psalmist sings, “O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” Then he goes on to talk about the animals and all created life—sea creatures, birds, mammals—exclaiming how all are fed and cared for by their Creator. But then in verses 29 he says, “When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust.” To which he follows in verse 30 with, “When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.” To “renew the face of the ground” is to re-create. The psalmist is crying out that God will also renew the animals when He redeems the Created, which fully makes sense!
Truly, the Creator could very well intend to make new animals when He redeems the earth, but that doesn’t follow either with His character as a loving and generous Lord or His clear intention to renew that which was already created. Besides, He created us with spirits that have the propensity to be emotionally fed by our pets. We love them, not in place of humans, but in addition to our human relationships. Our pets bring us companionship and joy and unadulterated love. They are committed to us in our darkest and most profoundly sad moments, and they are there to pounce around in unwavering joy when we are exploding in happiness. God did that! And He does nothing accidentally!
Therefore, since we can see that the bible plainly states that both mankind and animals will be renewed in the New Earth, and we also know that God gave us some animals to be special to us purposefully in His great love, doesn’t it follow that our kind and loving Father will bring those relationships into our eternity? I believe with everything in me that this is the truth. My sweet, enormous, ridiculously silly Hattie will be with me in paradise, along with Levi and Moochie and Harley and Champ and Charlie and Chelsea. I’ll see them all there, and I believe you will see your beloved animals, too.
We serve a God of love who purposefully gave us both human and animal relationships to enjoy on this earth. Jesus will return and renew all of creation that “groans” under the curse of sin, and that includes our wonderful pets. So love them now, knowing that good-bye is only temporary. You will see them again.
How awesome to be loved by so great a God as our God!!
And how wonderful to know that this big love will be with me in paradise!!!
**One of my favorite resources when teaching on heaven and the truths the bible proclaims is the book Heaven by Randy Alcorn. I can’t recommend this book enough for those who are struggling with what to believe about the hereafter and how it accords with the Word of God.
Dr. Deb Waterbury is the President and CEO of Love Everlasting Ministries. In her desire to spread the truth that all Christian women share an intimate relationship with Christ as their Bridegroom while “Breaking the Barriers of Isolation” that often plagues these same women, Dr. Waterbury travels extensively, both nationally and abroad, leading conferences and teaching seminars at every opportunity. She has a special heart for the people of Africa, devoting much of her year to speaking in several countries there. Dr. Waterbury also spends a great deal of her time writing both curriculum for study in the areas of her passion as well as allegorical novels representing the believer’s journey in realizing her position as the chosen bride of Jesus Christ. Her series, The Painted Window Trilogy, has changed the lives of countless women as they come to that beautiful understanding of the truth of their relationship with Christ. She currently resides in Tucson, Arizona, with her husband, Jeff.