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            Yesterday, the day before my birthday, my mom’s dog died.  Mom is 88, and Spot or Spottie, as she called him, was her friend.  What makes it especially difficult is that my sister and I worked very hard to have her come here to celebrate my birthday.  Mom was hesitant to leave Spot, but we told her that the dog was and had always been in good health, that my brother-in-law would take good care of him, and that it was important for her to see her son’s new house and be with him on his birthday.  She consented to come with my sister.  And then the dog died.

            Why did this have to happen this way, Lord?  My mom wasn’t able to say good-bye to her dog.  She feels bad that she left him.  My brother-in-law, who could have done nothing to help the dog, feels terrible.  Will she ever want to visit us again?  Why couldn’t Spottie have died later this week, Lord?

            These are the kinds of questions that are raised in the Christian’s mind when tragedy strikes.  Are they legitimate questions?  How should we respond to them?

            One answer is to dismiss the loss of a dog as trivial.  “What is the big deal?  He was just a dog.  How can you even talk about this as a tragedy when you look at all the real suffering in the world?  People are dying of hunger.  War and seemingly uncontrollable and incurable diseases wreak havoc on whole populations.  Please, get real!” 

            It is true that the sufferings of the world are great and the death of one little dog seems ridiculously insignificant.  But whatever the ideologues of globalization would like us to believe, we live in families and our strongest connections are in those small groups.  As real and as horrific a place as the world is, somehow it is all driven into the background by the grief and shock written on the face of one’s mother.

            As I consider various difficult issues, I am increasing bothered by some of our Christian “explanations.”  We often will say, “God wants to teach us a lesson.”  “Someday things will be different.”  “He’s in a better place.”  It’s not that these affirmations are wrong.  They aren’t.  They are true as consolations.  They comfort us as expressions of our confidence in God’s love and faithfulness.  They help us to comprehend in part the calamities that threaten to overwhelm us. 

            Where we err is in thinking that they are complete explanations of the tragedy.  They aren’t.  Every one of them is open to reasonable objections, if it is understood as a comprehensive explanation of what happened.  When we present them to an unbeliever as knockdown apologetic arguments proving that God exists or that the Christian faith is true, we open ourselves to legitimate philosophical criticism. 

            What is worse is that we do God a disservice.  We do not know the full explanation of the calamities that befall us and others.  The Lord says, “I am God, and there is none like me.  I make known the end from the beginning” (Isaiah 46:9-10).  We, as Paul writes, “know in part” (1 Corinthians 13:9).

            We know from experience and God’s Word that he has a purpose for us and even for our sorrows. Consolations express truly our partial knowledge.  If we demand total explanations, we partake of the sin of modernity that demands a total explanation.  We become like the ancient Greeks who sought human wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:22).  What we need and what this terribly dark world needs is a people that lives by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7), a people that preaches Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23).

            So, mom, I know that you’re not into reading blogs, but let me just say to you that I don’t know why Spottie died and why he did when he did.  But I do know that “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave himself up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things” (Romans 8:32).  Because God has said so, I am convinced that nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39).

4 thoughts on “SPOTTIE’S DEAD

  1. Thnaks Bill,
    I totally agree with your response to the evil in our world-such as a beloved dog “going the way of all the world”. We don’t have to make up an excuse for God;we just have to say ,”We trust you, Lord,even when it really hurts”. Like Job, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.
    Now if we only have the strength to really mean that.
    Q. how’re Topeka and your students and co-teachers?

      1. , “With man this is impossible, but with God all thgnis are possible.” I am one of Keith’s employees and I wanted to say that I’m enjoying your post. I teach over 100 youth on Sunday mornings and I was able to share A Perfect Christian with them and it opened up some good conversation. Im also a father of 3 boys and a husband of 10 years; this verse is one that our family lives by daily. No matter what is thrown at you in life, if you look to the heavens and cry out to God and give him everything; all thgnis are possible. My family and I are praying for your church to be started and I again thank you for these daily devotions.

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