Do animals go to heaven? That’s a common question from children, especially when they experience the loss of a pet. Discover what the Bible says…and how you can respond to kids.
This morning, we were awakened by the tears of one of our children. They had found our dog dead on the floor. Nellie the cross-eyed Chihuahua was relatively new to our family. But she had already brought us much joy. She was about as good a dog as a Chihuahua can be.
As the tears flowed, the questions did as well. “Why did Nellie have to die?” “Why did God take Nellie so soon?” “Will we see Nellie in heaven?”
Although some people may think these questions are silly, I do not.
Do animals go to heaven?
The longer we live on this fallen planet, the more sorrow we face. Some sufferings are small; others are great. But it all hurts. Some families experience tragedy early and often. Ours has been spared significant tragedy, but times like these leave their mark.
So we talked about what we were feeling and what questions we were processing. Here are a few highlights:
1. We know why our pets die.
Death is one of the saddest and most certain realities of this life. Few things like death sober us, whether it be a pet or a fellow image bearer. A cold, stiff body that lacks the life it once supported is a heavy reminder that something is wrong with our world.
So why does death happen? The Bible tells us plainly that when Adam and Eve sinned against God, all creation was cursed (Genesis 3:14, 19.) Because of this, death comes for all of us, people and animals alike.
Some may want to shield their children from discussions of death, but we don’t.
In Deuteronomy 6, God instructs Israel with His commands and gives parents this charge, “You shall teach them 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” (Deuteronomy 6:7).
Discipleship in the home happens as we live life together, and as we bury pets together. We tell our children that death is in the world because of the curse of sin. All of us will die, and days like these remind us that even our beloved pets aren’t exempt.
2. We don’t know why our pets die when they do.
Death comes for all of us in a time and a way that is most normally unexpected. Nellie was, as far as we could tell, a healthy little dog. She seemed to go peacefully in her sleep. I’ve also lost other pets in more traumatic ways. When my daughter asked, “Why did she have to die now?” I simply held her and said, “I don’t know.”
God never tells us when our time is up. When we love someone, it always seems like our time with them was too short. I encouraged my daughter that our family loved Nellie well, and she loved us in like measure. I also reminded her we need not be afraid of losing those we love. But while they’re with us, we must love them as well as we can.