Surveys show that 43 million US households own a dog. Some are service dogs and provide assistance to those with special needs. Others are used for security or hunting. But most are kept for companionship.
Why do we love our dogs?
Is it because we don’t take time to think about the holes they’ve dug in our yards, the screen doors they’ve ruined, and the amount of our discretionary income they consume?
To such costs, dog owners might say, “You’re missing the point. Our dogs are members of the family.” Dogs are loved because,
• They love us even when others don’t.
• They welcome us home without asking why we are late.
• They are more forgiving than people.
• They enjoy being close to us even when we aren’t feeling good about ourselves.
• They don’t care what we look like.
Could there be even more?
A bumper sticker suggests the prayer: “Dear Lord, please help me to be the person my dog thinks I am.” Maybe there’s more than a smile here. If our dogs can give us reason to pray, maybe they can also help us understand what “man’s best friend” really means.
The Friend who sees us at our worst, and still loves us.
Even though our dogs can sense our impatience, neglect, and absence, they can never really understand why we act the way we do. They may sense our emotions but wouldn’t know the difference if we said cruel things to them with a nice voice, or understand if we asked them to be quiet so we could avoid the neighbor at our door who needed our help.
The Bible, on the other hand, describes One who sees and understands what is wrong with us—without losing His love for us. According to both the Old and New Testament, the best of all friends sees more than our physical flaws and limitations. He looks into the murky depth and darkness of our hearts, sees the worst there is to see and then offers, in exchange for our trust, His complete forgiveness and acceptance.
The Friend who can meet our deepest needs.
Although it’s true that our dogs can help to relieve loneliness, take attention off ourselves, and prevent stress-related diseases, they can only begin to provide the help we really need.
The New Testament, however, describes One who gives us a taste of His goodness and power now while promising complete health and happiness in the future. When the four Gospels describe Jesus’ ability to heal mental, emotional, and physical problems, they introduce us to the Friend who will one day return and use eternity itself to show us the extent of what He can do for us.
Speaking of what the ultimate faithful Friend can do, the book of Revelation anticipates the day when “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4 NKJV).
The Friend who knowingly and willingly gives His life for His enemies.
Even though there are many stories of dogs who have saved the lives of their owners, and even though some have even died trying to protect their masters, such instances reflect more instinct than character.
The Bible describes One who consciously and lovingly endured the most hideous shame and the cruelest suffering to make enemies into friends. Of His voluntary, sacrificial death, the apostle Paul wrote, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NKJV).
The Friend who lives in and through us.
Even though a faithful and loyal dog can remain in our hearts long after its death, that lingering affection is only a memory.
By contrast, Jesus does more than leave us with warm thoughts of His friendship. He gives His Holy Spirit to those who accept Him. As the apostle Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 NKJV).
By offering His own friendship to us in Christ, our Creator does not diminish the loyalty of a dog, the love of a family member, or any other dear friend. Instead, He uses the temporary joys of this life to help us long for a love that will never end.
Father in heaven, thank You for the friendship and joy of a loving dog. Please help us to remember that the best this life has to offer is given to bring our hearts to You and to the friendship that gives meaning to every other joy. —Mart De Haan