If God Exists, Why Would He Allow My Dog to Suffer?

Question from a reader:

My dog has cancer and is dying. My husband and I are devastated. We have prayed, begged, and pleaded with “God” to cure her. I am asking why and wondering, is there really a God? I hate Him right now if there is one!

Answer from Doreen Button, EPM staff:

Having lost a beloved dog to disease, I can empathize with the pain you are feeling over the impending death of your furry friend. Death is not a normal part of our life, at least not the life God wanted for us. I suppose that’s why it hurts so much. We know there’s something better and we don’t get to experience it here.

It also doesn’t seem fair that the sins of two people thousands of years ago could be the cause of the suffering you are going through now. Perhaps if Adam and Eve hadn’t rebelled against God, we wouldn’t claim our independence from Him either. Then there’d be no sickness or death to be angry at God about.

But that’s not how things are here and now. This moment is all we have to face and our circumstances, which we have no control over, are what we are called to respond to.

Your heartfelt cries to God, to answer your prayers for your dog’s healing, tell me two things. One, that you do believe there is a God to pray to. And two, that you are very angry because He has not yet answered—and perhaps won’t answer—in the way you wanted. There are many examples in the Bible where godly people were not given the answers they prayed for. Job, who suffered horrible losses, for no reason apparent to him, comes to mind.

And the most striking example of literally the godliest person ever, Jesus, not having His pleadings answered with a “yes” also tells me two things: God is faithful—He keeps all His promises—and He has a plan that’s bigger and better than anything we can wrap our heads around.

Jesus Himself tells us, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, NLT). This is the man who knew what He was about to face, and what His followers were going to go through. And though His Father didn’t answer “yes” to His prayer to have that cup of suffering removed from Him, the Father did answer “yes” to having His will done. Through that, every sin was justly dealt with, and we have His promise that “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever” (Revelation 21:4).

God could have removed that cup of suffering from Jesus. Where would that leave us? For that one Person to not suffer, every other person on the planet would be doomed to eternity separated from God with no recourse. Thankfully, He loves us too much to give us what we want so He can give us what we truly need. (And if you know anything about the wants and demands of young children—think large quantities of sugary snacks before dinner, or staying up too late on a school night—and you’ll recognize that not everything we want is the best thing for us.)

Jesus was a servant, our example of how to truly love, but God isn’t our genie. He’s our all-knowing, all-powerful Sovereign.

“Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12, NLT). Our expectations say a lot about where our hearts find their hope and what we have our faith in. Are you angry with God because you thought your dog would never die? Or die in a different way? Or because He’s not giving you what you asked? Or because you believe He owes you a positive answer to your prayer? (This is one of those times when I wish we could talk face to face over a cup of tea and seek the answers together.)

Peter continues with a reason for not just enduring but thriving in the tough times: “But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:13, NIV). That’s the bigger picture. We don’t know all God’s reasons for anything, or how He can take any (let alone all) of the trials we endure and “work them together for the good of those who love Him and keep His commandments” (Romans 8:28).

In If God Is Good, Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil, Randy wrote, “Blaming God is a dead-end street, because in doing so we turn away from our greatest source of comfort.”

I like comfort. I’m tired of filling tissues with tears that seem unending. But knowing that God has a purpose, and discovering that He is my greatest source of comfort leaves me telling people: I wouldn’t wish this on anyone, but I’d go through it a million times over now that I see the good and how He’s used it to heal me of things I didn’t know I was “sick” with—knocking down idols and replacing my fear and pain with a deep love for Him—and how He’s used it to make me more like Him.

One of my favorite passages now is “God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NLT). I have seen the truth of this and of Romans 8:28 over and over (including responding to your letter!).

I think you might find this teaching from Randy very insightful. Here is a short clip from his full message. Assuming that you know even .01% of all there is to know about the universe, Randy asks, “Is it possible that in the 99.99% of all that you don’t know, there exists:

1) A God you haven’t seen yet?

2) Hidden purposes in allowing evil [and suffering]?

3) An eternal goodness that outweighs and triumphs over evil?

4) A Sovereign Loving God who will forever end suffering, ushering in a glorious new universe?”

God exists, whether we believe in Him or not, and is not afraid of your anger or annoyed by your questions. If He didn’t exist, you’d be left to face this alone and with no hope for anything better. Ever. That sounds like a terrible trade-off.

He loves you and wants a deep relationship with you. Sometimes He uses tough circumstances to get your attention off what may be very good in order to turn your focus onto Him, the Best.

Keep praying, and when you are able, thank Him for all the good years you have had with your beautiful dog. Neither of you were ever going to live here forever, so I encourage you to express your gratitude for the joy you’ve been given. It’s a tiny sampler of the joy Jesus offers in the uninterrupted ages to come.

Photo by Samson Katt

Doreen is part of the Eternal Perspective Ministries staff, and helps Randy with editing and answering reader questions. She is a certified biblical counselor.