When I was seven years old, my family found an abandoned dog in a graveyard. We adopted the wiggling black and white puppy and gave her a loving home. At first, I was afraid of Beauty, who seemed much bigger than she truly was, but we soon became best friends. Where I went, she followed.
When I called for her, she would come bounding with a warm greeting. I could always rely on my little dog to be there when I needed her, whether to provide a listening ear or lick away my tears. For 12 years, Beauty was my devoted friend. A girl could not have asked for a better companion growing up.
Like other people who have a furry canine friend, I learned that dogs are a special part of our lives. In hindsight, I believe there are multiple spiritual lessons we can glean from the relationships we have with our dogs.
While all creation exhibits God’s glory as Creator (Romans 1:20), dogs also give us a clear image of joyfully following our Master, showing love toward others regardless of outward appearances, and how to lend a listening ear to hurting individuals.
As believers, we can consider these lessons and seek to apply these attributes to our spiritual walk with Christ.
1. The Joy of Following Jesus
Dogs often delight in pleasing their owners. Many will also follow closely on the heels of their humans, wanting to be near their masters.
When I would wander around in the yard as a kid, Beauty would joyfully follow me around, looking up at me expectantly when I would stop or put her nose into whatever I was doing.
Once, when I was trying to catch crickets, she quickly started following my example and playfully pounced on the grass, snapping at the hopping insects with her tail wagging in the air.
Phillip Keller also noted how his dog devotedly followed him as he shepherded his sheep. Lass, his sheepdog, lovingly obeyed Keller’s commands and delighted in working with him on the ranch.
Upon reflection in his book, Lessons From a Sheep Dog, Phillip Keller noted with shame that he did not follow as closely after his own Shepherd: Jesus. He asked himself, “Am I this available to my Master? Am I as willing to fling myself into His work? … More often than not Lass put me to shame.”
Our dogs present us with an example of loving devotion, which should cause us to reflect on our relationship with Christ.
Like the first disciples, Jesus calls us to follow Him (Luke 9:23). He also reminds us that if we love Him, we will obey His commands (John 14:15). While this call to discipleship is costly, it is also well worth the cost when we consider love as our basis for following Him.
Because of Jesus saving us through His death and resurrection, we cannot help but love Him and throw ourselves wholeheartedly into serving Him. He is not a cruel master, but a loving Shepherd who delights in believers joyfully walking with Him (John 10:11).
When we serve Him, we find that His yoke is truly easy, and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). We receive abundant life when we follow closely “at His heels” (John 10:10).
2. Loving Others Without Partiality
Even on our worst days, dogs still love us. They do not care about our appearance or if we have flaws. They love us for who we are.
A memorable line in Marley: A Dog Like No Other by John Grogan sums up this character trait about dogs: “A dog judges others not by how they look but by who they are inside. A dog doesn’t care if you are rich or poor, smart or dull. Give him your heart, and he will give you his.”
Even though I was shy and awkward growing up, Beauty always loved me. I did not have to change to please her. Yes, I had faults and weaknesses, but Beauty did not care for me any less because of those flaws.
Dogs delight in their owners regardless of outward appearance or social status. These animals do not show partiality regarding certain types of people.
Not only does this love resemble God’s unconditional love, but it also teaches us to show love to others without partiality. James addressed this issue in his epistle, reminding his readers to avoid showing favoritism to people who were rich or poor.
As he wrote, “My friends, as believers in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, you must never treat people in different ways according to their outward appearance” (James 2:1, GNT). Instead, we should seek to love our neighbors as ourselves (James 2:8).
Sometimes we may be tempted to hold biases toward those who are in rough circumstances, such as the homeless, prisoners, or people who live in situations different than their own.
In other cases, people hold prejudices against those who are wealthy or seem to have a “better” life, at least in a material sense.
People also commonly show discrimination based on skin color, gender, or outward appearance. However, Scripture reminds us that everyone needs the gospel. Christ came to die for humankind and freely offers salvation to all who believe (2 Corinthians 5:15; Hebrews 2:9).
Since God does not show partiality to certain types of people, then we should not do so either (Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11).
3. Listening and Being Present in Hard Times
In addition to reminding us of the powerful lessons of following Christ with joy and loving others without discrimination, dogs also provide us with an example of how to lend a listening ear to those who are hurting.
I remember spending numerous mornings and evenings sitting on the back porch talking to Beauty as I petted or combed her. Normally, she would run around playfully, but in these moments, she sat still and listened. As I poured out my worries, fears, and dreams to my dog, I found comfort in her loving presence.
At other times, when difficult circumstances occurred that saddened me, Beauty allowed me to hold her as my tears soaked her fur. She never squirmed away in discomfort, nor did she try to run away from my pain or sadness.
Instead, she would lick my face, which made a crying girl smile. Dogs visually provide us with an example of what it means to listen deeply to others while also being present during challenging situations.
Often, as believers, we fail to follow the instruction to be quick to listen but slow to speak (James 1:19). Like Job’s “friends,” we want to provide reasons or solutions to our friends’ and neighbors’ problems instead of taking the time to truly hear what they are saying (Job 5:2-7; 11:13-20).
Sometimes what people really need is to know that someone cares about them. Although we can share biblical wisdom with others, sometimes we just need to silently sit with our friends and listen (Job 2:13).
In addition to being quick to offer our thoughts about another person’s situation, we also tend to shy away from uncomfortable situations such as when we encounter grief or pain.
However, the Bible encourages us to “mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). Believers are also encouraged to love others deeply (1 Peter 4:8).
One way we can demonstrate loving care for others is to be with them in their pain and grief. Yes, we might get wet with tears, but by being with our hurting friends, we can give them a tangible reminder of Christ’s love. He never leaves us or forsakes us, even when times are hard (Hebrews 13:5).
Why Does This Matter?
Dogs are often special members of the family. They give us the gift of love, laughter, and loyalty. Some of my most cherished memories were with my dog, Beauty. God created all animals, including dogs, for his glory and pleasure.
From these canines, we can learn spiritual lessons that reflect biblical truths. Not only do dogs present us with an example to joyfully follow our Master and Lord, Jesus, but they also remind us of what it looks like to love without partiality and to lend our presence to those who are hurting.
Their example of devotion challenges us to think about the extent of our own relationship with Christ.
For further reading:
Do Animals Have Souls?
Do Animals Go to Heaven?
What Happened on Each Day of Creation?
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/barkernotbaker
Sophia Bricker is a freelance writer who enjoys researching and writing articles on biblical and theological topics. In addition to contributing articles about biblical questions as a contract writer, she has also written for Unlocked devotional. She holds a BA in Ministry, a MA in Ministry, and is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing to develop her writing craft. As someone who is passionate about the Bible and faith in Jesus, her mission is to help others learn about Christ and glorify Him in her writing. When she isn’t busy studying or writing, Sophia enjoys spending time with family, reading, drawing, and gardening.