My family loves animals. Whenever we gather to pore over family scrapbooks and albums (not all photos are digitized, I frequently remind the kids!), we always share time bonding over memories of Tiger and Tinker (my childhood cats), Queenie and Dutch (my faithful dogs), and all our other cherished pets from yesteryear!
When we count our blessings each day and say our prayers each night, thanking God for our furry family is always high on our gratitude list! As James 1:17 reminds us:
Every good and perfect gift is from above.
The Bible affirms that God designed animals to play a pivotal role in His creation and in our lives. Genesis 1 reveals that after God lovingly created all of the creatures of the earth, He blessed them and declared that they were good. He then created man and woman “in His image” and gave them authority over all of creation, including His magnificent animal kingdom!
God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let Us make mankind in Our image, in Our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. – Genesis 1:25-26
Historical evidence shows that man has domesticated dogs for 10,000 years – Egyptians began domesticating wildcats as early as 3500 B.C., and ancient Romans kept dogs, birds, cats and horses as both working animals and pets. 2 Samuel – a biblical book written between 630-540 B.C. – records the story of a man and his pet lamb:
But the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. – 2 Samuel 12:3
Pets play an important role in a child’s emotional, physical, and spiritual development.
Studies conducted by several US universities have found that caring for pets have made children more cooperative and sharing, bolstered their self-esteem, and buffered them from loneliness.
According to Gail F. Melson, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Developmental Studies at Purdue University, 4 out of 10 children begin their lives in a family with domestic animals and as many as 90 percent of kids live with a pet at some point in their childhood. While there are legitimate reasons that not every family can adopt or care for a pet, the benefits are manifold for those that do:
- Pets teach our children spiritual lessons about themselves, their lives and God. They teach kids how to give and receive unconditional love and how to live in the moment. They also provide kids with comfort, companionship and laughter throughout the day.
But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. – Job 12:7-8
- Pets teach our children how to be kind to one another and to those who are placed in their care. They teach them to be compassionate towards as well as responsible for those who may be smaller, weaker or different from them.
The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel. – Proverbs 12:10
- Pets teach our children to pay attention to others and their needs – to put the care and comfort of others ahead of their own – to sacrifice when necessary for the well-being of others.
Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds… – Proverbs 27:23
As Christian parents, part of honoring our stewardship responsibility to God includes teaching our kids how to love and care for their pets and to respect living creatures in a way that brings glory to Him.
Recently, my family was reading Bless Our Pets – the latest book in the beloved Berenstain Bears series from Mike Berenstain. We were fascinated to discover that Preacher Brown was hosting a Blessing of The Animals at the Chapel in The Woods. During this ceremony, all of the animals in the church would be blessed (their people were invited too!) As you can imagine, this led to an unforgettable day for all of the families in Bear Country!
Intrigued, we wondered what it would be like to take our own pets to a real live Blessing of the Animals ceremony – so I did a little research and discovered that many churches host a Blessing of the Animals ceremony in the Fall.
During a Blessing of the Animals ceremony, the celebrant asks God to protect our pets so that they may continue to enrich our lives, saying a prayer similar to this:
We ask You to bless this pet. By the power of Your love, enable it to live according to Your plan. May we always praise You for all Your beauty in creation. Blessed are You, Lord our God, in all Your creatures! Amen.
The act of blessing our pets – whether we do this at home through simple prayers of gratitude or through a formal church ceremony – affirms the special place our pets hold in our hearts and teaches our children to honor God for His sovereignty over all His creation!
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How has pet ownership enriched your family’s life? What lessons have you and your family learned about God through your pets? Have you ever participated in a Blessing Of The Animals Ceremony? Please share your thoughts and stories in the comments!
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