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When I in Awesome Wonder… Michigan’s Golden Coast: Death

Have you ever counted the number of dead animals you see along the side of the road? The numbers are astounding. Especially along the lake shore where there is a concentration of wildlife because of conservation and feeding the numbers are even greater. The closer I work with my fellow creatures the more sensitive I am becoming to the suffering and death that pervade the natural world. I think we naturally avoid dwelling on this subject because it is depressing. Nevertheless, we should take time to consider it. God is speaking to us here.

I did a brief study on the survival of some of the most well known wildlife songbirds and deer. Do you realize that the population of songbirds remains roughly the same every year in spite of the fact that the nesting birds produce three to seven eggs each nest and sometimes nest twice? That means that more than half of the songbird population dies every year! The numbers are similar with the deer population. Depending on the type of winter, the quality of food, and the predator pressure, all of which can change from year to year, somewhere around half of the spring fawns do not make it to their first birthday. If we were to look at the animals that fall into the “prey” category like rabbits and mice, the numbers would be much higher.

The animals that God gave to us to care for also suffer and die. Whether they are our companions or on the farm, part of caring for them involves relieving them of suffering, whether that is vet care or “putting them to sleep” as we gently describe euthanasia when they are suffering too much. It can be very difficult for us to deal with, especially if we felt a very close bond with them. I’ll never forget how gut wrenching it was to “put down” sick or injured dogs or horses. Farmers have to deal with death all the time. They understand death. We are so often oblivious to it and shelter our children from it, that is not good. For our children I am convinced one of the best lessons in life for them is to care for, love, and eventually to bury a pet. It is good for them to bond with God’s creatures and to suffer with them.

With this death and the suffering of God’s creatures all around us, we have to hear His word concerning death. Death in the creation is because of our sin. It is our fault that animals die and suffer. The whole creation, including all the animals, came under the curse of death along with all of mankind in the fall of Adam and Eve. We may not stop there, however. Our hope is forgiveness of sins through Christ! Our hope is in the resurrection and the recreation of this present world into the new heavens and earth. We long for that full salvation. In Romans 8:19-23 we understand that the creatures groan in pain and suffering, longing for our full salvation. No wonder we can sympathize with suffering creatures. They are bearing the pain and death of the curse along with us. There is so much more that could be said about this profound concept.

Do you hear the cries of God’s creatures? Do you sense the painful longing of the creation? We should all be close enough to God’s creatures to hear it. But, we may not be depressed about the death that we see. We have to hear the groans of God’s creatures as so many voices calling us to look ahead to the day when there will be no more suffering and death. They look to a new creation. We must remember that we are only sojourners here. We seek an heavenly kingdom. Death is the door that leads us into our eternal joy of life with God in the new heavens and earth. Are you groaning? Look to Christ!

“For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:22-23).

Groaning

Pain and disease
We observe all around.
Creatures are suffering
With no help to be found.

Man groans in pain,
From the curse suffering.
Not finding any peace,
From pain no buffering.

Christ knows our hurts.
Our suffering He bore.
With Him we’ll rise again.
In joy forevermore.

No suffering,
But, freed from curses pain.
Earth’s creatures will frolic,
The new world they gain.