Who could sing “Jesus Loves Me” when circumstances seem insurmountable and all hope is gone? Abandonment, pain, and constant tribulation often lead to resignation.
Curiously, resignation is seldom the end of the story. If you’re deep in despair today, this message is for you. If you’ve been there and returned, you may find it familiar. If so, praise God with a big “Amen!”
Are You Close to Giving Up?
No matter what your situation, God is active, aware, and knows precisely where you are and your condition. Do you feel abandoned by all who care, or pretended to care? Are provisions and prospects exhausted? Did you stand in faith so long that you finally stood down due to painful blisters on your feet?
Are you close to giving up? Hang on. Please let me share Shiner’s story with you.
We’ve all been lost sometime, far from the fold and our Shepherd. I’ve been in the pit myself. It’s dark, nasty, and has a really hard bottom. The fear that it’s bottomless is a lie from hell. There is a bottom. What did I find there?
Before I tell you about me, let me tell you about Shiner and Ace, two Appaloosa brothers we sold as babies in 2000 when our breeding program changed to strictly reining and cutting Quarter Horses.
God Lifts His Hand, Speaks a Word, and Things Begin to Happen
Nine years later we were semi-retired and facing the fallout from the 2008 recession. Horses are expensive and ours weren’t paying their own bills anymore. The last thing we needed was more mouths to feed.
But God asked me to,
“Find Ace and Shiner and bring them home.”
“But Lord, we don’t need more horses. Besides, I have no idea where they are.”
“Bring them home.“
By this time, I’d had enough experience with God’s specific direction to stop arguing. I started looking in the last place I knew the boys were. Along with one full sibling each, they’d been sold to an airline pilot and family. I drove out to where they lived.
They’d moved on.
Years earlier we’d had a mutual friend, so I dug out an old telephone and address book to see if I could reach her.
Surprisingly, the cell phone number was still good! She answered.
“I’m looking for two of the horses we sold nine years ago. Do you know where the family moved?”
“Yes, but they sold all the horses a year and a half ago. Which two did you want?”
I told her.
“Oh! Did you see their picture in the newspaper?”
“In the newspaper?”
“Yes. On one of the front pages. There’s a photo of those two horses.”
“The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.”
We didn’t get the newspaper, but learned the article was published just days earlier. We quickly caught up on each other’s family news, said goodbye, and I pulled up the article on the internet.
There is was, including a photo showing the heads and forequarters of the two horses I needed to find. I recognized them immediately. Shiner and Ace looked at me from my computer screen. The article was lengthy, with only a few lines referencing our boys.
The subject of the article was horse slaughter.
There were few clues about the horses’s location, but I got to work and settled on the most likely place. Using people finding programs I came up with a phone number I hoped would work. I called. No answer.
I continued searching online for more information, but didn’t come up with anything more. I called again. No answer. I left a message.
The next day, Saturday, I called several more times. No answer. I left messages. I told my husband that we would just have to drive up to the address I’d found the next day after church. That was the only option left. As hours passed, my sense of urgency grew.
For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost. – Luke 19:10
When Time Seems to be Running Out
We had to find the boys and bring them home. God’s assignment was pretty clear, but now I needed to find them as well. If we let it, God has a way of connecting our spirit to His purpose. God’s direction became my greatest desire.
Sunday afternoon we had a map and drove north. I’d left another message or two that day, including our plan to drop in. I hoped I had the right place. If not, we were likely to surprise someone and return disappointed. And out of options.
As we got closer to our exit I saw a few horses scattered across a large acreage alongside the interstate. It was blazingly hot in the late summer Texas sun and they had no shade.
“Poor horses. There’s nothing in that pasture but dirt and they look really thin.”
A few minutes and hairpin turns later, we pulled up in front of the property with the poor horses by the highway. Some things are only possible by the hand of God. Nothing else could explain what happened during the next 24 hours. When God has a purpose, it will be accomplished. Whatever has to be done to ensure the outcome, He makes happen.
Ace and Shiner came home. They were in desperate need of rescue, but returned without spirit or hope. They’d already given up.
God’s Message to You
Why am I telling you the story of a couple of horses? What could it possibly have to do with you, or anyone who finds herself in similar circumstances.
Good for them. You went looking for them. No one is looking for me.
Please, give me a few more minutes to connect the dots.
- We didn’t need any more horses, but God’s plan became our desire.
- We didn’t know where Shiner and Ace were, but God did.
- We didn’t know how much they needed rescue, but God did.
- Shiner and Ace were hopeless, but God was busy.
Shiner and Ace had given up. They were waiting to die, but God wasn’t finished with them yet. (More about that in a moment.)
Shiner and Ace only knew what they could see, hear, and experience. They didn’t know what God was doing beyond their view to bring them home. God doesn’t lose. Ever.
… that the saying might be fulfilled which He spoke, “Of those whom You gave Me I have lost none.” – John 18:9
Shiner’s story became my second book, He Came Looking for Me.
Again, what does that have to do with you? The book? Maybe nothing. Except for another part of the story. Stay with me…
Shiner’s story was published and got great reviews, but little initial readership. I wondered why I’d gone to all the trouble of doing what God asked to find the boys, bring them home, begin rehabilitating them (another story in itself), and write a book.
God created the story, the title, and most of the book. For what purpose, I wondered.
“To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.” – G.K. Chesterton
Abandoned. Rejected. Restored.
Then a woman I’ll call Sarah entered the picture. She was in deep trouble, spiritually and psychologically. A friend who shared a love of horses with Sarah didn’t know what else to try, so sent her the book with Shiner’s face on the cover. Weeks passed. The friend and I corresponded, including updates on Sarah. They weren’t good.
Then one day I received a letter from Sarah. We’d never been introduced, but she wrote anyway.
Sarah was a lapsed Christian. Her faith, trust, and love for Christ deteriorated along with her circumstances. She was suicidal. Hopeless. Emotionless. She picked up the book and began to read.
And stopped cold when she came to the name, Jesus Christ. She threw the book down, enraged and disgusted. It sat on her table. Unread. Waiting.
Finally, she wrote, she was haunted by Shiner’s face looking up at her from the cover. What happened to him? Did he make it? She had to know.
Sarah read the book. It changed her heart, her spirit, and her life. Shiner’s story was her story.
It’s never too late.
‘These last have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ – Matthew 20:12
God’s Promise to the Lost, the Abandoned, the Hopeless
God’s purpose wasn’t just to save Shiner and Ace. It was to speak to all who are lost, abandoned, and hopeless. To share the knowledge that He knows where they are. He knows their circumstances. He knows what they need when they need it.
And just when the need for rescue is greatest – He provides it.
We never know what God does beyond our view. Sarah thinks she found God again. I think He simply showed up at precisely the right time in precisely the right way. It just needed the face of one horse to crack the ice on her soul.
Why did God assign me this task? What was His purpose? Sarah’s letter answered my questions. If all the book did was help Sarah return to grace, hope, and fellowship with God – that’s enough.
What does this mean for you, or for a friend?
Jesus knows where you are and what condition you’re in. He knows where your children are and their circumstance. Nothing escapes His notice. And He loves you. If your name is in the Lamb’s Book of Life you have no need to fear. When you most need rescue, Jesus will show up. He loses none.
There is no stone or world He will not move. No power stands against His.
What did I find at the bottom of the pit? Choices. I could give up completely or begin the long climb up. Looking back, I realize there was a hand holding and guiding me every inch of the way.
It was the hand of Christ. I didn’t know it at the time, and may not have appreciated it. But His promises are true. We are never alone or abandoned.
One day you may serve as the hand of Christ, helping to rescue someone just in the nick of time.
But if you’re the one in trouble, just when needed most, He’ll be there.
And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning. – John 15:27
For more about Shiner’s story and the rich promises we stand upon as children of the King of Kings, read He Came Looking for Me. This is the image that inspired “Sarah” to finally read past the name, Jesus Christ, and return to the fold. The way the rescue happened was 100% the hand of God.
In case you’re wondering, Shiner and Ace are still with us. Loved and forever members of our family.