I stared out into the air of moonlit iciness. Past the trees that partially obstructed my vision, I could see the herd of horses silhouetted against the backdrop of the 2 – 3 feet of snow that blanketed the ground. Some were standing relaxed, their heads slowly drifting downward in their half asleep state. Others were eating the remnants of the day’s feed that had been brought to their field earlier in the day. A small group were gathered around a bale, pulling out strands of dried summer grass.
I exhaled in relief, for there had been a mix-up in their grain ration, and I had been concerned they might get sick. So far no one had suffered the any ill effects.
As I debated with myself whether or not I should go and make one more check on them, my gaze swung back to the bale.
And then it clicked.
I had only seen the silhouette of one bale. Usually there were four or five bales in the field so that all the horses could eat at once.
But for some reason, on the day when too much grain had been added to their daily ration and it would have been beneficial for each horse to be able to eat hay when they wanted, there was only…
And so, in the very late hours on the evening of December 17, 2013, I added 10 pounds of winter gear to my frame, and headed out into the cold, winter night. Accompanied by my husband, we proceeded to roll out the round bale. This was no easy effort as the bale weighed over 1,000 pounds. Thankfully, the bale was sitting on a slope, so once we got it headed in the right direction, gravity did the majority of the work. While the horses woke up and came to eat, we did a slow walk-through to make sure that they were all right.
It was about half-way through our check, I noticed that one horse was missing.
Butterfly, an older horse, who had a good appetite for oats.
We completed walking through the herd, and then went back through the group just to make sure we hadn’t missed her.
But we hadn’t.
She wasn’t there, and a blizzard was forecasted to blow in before the next morning.
Thankfully, it hadn’t arrived yet. In fact, the brightness of the full moon reflected of the snow, creating so much light that I could clearly see the shadows of the horses as they ate.
My husband and I made a plan and split up to cover ground more quickly. The horse fence was a 60 acre plot that consisted of bush, meadows and open field. As I trudged through the deep snow, looking for a horse in a maroon colored horse blanket, I kept praying, asking God to direct our steps.
And you know what?
We followed a trail until we almost stumbled upon the missing Butterfly. She had laid down in the snow, but when the snow had melted around her she had been unable to get up. We tried to help her get up, but the snow was just too deep. We needed more help. I stayed with her while my husband went to get some food and a loader so we could get the snow out of the way.
While I was waiting, light flakes of snow began to fall. The first tendrils of the blizzard were beginning their intrusion.
Finally, the loader pushed its way through the deep snow to our location. While the snow was removed, I gave Butterfly some much needed food.
When the area was cleared of snow, we attached a lead rope to Butterfly’s halter, and added our strength to hers to try to help her get up. She would try for a while, rest and then try again, but…
It seemed hopeless.
And yet each attempt to get up was slowly moving her body around so that she was no longer stuck in the trough her body and melted into the snow. Finally, with one valiant heave, combined with us pulling with all our might, and encouraging her with our words…
Butterfly was able to sit up.
As we let her rest, we talked about what to do next. As she was so tired from her ordeal, we brought some food closer to her – which she started eating right away! We decided to let her rest there for a while to restore her energy, while we went in and caught a few winks of sleep before morning arrived.
When I awoke I was so thankful to see, although the wind had picked up a little, the blizzard had not yet arrived. Part of me was eager to go out and check on Butterfly…hopeful that I would find her alive and well!
But, in almost the same moment, my mind shifted gears. Suspicions whispered in the recesses of my mind, conspiring with my worries of the unlikelihood that she would have made it. As doubt after doubt raced through my mind, I placed more weight in the unlikelihood that I would find her alive…
I fortified my fears…as if by placing more confidence in the likelihood of a bad outcome, I would be protecting myself from the full weight of disappointment when I found her dead.
Gone was my eagerness to go out and see how she was doing. Dread and fear were now the residents of my mind for I was afraid to hope that I would find her alive.
As I pulled on my winter gear…still wet from the adventure a few hours earlier, I considered the happenings that had led us to finding Butterfly…
- A feed mix-up had resulted in me keeping a vigilant eye on the horses that day and night.
- Only one bale in the field resulted in us going out late at night to roll it out and take one final late night check.
- The light of the full moon provided enough light so that we could clearly see the horses and notice that Butterfly was missing.
- The moonlight also provided adequate light to aid in our search…much better than any flashlight or headlights could.
- The night air had also been amazingly warm on the eve of a blizzard and cold front.
- God directing my our steps in choosing the right path that led us straight to Butterfly.
- The unending determination and renewed strength that Butterfly seemed to keep on having which led to the final heave when she was finally able to get herself into a sitting position.
I also considered the prayers that I offer up daily for God’s protection as we care for the animals He has given us to look after, and the specific prayers that I prayed once we realized there had been a feed mix-up and when we realized Butterfly was missing.
God had already answered two prayers. Not one horse suffered from the feed mix-up and we found Butterfly.
What if there was one more prayer to be answered?
What if Butterfly had made it?
Tingles made their way through my body as I trudged outside through the snow.
And do you know what I found?
There was Butterfly…front and center in the herd of horses, eating away as if she had never just went through a near death experience.
That morning I fell on my knees in praise to God, giving thanks for His abundant goodness and His faithfulness. He had provided a way through the trial. He had worked out something bad into something good.
Although this story happened a few years ago, I have been thinking about it again.
Over the last few days, I have been asking the question that why, in difficulties, where a bad outcome may be likely, do I feel like I have to “hedge my bets” on the outcome?
“To hedge my bets” is to “protect…against loss by supporting more than one possible result…” (From the online Cambridge English Dictionary).
Crazy as it sounds, I realized that this thought pattern is one that I participate in more often than I should.
In order to protect myself against loss of hope…disappointment…pain…I try to balance my confidence between good results and bad results…sometimes even placing more weight in the likelihood of an undesired outcome.
And what is the result?
For me, when I fall into this trap of thinking, is a life lived in fear and doubt as I try to take countermeasures to prepare and protect myself from disappointments.
And it is a life lived afraid to hope.
Afraid to hope because I have been placing my hope in the wrong place.
Instead of placing my hope…my full confidence in my Father and His promises towards me…I add to it by placing some of my hope in my ability to peg the likely outcome, thinking that by doing so I am protecting myself from disappointment when a less than desirable outcome takes place.
But the real result is that I open the door to doubt the goodness and sovereignty of my Father…that He knows what He is doing…that He will work whatever situation I am facing for my good…
There is a simple truth in Scripture found in Psalm 25:3.
It says, “No one who hopes in You will ever be put to shame.”
According to Strong’s Concordance, the word “shame” in this verse means “disappointed, confounded, confused”.
When I put my hope in God I will not be disappointed, because I have tied myself to God, His promises, His strength.
For when I place my trust in God, I make Him my refuge. He is my protection. He is my stronghold. He is my fortress. In the shadow of His wings I can hide…
Close to the heart of my Father I can rest, because He is Sovereign, all powerful, all knowing, and is everywhere present…
And you know what?
He loves me, and has promised to work all things together for my good…my benefit…regardless of the actual outcome.
This does not remove the raw emotion that I feel in painful and difficult situations and circumstances, but it does give me strength to face them…
With a hope that will not be disappointed, because my hope…my trust…is anchored in the steadfast character and promises of my Father…
And not in my ability to keep me safe from the harshness of life.
In Him, I don’t have to be afraid to hope!
Psalm 25:3 – “No one who hopes in You will ever be put to shame.”
Let me see if I can illustrate this…
My daughter has a number of animals that she looks after, and she loves each one of them dearly. They are well looked after:D
However, some time ago, she endured a series of difficulties which saw a number of them pass away.
As I watched her horse…her cow…her colt…her cat…her rabbit…her dog…die…
As I hugged her while she cried on my shoulder…
I kept asking God, “What are You doing? How much can she take? It’s too much…” I struggled a lot, but finally came to the realization that He was her Father, and I had to trust that He knew what He was doing and that He would work this out for her good.
One day, my husband asked her, “How do you feel about your animals dying?”
“Daddy, I know that these light and momentary troubles are achieving for me an eternal glory in heaven that will outweigh them all.”
My breathe left my lungs…
God knew what He was doing!
Instead of her hope being disappointed by her troubles…her hope was being strengthened by the losses she was experiencing…
Because her hope was tied to her Heavenly Father and His faithfulness to fulfill His promises to her, and to turn the troubles of this life into an eternal glory in heaven.
It matters where we set our hope.
If we place it in outcomes, in circumstances or in ourselves we will experience disappointed hope. If we place our hope in God, instead of losing heart, our hope will be strengthened, because it is anchored…
In God Himself.
“In You, Lord my God, I put my trust. I trust in You; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. No one who hopes in you will ever be put to shame.” Psalm 25:1 – 3