“There was a girl named Abigail who was taking a drive through the country with her parents when she spied a beautiful sad-eyed grey and white pony. And next to it was a sign that said, FOR SALE – CHEAP. “Oh,” said Abigail, “May I have that pony? May I please?”. And her parents said, “no you may not.” And Abigail said, “but I MUST have that pony.” And her parents said, “well, you can’t have that pony, but you can have a nice butter pecan ice cream cone when we get home.”
And Abigail said, “I don’t want a butter pecan ice cream cone, I WANT THAT PONY – I MUST HAVE THAT PONY.” And her parents said, “be quiet and stop nagging – you’re not getting that pony.” And Abigail began to cry and said, “if I don’t get that pony I’ll die.” And her parents said, “you won’t die. No child ever died yet from not getting a pony.” And Abigail felt so bad that when they got home she went to bed, and she couldn’t eat, and she couldn’t sleep, and her heart was broken, and she DID die – all because of a pony that her parents wouldn’t buy.”
– “Little Abigail and the Beautiful Pony” by Shel Silverstein
Oh Abigail! I will never forget reading about this little drama queen, fictional as she may be. My mother introduced me to this story at an early age, and I was equal parts intrigued and annoyed by Abigail. Oh, I could certainly relate to that juvenile feeling that I would die over losing an object of my affection. Yet the sheer nonsense of anyone dying over a mere pony for goodness’ sake – simply preposterous!
It’s often easy to see folly in someone else’s behavior. It is much, much harder to see the folly in our own. Yet truly, if we really think about it…do we not all have a “pony” in our own life, as it were? That which we feel we could simply not be happy without? I am inclined to believe that we all have a little bit of Abigail in each of us: an immature, selfish child always seeking for that which can not eternally satisfy. This makes for one foolish kind of woman…you might even say a headless horse-woman!
Today, as I consider Abigail’s ill-fated tale, I am reminded of this admonition given in Psalm 20:7-8:
Some trust in chariots, and some trust in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God. They are brought down and fallen: but we are risen, and stand upright.
The way I see it, we have two options here: trust in horses like Abigail, and die…or trust in the Lord, and live!
So which one will it be, friends? If you and I would be wiser than little Abigail and keep our heads about us, we would do well to remember three important truths about horses. Come, let us take a journey back in time to an ancient battleground. Here you can decide for yourself whether our trust is better suited with four-legged beasts, or with the One who made them…
The enemy rages; the battle is about to ensue. Seated atop my loyal steed, Astrapi, I wait amidst my comrades with a queer sense of both exhiliration and trepidation. I grip the reins with one hand, while resting my other on the hilt of my sword. Today I ride with confidence. My horse is no cheap trophy, but has seen his way safely through many battles. This day will be no exception! Astrapi and I ride as one. At the shout of our captain, we run full speed ahead in the direction of our foe. I am my father’s son; a mighty warrior. I will make him proud. I will not forget all he has taught me! I wield my sword and bring it in to contact with one enemy, then another, and then another. Many minutes pass, and beads of sweat begin to run down my brow as the sweltering sun beats down upon me. Our pace is declining, so I perceive that Astrapi is growing hot and weary as well as I. Will this battle continue forever? I swat at his sides and shout commands to him, but these methods do not seem to revive…
Have you ever felt completely confident, only to have reality smack you right in the face? Like the story above, a horseman may enter into battle with a sense of invincibility, but reality hits him hard when his horse begins to succumb to harsh weather conditions. Life can be like that for us. Everything seems to be going smooth sailing, yet in an instant our false sense of security is crumbled.
God’s word has more than a few things to say about those who trust in “horses”. One such passage states:
An horse is a vain thing for safety: neither shall he deliver any by his great strength. – Psalm 33:17
Now you might be thinking “oh please, this lesson doesn’t apply to me! I don’t even own a horse!”. Yet I am convinced that this message is applicable for all. See, our Lord uses horses time and time again in scripture to illustrate this idea of trusting in our own strength or abilities…or even in trusting in our present set of circumstances. Horses are those things in our lives which are temporal under the guise of eternal. Things such as wealth, happiness, success, popularity…the list goes on. Of course, we as christians know that our trust is to be in God alone. We all know this in theory, yet do we make it true of our lives? Ask yourself:
– Do you determine your worth by financial success? You are trusting in horses!
– Do you measure your joy by the fertility of your womb? You are trusting in horses!
– Do you find your safety/peace of mind in small-town-living? You are trusting in horses!
– Do you assemble for worship based solely on the niceties of other Christians? You are trusting in horses!
– Do you decide to have a positive attitude on account of your sound physical health? You are trusting in horses!
Every single one of these examples have something in common: they are all temporal.
Nothing mortal is enduring, and there is nothing sweet which does not presently end in bitterness. – Petrarch, Letter to Posterity (1367-72)
You can lose your job and go broke, your womb can refrain from producing life and leave you childless, a gunman can break into your home and murder your family, a Christian can hurt your feelings and cause offence, you can get the heartbreaking news that cancer has overcome your body and you only have a few months to live…
My dear friend, if you have trusted in horses then prepare to be disappointed in this world. Sometimes life will hurt so much it can suck the life right out of you. But if you have Jesus…oh! These things can never destroy.
The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the Lord. – Proverbs 21:31
Ponies aren’t perfect, thus they will inevitably fail.
Yet our God is love (1 John 4:8), and love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8)!
Who will you put your trust in? Don’t be a headless horsewoman!
A rapid turn of the head tells me that a foe has spotted a weak spot in my horse and I. He approaches us with sword held high…a haughty look upon his face. He swings his weapon wildly just above my head, but it fails to leave a mark as I bend out of its path. My enemy and I engage in battle, one against one, for several moments. He is fast, but his aim is lacking. I avoid his blows no less than three times before a crazed look enters his eyes. In rage, he leaps from his steed to the ground. Before I have time to act, he picks up the spear of a fallen warrior and thrusts it into Astrapi’s side. As my loyal horse falls to his knees, bringing me down with him, my enemy gives a devious laugh. He knows that our skirmish is nearly ended, for without Astrapi I have become weak and vulnerable. Halfheartedly, I dismount my fallen steed. Once more I lift my weapon; I will not be defeated without a fight! When sword meets sword, we both know that only one of us will walk away alive this day…
Death is as sure a part of life as birth. We all know death is inevitable, yet it still manages to take us by surprise time and time again. When a horseman goes into battle with a strong and healthy horse, the death of that horse seems far removed from reality. Yet, like our story portrays, a life can be snuffed out in an instant.
There are many deaths that will come in our lives, and they come in all different shapes and sizes. Physical death, spiritual death, the death of a friendship, the death of a marriage…and when these deaths come, they are almost always unexpected and tragic. If we’re not careful, these tragedies can leave us spiraling down a path of depression, dysfunction, and defeat.
- Let’s say you are married to the love of your life. You live in a gorgeous home in a ritzy neighborhood with your beloved husband. You have a steady job that you enjoy, along with a slew of hobbies you enjoy in your time off. You couldn’t be happier. One day, your husband comes home and says it’s over. He’s met someone else, and the scoundrel is abandoning you for her within the week. He files for divorce, and leaves you with few assets to get by on. Now you are alone, and your whole world has turned upside down. Will this be your defeat?
- Let’s say you are thriving in an office job that you love. Great schedule, great pay, great co-workers, great boss…it couldn’t get any better! Then one day your great boss moves on to a different job, and is replaced by a grumpy, unreasonable new boss. He is always pushing you around, with little thought to your feelings. It seems he is endlessly finding fault with you no matter the hard work you put forth. One day, as you try to reason with him about a new policy you find unfair, he fires you on the spot. Now you are jobless and putting out applications at fast food joints. Will this be your defeat?
- Let’s say your mom has suffered with breast cancer for the past few years. After enduring endless hours of chemotherapy, coupled with a strict diet and lots of exercise, she has finally been given a clean bill of health. For two months, you enjoy spending time together with no thought of sickness or grueling treatments. Then, on a routine check-up, she gets the sickening news that the cancer has returned. Within a few months, your precious mother has passed on. Will this be your defeat?
As generations come and go,
Their arts, their customs, ebb and flow;
Fate, fortune, sweep strong powers away,
And feeble, of themselves, decay.
– William Wordsworth, “The Highland Broach” (1831)
Death and loss can be absolutely devastating in all of their many forms. Yet for the true Christian, neither one can defeat us or steal us away from our faith. If they do, then it shows that our greatest trust was in those things that we lost – not in God. Robert Frost once so aptly penned, nothing gold can stay. At the end of the day, God is the only One with infallible staying power.
Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the Lord! …Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit. When the Lord shall stretch out his hand, both he that helpeth shall fall, and he that is holpen shall fall down, and they all shall fail together. – Isaiah 3:1,3
And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord, that I will cut off thy horses out of the midst of thee, and I will destroy thy chariots. – Micah 5:10
Equines aren’t eternal, thus they will inevitably die.
Yet our God is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last (Revelation 22:13).
Who will you put your trust in? Don’t be a headless horsewoman!
My slain enemy before me, I heave a sigh of relief. The battle around me is nearing its end. If only I can hold on for a few more minutes, I may yet live to see the welcoming sight of home. I lean over to remove my sword from my foe. In an instant, his hands reach up as if from the dead to deliver one last fatal blow with a dagger I knew not of. As I fall to the ground, I come to the agonizing realization that this is the end…
I never was one to pray, but as I lay perishing I can only wish that I knew how. Perhaps if there was a God he might see fit to ease my suffering, if only a mite. If truth be told, I never thought of myself as one to die an untimely death. I was trained for times such as these! War has been a constant companion to me since I was a youth. Why then should I die, when others of my fellows will return valiantly home to father and mother…wife and children? This agony is more than I can bear! My breathing is quickly becoming labored. The torment of my pierced side is a bleak reminder that in only a few moments, I will fade into utter blackness. In a matter of time, my name will be forgotten. I will, in a word…be nothing.
The death of one who has spent his whole life trusting in horses is a death with no hope. What does such a one have to look forward to? In the end, there is no satisfaction in horses. They will fail, they will die, and they will disappoint. Such is the case with anything that we trust in other than Jesus.
…what profit hath he that hath laboured for the wind? – Ecclesiates 5:16b
Happiness is dependent upon outward circumstances; joy is dependent upon inward circumstances.
It seldom happens that any felicity comes so pure as not to be tempered and allayed by some mixture of sorrow. – Cervantes, Don Quixote (1605-15)
If our trust is in the right place, then nothing will be able to shake us! Our circumstances will cease to rule over us, and instead of our feelings, our faith will have the final say.
Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses: neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods: for in thee [in God] the fatherless find mercy. – Hosea 14:3 (clarification added)
Horses aren’t happiness, thus they will inevitably disappoint.
Yet God will cause all who trust in Him to “ever shout for joy” (Psalm 5:11)!
Who will you put your trust in? Don’t be a headless horsewoman!
If you ever get sucked into that old trap of trusting in horses, just remember:
Ponies aren’t perfect, equines aren’t eternal, and horses aren’t happiness! (Yet God is all of those things and so much more.)
When our trust is in God, we have a steady stability that brings about true peace. We know that no matter what comes our way, we are headed for a joyous eternity…and we can rest easy in that. When we trust in horses, we are allowing ourselves to board an emotional roller coaster that will only lead to hurt and disappointment in the end. One choice is based in absolute truth, the other is based on circumstance. Everyone should keep in mind that circumstances are ever-changing. To rest in circumstances is to rest in uncertainty. That’s not good enough for me! Is it good enough for you?
Let it never be said of us that we were headless horse-women. Rather, let each of us place our full trust in God…and be horseless Head-women!
He delighteth not in the strength of the horse: he taketh not pleasure in the legs of a man. The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy. – Psalm 147:10-11
For God’s Glory,
Chelsea Bolks is a church of Christ minister’s wife, and the home educating mother of two children. She and her family currently reside in Northwest Iowa.