Years ago I spent several days with my aging father and mother in Tennessee on their little farm. At breakfast, Daddy said, “Libby, come, take a ride with me. One of the cows didn’t come to the barn last night. I’m afraid she’s dropped her calf and is in trouble.”

My father carried many heavy responsibilities: editing a Christian newspaper that went into 250,000 homes every week, a daily radio broadcast, a publishing company with more than 60 employees, a demanding evangelistic preaching schedule. But last night, one of his cows didn’t come to the barn and he was deeply worried about her welfare. So he put his demanding world on hold while he went to find her.

He saddled his horse MacArthur and saddled Jill for me. We rode through several pastures before we found the heifer, lying on her side in a little hollow, a small, wobbly calf leaning on her side.

“She’ll die if we don’t get her to the barn, get her on her feet, and give her water,” Daddy said anxiously. We rode back to the barn, where he pulled out a canvas sheet attached to a board. He’d learned how to make a “drag sled” growing up on a ranch in west Texas. I remembered I’d seen pictures of Indians using something like that.

When we got back to the cow, Daddy gently rolled the mother cow onto the canvas, tied the board with ropes to MacArthur’s saddle, mounted him, and then gently set the horse to drag her to the barn. Her calf tottered after us, bawling in distress. Daddy chose a careful path, avoiding rough patches that might hurt the poor animal. Back at the barn Daddy and Mr. Martin, his friend and helper, got the cow onto her feet with slings and in just a little while she was drinking water, her calf contented beside her.

Only then did Daddy drive to his office to resume his burden of grave responsibilities. “The godly,” Proverbs 12:10 reminds us, “are concerned for the welfare of their animals.” Because Daddy was a godly man, the need of that poor cow in distress took precedence over all the important duties that required his attention.

That day I understood better the joy the Lord Jesus felt when He left all the business of running the universe to come to earth to rescue us poor lost sinners. Jesus said all His pain and suffering would be worthwhile, if only He could save us! The parable of the lost sheep expresses it well:

What man of you, having a hundred sheep,
if he loses one of them,
Does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness,
and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?
And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors,
saying to them,
“Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.” Luke 15:4-6

It was such a joy to see that cow rescued from certain death, content and happy with her calf beside her!

But I am shamed when I ask myself the question, “How often have I thought what I was doing so important that I didn’t even notice someone who desperately needed Jesus? What in the world was on my ‘to do’ list that day that was conceivably more important than the welfare of an eternal soul?” There’s a simple answer to that question, and with God’s help I want to answer it well.

A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford