“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
If you follow horse racing at all – as I do, especially during the Triple Crown season – you’ve likely heard of Justify. Earlier this month he became only the 13th horse ever to capture the Triple Crown by winning the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes. Really, there is nothing like watching a special horse like that run with such strength and power when history is on the line.
Of course, it’s too soon to say that Justify belongs in the same company as all-time greats like Seabiscuit and Secretariat. Seabiscuit was a little-regarded horse that wasn’t expected to be competitive; instead, he ended up inspiring the nation during the Great Depression by winning race after race – including a famed 1938 match race with heavily favored War Admiral. Overlooked at birth and for much of his early life, Seabiscuit just seemed to have an incredible will to win. We might say that he had “heart.”
In the case of Secretariat, he really did have heart – literally. Secretariat’s massive, basketball-sized heart weighed a whopping 22 pounds compared to the average thoroughbred heart size of roughly 8.5 pounds. While the horse most consider the greatest of all time ran with complete abandon and outclassed every horse for the 1973 Triple Crown, there was little chance any of them could have matched Secretariat’s physical ability to pump oxygen-rich blood.
Of course, heart and winning don’t always go hand-in-hand. Most of us weren’t born as champions, and that means that we have to keep working and trying even in the face of inevitable defeat. No horse embodies this more perfectly than Haru Urara, the Japanese thoroughbred filly that finished her 113-race career without a single victory. In 2003, as Japan was in the midst of an economic slump, the nation began rooting for Haru Urara as she continued to chase after an elusive victory. On May 23, 2004, she missed by just 0.3 seconds – the closest she would ever come. Undaunted, she ran four more times, always in front of packed stands at the track in Kochi, Japan. Singlehandedly, this “little horse who couldn’t” saved the track from certain closure. Though she never won a race, Haru Urara won the hearts of millions of horse racing fans around the world, just because she never gave up.
In the Bible, the best word we have for “heart” is “courage.” We are constantly reminded to “be strong and courageous” and to not give in to fear. Instead, the Lord asks us to keep moving ahead and to rely on Him to be there for us along the way. You may be facing some challenging situations or, as Haru Urara did, “long odds.” We aren’t always guaranteed first place, but the Lord does promise an ultimate victory if we just keep running his race.
Today, pray that the Lord will strengthen you for whatever He has in store for you today. If you sense fear starting to creep in, pray for the courage to just take the next step. Have faith that the Lord will give you the strength for the next step after that.
Reflection copyright © 2018 Doug DeBolt.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.