We Can’t Save Them All

“Lord, I know we can’t save them all, but won’t You give me this one?” How often have I prayed this since the first calf was born here on our Cross-Dubya ranch? From an analytical perspective, our losses have been minimal compared to many. On a personal level, each one takes its toll. Sometimes I think to myself I’ve buried far too many in my life, it’s time to quit. My prayer these days is “I don’t know how this is gonna turn out Lord, but I trust You; and I will love and praise You, whatever the outcome.”

When a mother rejects its calf, that calf is called a “bummer.” While rejection didn’t happen in this case, “Dante” the bull calf was born a bummer. Unable to nurse her calf, it forced me to remove him from his mother within hours to save his life. Any time a new life enters this world, one immutable fact comes into play. Life’s clock starts ticking down the moment we’re born. Whether that happens in a few minutes, a few days, or 100 or more years later, all living things (plants, animals, and humans) will die. The only exception to this natural law is the eternal life humans attain upon their salvation through Christ Jesus. When truly saved in Christ, our souls become eternal. Salvation is the free gift of God for accepting His Son’s redemption for our lives through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Another fact of life I struggle with is that no matter what I do, I don’t decide when life ends. Be it a calf or my own life, I have no control over that predestined time established by God. Yes, there are things we can do to save, extend, or improve life, but I believe firmly it ends when God says it’s supposed to. Not one second before or after. Do I understand that? No. I can’t; I’m not God. Must I accept it? Yes; if I want any peace at all.

At the time of this writing, little “Dante” is resting in the barn atop a bed of hay with a heat lamp above him; protected from the wind and rain. Will he be alive at sunrise when I go out to check on him again? I can’t know for certain. All I can do is entrust his life to God and find whatever peace I can in knowing I’ve done everything possible to give him his best chance at life.

Being monogastric for the first few weeks of life, a ruminant animal (like a cow) is at serious risk of intestinal infection until their digestive system works as designed. There are lots of reasons, some natural and some human-induced, for these infections, but the result is called scours. In plain speak, scours is diarrhea caused by bacterial buildup within the ruminant animal’s abomasum. If there’s too much bacteria in the cow’s abomasum for too long, scours occurs.

This happened to little “Dante” last week. Treatments, beyond physical separation to prevent cross-contamination to the rest of the calves, include fluid therapy, medicines, and prayer. If scours develops into abomasal bloat, the prognosis becomes very poor. The biggest challenges are getting the calf to nurse (drink milk needed for energy) and hydrate itself to replace the fluids lost from the illness. Often, because they don’t feel good, they’ll not want to drink. When that happens, we have to resort to feeding them with an esophageal feeding tube. Not fun for human or calf, but a life-saving measure we must perform in those cases.

As “Dante” and I fight through this illness together, I’m doing three things.

  • Praying: Seeking God’s will and guidance
  • Blaming: Mostly myself through questioning my actions (Did I feed him enough colostrum? Did I feed him too much milk replacer? Was it mixed correctly? Did I let him drink too fast?)
  • Caring: Providing the best care I can for the little fella.

I told my vet the other morning, “I need to know that I’ve done everything possible to help this calf survive.” I further explained, “I don’t want God to tell me one day ‘You could have done more’.” As I thought about this on the drive home with different medicine and more knowledge, God showed me how this same thought applies to my loved ones. He (God) also reminded me of a lesson I learned years ago; “You can’t save them all.”

Accepting that we can’t save them all allows us the freedom to live joyfully. Share on X

Like many, God has burdened my heart for lost loved ones (family and friends) who may not know the Lord. While I can’t know the heart of another (whether they’re saved), I lament the idea of spending eternity with God without those I have loved in this life. I desire they share in the joy of eternity with God.

Whether a calf or a cherished friend of whom I am closer than a brother to, recognizing that I can’t save them all is something that brings my soul peace. This thought doesn’t make losing either any easier. But if I know in my heart I did the best I could and left what is God’s to God, then I can accept the loss. With my livestock, I can rest in knowing that I was the best caretaker for them I could be. Not perfect perhaps, but someone who did all I could to care for them.

For my family members and friends, of whom I can’t be certain of their salvation and adoption into God’s eternal family, I seek peace in my soul. Sowing seeds of faith God can use into their lives gives me that peace.

Our job is to sow the seeds of faith. God’s is to produce and gather the harvest. Share on X

It’s important I know that at the end of my earthly existence, I’ve done all I could do to care for all the blessings God entrusted to me. This gives me the peace and joy I need to enter into God’s reward—eternity with Him—with a clear conscience and joyful heart.

I pray that you too come to understand we can’t save them all. We find peace in knowing we’ve planted seeds of faith by shining God’s love into the lives of all those we care for.

God’s blessings,


65 thoughts on “We Can’t Save Them All”

  1. When I read the lead into this blog post, I knew immediately where you were headed, J.D. And, I thought of my own beloveds who have “refused to eat” (at the banquet of eternal life.) Thank you for the comfort your post brought to me, and know that I am praying for little Dante…and for you, my friend.

    1. It is that friendship and fellowship that blesses me so much Ms. Gena. Thank you ma’am; and thank you for your prayers for this little guy. I just came in from morning feeding, and he’s doing pretty well. He drank two quarts this morning, and was butting my leg hoping for more. Now, to get him eating some solid food so his rumen starts working soon and I think we’ll be “out of the woods” with this particular fella. Thank you, and God’s blessings. Will continue to pray for the prodigals in our lives.

  2. I so identify with your burning desire that not one of our loved ones perish in eternity’s judgment.
    With the help of Holy Spirit, we sow seeds and water when we have opportunities and leave the harvest to God. We are assured that God’s desire is that none perish.
    I hope little Dante makes it.
    Thanks again for this thoughtful lesson.

    1. So very well said Ms. Connie. We plant and water when we can. The rest is God’s to do. Amen ma’am. I’m praying he (Dante) does too. With all the extra care and attention he’s getting, he’s gonna be a most gentle bull I think. Thank you ma’am.

  3. Thank you Mr. Jim for this
    I am thankful for you and your wisdom and love of our Lord Jesus.
    Praying Dante gets better

    1. So appreciate your kind words and prayers for “Dante” Ms. Lisa. Praying you, Mr. Keith, the kids, and that darling little grandchild you’ve been blessed with are all doing well.

  4. This hits home my friend. I shared my love of Christ and tried to explain the relationship to my dad for years and he never really responded. When my younger son was about 10 he asked me if his Papou believed in God. I said – why don’t you ask him? He did (and I watched my dad’s face) – my dad said – of course I do. My dad passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly 6 years ago. The first few days I was so upset thinking I may not have gotten through to him. Then I had a dream and he was smiling and waving to me saying, I’m all right. I have to believe his answer to my son’s question was my dad’s profession of faith. We can’t save them all but we try my friend.

    1. So very true Ms. Ann. We can’t know for sure, but we trust that God does. His word tells us that He reaches out to every man, but it is man’s free will as to whether or not they accept God’s call upon their lives. I too pray I’ll get to meet your dad one day in glory ma’am. I’m sure he is a special man indeed. God’s blessings.

  5. You really spoke to my heart with this, J. D. There are so many folks I’ve worried about regarding their eternal rest, but we can only plant the seed in someone’s heart and pray that God will take it from there. Choosing salvation is a personal decision, one someone else can do for you, but we must remember we’ve done all we could.

    1. Yes ma’am. We can’t save anyone, but we can continue planting seeds and watering until God decides its time for them to come forth unto His kingdom. Well said ma’am.

  6. Such an important message for all of us to remember. Over the years, I have tried to beat myself up for not making a difference. I will remember that we can’t save them all. I can only do my part. Thanks JD. Praying for your little friend.

    1. Yes ma’am! Amen! It’s the “doing our part” that I worry about the most these days. I often wonder if my life is reflecting all that God has planned for me to do. I sometimes feel I have fallen woefully short of His plan for me.

  7. I love this. Jesus gave his life for all and faces the same heartbreak, knowing all will not receive his free gift. Such a wise and encouraging post, JD. Thanks for sharing. God has taught you a lot through Dante. I pray He spares his life…for Dante’s sake and yours. Have a blessed day!

    1. Thank you so much Ms. Starr; and thank you for your thoughts and prayers for “Dante.” He ate pretty well this morning, so am hoping we’re turning the corner on this. Still, it’s God’s call, and either way, we’ll honor Him. God’s blessings ma’am; and congratulations on yesterday’s release of “Emma’s Quest.” Well done author!

    1. Never be sorry for making time from your busy day to allow me to intrude into your life dear friend. I am always grateful for every person who reads my posts; and am doubly blessed with they respond with such encouraging thoughts as you do ma’am. God’s blessings; and pray you, Mr. Mike, and the younguns are all doing well. Also, please say “Hey” to your sweet Texas sister and mama.

  8. I know we can’t save them all, but like you are striving to do with Dante, we must try. You’ve worked hard for the little fellow and have done the best you can. I’m reminded to ask myself, “Are you doing all you can to save others by sharing the Good News of Jesus with them?” I pray God will show me the way.

    1. Amen Ms. Katherine. While I haven’t witnessed your kindness and love for God in person, I read it in your blog posts, and see it in your PJNET appearances often ma’am. You embody the phrase “Walking the walk and not talking the talk.” God’s blessings gentle friend.

  9. How I would love to save them all. It’s something that bothers me having lost family. But your words bring peace to my heart. We can always trust the Lord. Thank you

    1. Yes ma’am. Ms. Sharon. I too wish I could wave my hands and make them all saved, but that’s not how God planned it. Forced compliance is not compliance but coercion. While I sometimes wish God hadn’t created us with free will, I am reminded often (especially when I allow my will to trump His) that there’s a reason I’m not God and can’t understand what only He can. God’s blessings ma’am.

    1. Amen Ms. Candyce. Sometimes I have to remind myself of the many times I’ve told co-workers and team members two immutable truths. “I’ll never ask you to do something I’m not willing to do myself” and “As long as you do your best, no one can ever ask more than that. I’ll have your back.” I think those are God-breathed words of wisdom. He gave His only Son for us; and He has always been there for us when we try to carry out His great commission. God’s blessings my sweet friend.

  10. Jeannie Waters

    What a good example you set, J.D. to do everything God assigns to us with excellence. He is worthy of our best which He takes and makes good. Ranch life offers golden nuggets about life with God which you beautifully share. Thank you for reminding us in our witness for Christ, we share and leave results in His hands.

    1. Not sure that I always succeed Ms. Jeannie, but I know I must always try. There’s been too much “mailing it in” in my life for me not to do my very best and every task. Some days, that’s a difficult standard to hold myself to, but like you ma’am, our God is worth the effort we make. God’s blessings ma’am.

  11. This sure blesses and reassures my tender heart as I grieve the earthly loss of my father. I am confident we will be together again — no matter how that plays out. I know it’ll be glorious once all is made new again. God is the ultimate Victor. May we rejoice in the promise, be comforted as we await that day, and strive to share the good news in word and deed.
    Hugs to my pal Mavric!

    1. Absolutely Ms. Mary. Until that day ma’am. And I will be sure to give ole Mavric a couple of extra treats from his pal, Ms. Mary. 😀 I mention your name and he lifts his head to see if you’re coming to visit him.

    1. Thank you Ms. Evelyn. Not quite the waterfront views I enjoy from your home, but it’s certainly my little slice of heaven here. With all the good and bad, it’s God’s classroom for me. 🙂

  12. J.D., who can’t identify with wanting a new life to make it? What a great analogy to wanting a soul to make it to heaven. I think of how Jesus loved the rich young ruler and let him walk away. That must have hurt Him so much. May I be faithful to do what I can and leave the results in His hands.

    1. Yes ma’am. It’s a difficult thing to do, because you know in your heart they’re “good people”, etc., but we have to let them use the free will God gave them every bit as much as God allowed us to reject or choose Him. If I know I’ve been faithful in prayer and petition, and done what God has equipped me to do, then I can rest in knowing “I did enough.” God’s blessings my friend. I’m glad you said “Yes” to God.

    1. Right backatcha Ms. Patty. Thank you ma’am. We do love our “little ones” don’t we ma’am? 🙂 Even the four-legged ones. Wish little Miss Jayme was here to help feed “Dante”. I can almost hear her squealing with delight already.

  13. I confess that when I saw the title, I cringed. I’m so glad little Dante is still alive and you can bet your bottom dollar I’m gonna pray for that little cow to make it. Thank you for taking good care of him.
    We do indeed need to do our part and let God do His. That’s the only solace we can glean. Like you said, we must trust God’s all-knowing Hand and accept His outcome though it may be difficult. This is one reason I could never live on a ranch. But I’m thankful there are ranchers like you. I just wish they ALL had the same level of compassion and dedication that you do.

    1. Thank you Ms. Karen. Each day, I think he’s “turning the corner” a little more, but I know how many times I’ve seen them relapse, etc. before. I probably won’t relax with this little guy until he’s six months old. Will hopefully re-introduce him to the herd next week, but I’m not rushing his recovery in this crazy weather we’re having. Thank you for the prayers ma’am.

  14. Excellent insight, brother J.D. I’m so sorry that Dante is having such a rough start in life, but I will pray for you both as you battle through.

    This reminds me of King David when he fasted and prayed for his son with Bathsheeba to be spared. After the baby died, David washed, changed clothes, worshiped, and ate. When asked why he fasted before the child’s death rather than after, David explained, “For I said, ‘Who knows. the Lord may be gracious to me, that the child may live.’ But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again?”

    I agree we must do all we can before it’s too late, but afterward, we must accept God’s will and timing. However, it still brings sorrow to our hurting hearts.

    1. What a great comparison Ms. Karen. If I’m honest, I see myself in the “King David Seeks Repentance” column more often than the “King David’s Wisdom” column, but I’ll take wins when I can get them. 🙂 As for little “Dante”, I’m thanking God for each moment of his young life. Will he grow up to be a herd bull and sire many progeny? God only knows. I’m just the blessed old rancher who gets to pour into his young life and help him achieve God’s destiny for his (Dante’s) life. I pray that I can do the same for the many people God has brought into my life. God’s blessings ma’am.

  15. I am thankful to be saved by God. Thank you for sharing your inspirational stories. I showed grandson Rowan one of the videos you posted of the calf drinking from the bottle. Rowan was fascinated that a baby cow could drink from the bottle. Even though we don’t live on a farm, you are teaching the young and old about the importance of caring for all of God’s creatures. 🙂

    1. Awww… thank you Ms. Mimi. Let little Rowan know that “Dante” drinks two bottles per day (almost a gallon each day). Perhaps one day he’ll get to visit a farm and meet calves, and kids, and other babies. They’re fun!

  16. JD, I have been thinking about this post tonight. Truly all we can do is plant seeds and keep praying for the Lord to do the rest. But like you, I want to plant as many seeds as I can. I’ll be praying for Dante, for his body to strengthen. Thank you for sharing your ranch life with us all. The lessons are precious!

    1. How very kind Ms. Joanne. Thank you ma’am. You’re prayers are certainly helping. We’re praying that “Dante” has gotten over the hump and is on the downside of this illness. We’re hoping to turn him out with his mama, siblings, and lots of cousins (some he hasn’t even met yet) tomorrow if he eats well in the morning. Thank you so much ma’am.

  17. Another enlightening piece. There seem to be so many adversities and obstacles to raising a healthy herd that it’s a wonder any of them make it. And the same with us sheep in the Lord’s flock. No, not all will be saved, but you’re a faithful custodian of your responsibilities to make sure you’re doing all you can to make sure they have an opportunity at Life.
    I hope the little guy continues to improve.

  18. Praying for little Dante and for you not to blame yourself no matter what happens. Likewise, we can’t make people believe but we can do all we can to witness and pray for them. Always wise examples you share, J.D. Blessings!

    1. It’s easy for Satan to try and convince us of how badly we fail in life, but with friends like you, it is pretty easy to remind myself that while we all struggle, we don’t have to struggle by ourselves. I have friends like you and Jesus! 😀

  19. Oh, my, J.D. How is little Dante doing? such a wonderful lesson for us all to do all we can to lead our loved ones to God. I know you’re doing all you can with prayer and medicine to help him!

    1. Thank you Ms. Kathy. “Dante” ate three pints of milk replacer tonight. I’m adding a little baking soda in with it, which I’m hoping helps with the last of his symptoms. He sure seems like he’s getting better ma’am. Thank you so much!

  20. When I first saw the image of Dante, and without reading the blog, I thought, “How cute. He is drinking from a bottle,” not realizing his life was in jeopardy because his mama was unable to nurse him. I pray that Dante pulled through.
    Indeed, we can’t save them all – beloved animals in our care or loved ones languishing without knowing Christ. But God’s tenderness, wisdom, and storytelling skill through you, JD, point the way giving everyone peace and joy. Blessings, my friend, Kathy

    1. Thank you so much Ms. Kathy. As my post indicates, there’s very little I can do except be faithful, pray, and give him the best care I know how. The rest is up to God. My job is to praise Him however this turns out. Admittedly, that’s difficult sometimes, but it’s the hard in which we grow and strengthen our faith muscles the most. God’s blessings ma’am.

  21. J.D. another powerful piece. Ranch life is so interesting to me and your spiritual analogies always drive home the point so well. I pray and hope little Dante is still doing well. I can’t imagine the heartache of burying any of these calves. It would so personal to try to save them all. In the same way, we are called to share the good news and God news with lost souls. It’s the Holy Spirit that draws souls to the Lord. May we be found faithful to never give up speaking and sharing and spreading the gospel and praying for souls to come to a realization of saving grace.

    1. Amen, and thank you, Ms. Karen. I so appreciate your kind words ma’am. It is difficult to keep praying faithfully when it seems we aren’t making any progress, but when we remind ourselves to trust the One who is in control, it makes it easier. Little “Dante” was released back to the herd on Saturday (after being in quarantine for two weeks) and seems to be doing remarkably well. In fact, his mama (who you may recall was unable to feed him) was able to from one side yesterday, so that was a blessing in itself. Normally, a mama cow who doesn’t nurse will ‘dry up’ in a few weeks, but that didn’t happen. What a wonderful blessing it was to see him running around with all his half-siblings, nursing mama, and enjoying time with the herd. God’s blessings ma’am.

  22. My heart can so identify with this Prayers! Prayers for you and the little fella. (*So happy to read that he is out and about)! God is good!

    1. Thank you Ms. LuAnn. He (“Dante”) is back out with his siblings and mama and seems to be thriving on good hay, fresh wheat, clean water, and a few mouthfuls of sweet feed each morning. 🙂 He’s still my “Pooh Bear” as I can still go up to him and offer him a little taste of honey on my finger. It’s such a delight to see him doing well. I thank God daily.

  23. Pingback: Growing Pains - J.D. Wininger, Christian Author

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