IN THE CANADIAN WILDERNESS
(A trial of trusting God, plus insights into answered prayer)
If you would like to watch this testimony on video: http://www.vimeo.com/17984644
By: Norm Rasmussen
Losing the trail in the Canadian wilderness was bad enough, but we had fought a cold, hard rain all day and now our clothing and sleeping bags were sopping wet.
The three of us had one destination in mind. The old Mellema cabin on Guide Lake (That was a nickname Hank and Roger Mellema gave it, the two brothers who first introduced the lake to me, bless their hearts. The lake's actual name is Penelope Lake) in Ontario, Canada. If the cabin was still standing, there we at least would have a roof over our heads for the night, even if no one had left any dry firewood, which was usually the case. But the cabin might just as well have been thousands of miles away, because I had no idea now how to lead the two boys there.
It was early June, 1985. I was 38 years old. Brian Nielson was age 16, and Brian Rasmussen, my son, was age 15. Our backpack trip into this remote Canadian Lake was for seven days. To accommodate our stay, we had 5 large backpacks chock full of supplies, a 17-foot aluminum canoe, a 22-lb. boat motor, and other items tied about us.
The problem confronting us right from the very beginning was that the wilderness trail to the lake was covered over from downed trees. One or more windstorms had gone through, covering it with piles of downed trees and limbs. I must confess at this point that I was probably unwise for even having us out there. For two weeks prior I had not had a good night's sleep due to stress at work and the stress of moving into a new house. Mentally and physically fatigued to the bone from days previous, I had now driven from southern Michigan into Canada for hours on end without rest.
On our first lake crossing, we nearly tipped the top heavy canoe over a couple of times from strong wind gusts. Had that happened, all our supplies would have gone to the bottom of the lake and the trip would have been over before barely getting started.
Once we started walking on foot, we had to push hard to make it to Guide Lake by dark - over piles of downed trees - around piles of trees that were too big to climb over. Carrying a cumbersome 80-pound canoe through that Canadian wind-ravaged jungle didn't help, and now suddenly 3/4 of the way to the lake, we somehow managed to stray off the trail and we were lost.
It was time to pray. Pray and trust. We joined hands. "Lord - I'm not sure I've done the right thing. I promised these boys a fishing trip for months now, and I didn't want to back out at the last minute. All three of us believed your blessings were upon this trip, so we came. But Lord, my head is spinning. I'm having trouble with disorientation, and I've been an outdoorsman long enough to know that I'm putting all three of us in serious jeopardy. If we don't find the trail again soon, we're going to be spending the night and maybe longer out here in the freezing rain, and all of us may end up with pneumonia. So Lord - we're asking you for help. We're trusting you to show us the trail."
Half an hour later we found the trail!
Half an hour later we found the trail! We were so thankful. Then, half an hour after that we lost the trail again that led to the lake. And that's when discouragement really started setting in. We were shaking from our cold, wet clothing. My boy had fallen from fatigue and jammed a broken limb into his thigh. There was severe swelling - possibly a broken blood vessel. I had twisted an ankle, and it throbbed. Discouragement and fatigue was eating so badly at the boys that I knew I had to do something to get their minds off it. I sent them back to get some of the supplies left behind, telling them to mark their route with bits of toilet paper periodically draped off limbs so they could find their way back to me.
Standing all alone in the cold pouring rain, I realized my relationship with Christ was now about to be tested beyond anything I had ever dreamed. "Lord, these boys have put their trust in you back there when we prayed the first time. You came through. But now their faith is almost gone. We've lost the trail again going to the lake. What do you want me to do? They are expecting me to find the way to the lake."
Proverbs 3:5-6 came to mind as it had the first time we lost the trail. I began to pray:
"Lord -- you know where the trail is. All you have to do is show us where it is at. Proverbs 3:5-6 says that if I will trust in You with all my heart, and not rely solely on my own reasoning abilities, you will direct my path. Well Lord - I have no ability whatsoever in knowing how to find the trail, otherwise I wouldn't even be praying this prayer, so I believe I'm doing what the scripture promises, and I believe you'll help me find the path again, even if you have to send an angel to show me."
After that I stood there in silence, waiting for God to do whatever He was going to do. I had done all I knew to do.
Then doubt began to invade my mind: "What makes you think God is going to help you? You got yourself into this mess - you get yourself out of it. You're trying to make God your magic Genie, and God doesn't obligate Himself to do that."
Logic was agreeing. But I didn't know how to get us out of this mess, other than turn around and go back to the car and call the fishing trip off. Was that what God wanted me to do, I began to reason?
Yet there was small part of me that concluded that I had every right to trust the Lord to show us where the trail was. He had done so once; why not a second time?
To drown out the nagging voices of doubt, I raised my hands to the sky and began to praise God out loud. This was principle now. This was spiritual battle. Determination eventually kicked in and I decided I was going to stand there in the cold rain praising Him until I collapsed to the ground if that is what it took. I was becoming so angry at the situation -- I started telling myself that I would die in that spot praising and trusting Him, if that is what it took! I was not going to give up. This was a showdown in my mind. Either God could be trusted, or He couldn't. There would be no turning back, no matter how much doubt was telling me God wasn't going to honor my trusting Him, and I was an utter fool for even believing He would.
I stood there praising Him for about ten minutes or maybe longer. (I had no clue at that time how VITAL praise is -- to be included in our prayers and trust to God ... but God was trying to teach me something about it in this trial that is CRUCIAL for maintaining peace and breakthrough with God!). Then it happened. A calm came over me, and His still small voice ... that voice I had heard now and then in times past - He was now letting me hear it again in my thoughts:
"Remember that time I taught you how to track that wounded deer? (My first Michigan whitetail buck shot with a rifle). You were looking several feet ahead of you for the blood trail. Remember I told you to get down on your hands and knees and look only inches ahead of you for drops of blood? The same applies here. Stop looking so far through the forest over the tops of windfalls, and start looking under them. Walk over to where you lost the trail ... get down and look under the brush and keep doing that every few feet. You'll find where the trail is. Think inches and a foot or two at a time, instead of what your eyes would normal look for in walking down a trail that is clear."
His answer was so simple. Why hadn't I thought of that! Probably because I was so mentally an physically fatigued.
Well ... It worked! Starting with a few inches at a time ... with my face nearly kissing the muddy trail ... inch by inch and foot by foot I was able to see which way the trail led. I had been assuming the trail was supposed to continue straight ahead, when in reality it had made an abrupt near-90 degree turn at just the wrong place and I kept looking for the trail to go straight when I needed to do a major right turn to stay on it.
Seventy-five yards later the trail cleared out near the top of the ridge and the going became smooth down the other side. I half ran down the trail, all the way to the edge of the lake. Yes, the beautiful lake!
Back to the canoe I headed. We didn't have much daylight left. Arriving at the canoe and supplies, I didn't find the boys there. I started walking back toward the way we had come, yelling for them. Finally, I heard distant shouts. They had lost the trail again and were wondering around in a thick swamp a few hundred feet off the trail, disoriented.
When I called them to the trail where I was standing, I casually sad, "I've seen the lake, guys."
"Sure you have. You're hallucinating, Dad," my son commented, his face hanging off his ankles and his thigh pounding in pain from overexertion. "Don't play games with us. We're in no mood."
"Boys, I'm telling you, Jesus is faithful. He promises us in Hebrews 13:5 that He'll never leave us or forsake us, though I realize we have to somehow keep trusting Him as Proverbs 3:5-6 says we need to do. And He hasn't! He told me how to find the trail again. I've followed it all the way to the lake!
"Prove it!" came their challenge.
I did. You've never seen two happier faces in all your life, as we stood on the shore of Guide Lake ... one-half hour before dark.
But my boy's thigh was swollen big where he had injured it. He lay on his back, so much in pain from it. What greatly worried me is that he had ruptured a blood vessel in the exact same spot a year previous while wrestling. Did he re-rupture it?, I worriedly questioned. Was he going to bleed to death miles away from civilization? I again went to prayer, asking the Lord to clearly speak to me as to whether we should turn around and get back to our car as quickly as possible and drive him to the nearest hospital ... or would he heal his thigh and give us His blessing to continue forward.
I waited for His answer in my spirit. It wasn't long, and I felt He impressed me to ask Brian Nielson and myself to lay hands on my son's thigh, and command it to stop bleeding and be made whole in Jesus' name, and then keep moving forward. Thus we did.
Tired - exhausted - shaking - aching - throbbing - wounded . . . but with thankful hearts, we loaded the canoe and headed across the lake. Rounding the last bend, we saw the cabin still standing. Lopsided a bit, but praise God, still standing!
We opened the rickety old cabin door and there it was! The most beautiful sight we could ever hope to see. A dry stack of firewood to stoke the pot-bellied stove and warm our soaked clothes and sopping wet sleeping bags! There never is a dry stack of wood waiting in early spring in that cabin. Canadian snowmobilers that ice-fish the lake in the winter break into the cabin and burn it all up during the winter to stay warm, and never replenish it for those who hike into the lake in the spring. (They didn't care much for American's camping on their lake.)
We didn't get the best night's sleep, but once the sleeping bags dried out, we all caught up on our sleep the next evening ... after catching some fresh, delicious-tasting lake trout for dinner, that is.
A simple little testimony, but for me, it was one of the biggest tests I had ever undergone up to that point in my walk with the Lord. Only God will ever know how tempted I was to get angry at Him out there on that lonely trail, for the issue was not whether He would be faithful or not and show us the trail into the lake a second time, but rather, would I persevere and keep trusting Him under the heavy barrage of doubt that assailed my mind, and the anger against God that was trying to overtake me?
Maybe you are going through a time in your life right now where you are not sure what to do about something or another. Have you asked the Lord what to do, and chosen to stand on the promise of Proverbs 3:5-6? I quoted this scripture promise to God while I was standing out there in the cold Canadian rain ... telling Him that I was trusting Him to direct my path to re-find the path ... though there was something inside my brain trying to tell me I was absolutely a fool to be doing so. That little voice kept telling me that I had gotten us into this mess and it was my responsibility to get us out of the mess. "It wasn't God's problem, after all, so don't expect God to bail you out."
Well and good ... except do any of us truly know how delighted God might be if we'll trust Him in our "impossible situations" for some guidance? Afterall ... who gets the glory when He comes through for us like He did for the three of us? He gets it, doesn't He?
Isn't that what we are all born to do? Glorify God with our lives? When it seems like you just don't know what to do ... why not ask the Lord what you should do, and patiently trust until He gives you clear direction? There is nothing more exciting than watching God come through when all else seems to be hopeless. He seems to rather delight in it, I've grown to realize. It gives us greater occasion to tell others of His goodness, and it gives us a foundation of trust to build on for the future ... when we face our next trial.
There is a saying that seriously contradicts Proverbs 3:5-6, which says: "God helps those who help themselves." This is the greatest hindrance in obeying Proverbs 3:5-6 that the devil has ever handed the human race! The fact of the matter is ... God delights when we daily seek Him for guidance when we aren't sure what to do. It is times like this in our lives when we draw closer to God, and God loves it when we purpose to draw closer to Him.
As a side note to this testimony, my wife and I have learned a very valuable insight about praying and trusting God. Kathleen and I are forever losing (misplacing) important things in our house. About half a dozen times a year it seems, we will lose something around the house, and search everywhere we can think of to find what we are looking for. If you've ever experienced this, it can become very frustrating, because you would rather be using your time doing something you feel is a lot more important than being on a "forever Easter egg hunt." Besides - the item you are looking for shouldn't be all that hard to find anyway!
When this happens to us ... after the one who lost the item usually has worked him/her self into an emotional tizzy-fit ... the other one suggests we get God involved.
We come together in prayer and ask the Lord to show us where the lost item is, because He certainly knows where it is. All He has to do is show us. Not difficult for Him at all.
Here has been the most interesting thing for years now of putting this prayer into practice. In the beginning, we would just ask Him to show us where the lost item was ... and discovered that it almost always took several weeks or months before accidentally stumbling across the lost item, and sometimes not finding it at all.
But God began to challenge our continual doing it that way. God began to speak to our spirit's, saying every time we asked: "Are you going to trust Me to help you find it?"
The first several times of asking and trusting that He would help us find it, mind battles of doubt and logic would start ... much like the mind battle I had in Canada that time waiting for Him to show me how to re-find the trail. We discovered quickly that it's easy to ask God for something ... but what triggers spiritual warfare (mind battles) quickly is the trusting part!
Yet when we told God out loud that we were going to trust Him to help us find the lost item, after we had asked Him to help us find it of course, and then just giving the whole thing over to Him and we would stop fretting and being so anxious about the matter ... it was truly amazing how quickly we stumbled across the lost item. Sometimes within just a few minutes!
I purposely tried both methods (Asking alone; and asking and trusting) just to see if there was truly something to this. When something was lost or misplaced, I would ask God to help me find it. Like I said earlier ... many times it took months to find the item. But when I asked God to help me find it, and told Him I would actively trust Him to show me where it was ... I would find it in mere minutes or maybe an hour or two at the longest -- and not even be looking for it when I found it sometimes! On rare occasion, it was longer, but God always has a reason for delaying the finding of it right away, I also discovered, if there is much of a delay.
Did we have any knowing faith that God would show us where the lost item was? In the beginning, no. The first few times ... we would just tell God we were going to trust Him to help us find the misplaced item if it He wanted to ... and we would purposely quit looking for the lost item.
But after finding lost items so quickly upon trusting with our asking, our confidence began to grow that God would show us where the lost item was much quicker simply because He had times before. When you have personal testimonies to build on like that ... they can go a long way toward building one's assurance that God will keep coming through time and time again. If He chooses not too, that's fine. But why even let that be a concern? Ask and trust and see what happens. What is there to lose?
I have to believe that this is an important principle we all can learn by. Jesus told His disciples something that was recorded for believers today. He told them in Mark 11:22:24:
"Have faith in God. (Confident, patient, calm trust.)
For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will come to pass, he will have whatever he says.
Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe [Trust?] that you receive them, and you will have them."
When you ask God for anything ... believe or trust that He not only hears your request, but that He is going to give you wisdom and/or specific direction in what your part in it might be ... or might not be.
Keeping it simple -- anyone can ask God for something. That takes no spiritual energy to speak of. Trusting Him that He is going to respond to your request as He best sees fit is the hard part, but He WANTS us doing so. I'm fully convinced of it!
First of all, the demon/s assigned to you have no intention of allowing that to happen easily. Secondly, sometimes God will wait years before He makes our path clear in certain matters. He always has a good reason for doing so, you can be assured of. Making us wait for direction from Him tries our faith like little else will, and remember - the trying (testing - refining) of our faith is more precious to God than all the material wealth of this world. (See: 1 Peter 1:7).
In other words, ask and trust God to reveal His will to you (or what He knows is best for you) in a given situation first before just going off zealously trying to believe God for something that He isn't maybe going to honor anyway. Some want to make you think God is obligated to honor everything you ask and trust Him for. Not so at all, and you'll learn that the hard way if you haven't already. It must be in His will (His will is His wisdom for your life, and the journey He has planned for you until your life here on earth is done) for Him to honor your asking and trusting, or believing (or "saying," for that matter).
Keep this in mind as well, because it is so important. The above scripture Jesus gave to His disciples is not a formula to get out of God whatever we would like to get out of Him. There are no formulas to do that. There are guidelines - but never formulas. You can ask and believe God for a new multi-million dollar mansion and live your whole life never having God grant you your request if God determines it simply was a selfish request and serves no eternal purpose that He grant you your request and honor your trust (nor your constant speaking positively about it if you are trying to make your confession a formula). The devil delights in getting us to ask selfish requests and put trust and/or positive confession behind them (knowing full well God seldom grants our selfish requests) to help try to destroy our confidence in God, so be very careful about what you ask God for and decide you're going to trust Him for and/or confess. You want your confidence in God to grow ... not be reversed, (as the devil desires).
Which leads me to the next insight into answered prayer:
Ask God, and trust God to show you -- if what you would like from Him is a selfish request on your part, or a bonafied need at the time. God is no magic Genie. However ... sometimes God will grant us personal requests that someone else might consider to be selfish. Sometimes God wants to bless us just to show us how much He wants to reward us at a given season in our life for being obedient to Him.
It was not a "need" that we find the trail into Guide Lake to have a fun fishing trip. That was a personal, selfish desire on our parts, yet God chose to bless our trusting ... and maybe the fun we had at the lake that week had absolutely nothing to do with why He did ... but rather - maybe He did so, knowing you would be reading this right now ... challenging you to begin trusting Him in some seemingly difficult situation you may be in right now that looks totally impossible to find a way out of.
[Tuck this away. God promised Abraham that if Abe would trust Him, He would take him to the promise land. Abe trusted, and at Abe's funeral, no doubt his surviving family mocked his "ridiculous" faith for seeking to be obedient to God his entire life ... and never finding the promise land. If you read all of Hebrews, God tells us that "city" Abe was trusting God to help him find was waiting for him in heaven ... yet that wasn't the point at all. The point God wants believers to understand is that it isn't nearly as important as we think it is to have our hope realized in this life. What is most important is our obedience to walking out what we believe God wants us to walk out. Our obtaining a prize isn't what is most important to God in this life. Our faith that we are doing what He desires for us to be doing is what matters most to God, and what we'll be rewarded for the most in eternity!]
It was Jesus who said in Mark 9:23: "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes."
Faith comes from God. Trust come from us, because trust first takes a decision on our part.
Yes -- I realize both faith and trust are gifts of God's grace to a person, but that still doesn't negate the fact that we must activate trust for it to work. It takes a decision our our part to activate it.
Trust can be considered the foundation (or launching pad) to receive mountain-moving faith from God ... if God chooses to impart it to you for a given need -- for a given situation.
My experience is that He only imparts mountain-moving faith for a given situation if one's primary purpose of using it is for the glory of God.
I believe God is constantly searching for those He can trust to impart His mountain-moving faith to for specific situations. You may be one of those He desires to.
Can He trust you to be imparted with it right now if He desires to -- or perhaps a time in the future when He desires to impart it to you?
A burning desire to glorify God is the first requirement. The second is to inquire of Him and be confident in what He is saying to you, rather than just assuming or being presumptuous. The third is to take action by stepping out of the boat and start walking on water. That requires both obedience and love. Obedience to what God is asking you to do at the time ... and a love for God that totally overrides any possibility that even if you fail at walking very far on the water ... you at least tried to do something that would give God glory you would not have been able to do otherwise.
Peter walked on water for a little season, then sank, because doubt and fear overpowered the faith he had been given for the occasion. Never forget though ... Peter has a testimony He can give glory to God for that will honor God throughout eternity.
God may not be exhorting you to "walk on water" right now: He might be asking you to do something much more difficult ... like believe for someone's very life or soul!
God was not upset because Peter wanted to walk on water. God was delighted in fact, that Peter wanted to walk on water. What "seemed" to upset Jesus was that Peter gave in so quickly to the demonic attack upon his mind that activated his doubt and fear at the moment.
Was Peter's testimony a wipe-out, embarrassing dud then? Absolutely not! Jesus knew that it would serve an eternal purpose to readers like you and I that we too can "walk on water" if God exhorts us to ... yet also realizing that we must guard against doubt, fear and unbelief ... which is often cloaked in what we call "human logic."
God wants us to be wise in the decisions we make, but He also wants us realizing from Proverbs 3:5-6 that human reason -- human logic alone (which almost always includes impatience) can be the very hindrance in seeing God move supernaturally in our situation, or in the situation in someone else's life.
In closing ... if I can pass along anything I've learned to help someone else in finding peace with Proverbs 3:5-6, it is to NOT rush God. God's time is usually not our time, but God's time is ALWAYS the right time. Begin to question that, and you can find yourself having to wait for God to move a whole lot longer than necessary, I've had to learn, or not move at all sometimes, to teach us a lesson. In addition, don't get so focused on expecting God to do something for you that puts Him "in a box." I firmly believe God likes to do things differently at times just to reveal to us His mind-boggling creativity!
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your on understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. -- Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV)
A writing that addresses the same topic of this testimony for anyone interested: http://www.precious-testimonies.com/MEncouragerArchives/NeverLoseYourTrustInTheLord.htm
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