Lost In The Canadian Wilderness

(A trial of trusting God, plus insights into answered prayer)

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.”

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 looking for the item ... 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! 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 ... 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 that you receive them, and you will have them.”

I added the black explanation in bold brackets and highlighted in yellow two key insights to this promise. Expect doubt to be your number one enemy when you ask God for whatever it is you are asking Him for.

This is vitally important ... so ask God to quicken it to you, and trust Him that He will in His time and in His ways:

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 in what is first . . . best for Him - others -and you - is what can be very difficult, because we want instant results -- instant feedback from God.

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.


In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. -- Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV)