Trusting God Through The Storm

About 11 years ago we bought a house. It was our second home and it was about as close to our dream home that we were going to get. It was walking distance to the school I teach at. The kids could grow up there and be able to attend the high school where I teach. It was a new home and a blank canvas. We could make it anything we wanted it to be. We felt really blessed to be able to buy this house and looked forward to many years there. With the financing we got, we were able to buy more home than we could afford at the time and my wife could stay home with the kids (we had a 2 year old and twins on the way). My teacher’s salary would go up, as it does every year and, by the time the mortgage adjusted, the house would be worth enough to refinance and my salary would be enough for the higher payments. It was a good plan and one we felt certain God had led us to.As we all know, mortgage rates jumped, home prices collapsed, and many salaries, including mine dropped. When our mortgage adjusted, my salary was not enough to cover the payment and we were upside down on the mortgage and could not refinance. The program for “Making Homes Affordable” didn’t and we were forced to sell our home in a short sale.

I was confused as to why God would lead us to this wonderful home and then take it away. I kept asking for answers and for clarity. What was I supposed to do now? I found myself in the middle of a storm that I didn’t see coming. I was suddenly moved from a place of security to a place of desperation.

In Mark, chapter 4, we read the disciples were in a much more dire situation. The literal storm that had come upon them suddenly, had them fearing for their lives… While Jesus slept, appearing not to care; appearing not to be doing anything.

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (?Mark? ?4?:?35-41? NIV)
In the midst of the storm, Jesus expected the disciples to know that He had it all under control. I think there are two significant points of the story. First, is that Jesus is in control and we should trust Him. The other, though, is that He is able to surprise us with what He is able to do, no matter how well we think we know Him.

Jesus calmed the storm and then asked His disciples why they didn’t trust Him. I’m pretty sure He has said that to me, as well, more than once.

This is not the only time Jesus taught about trusting God. Early in His ministry, during the Sermon On The Mount, Jesus compared our Heavenly Father to a caring earthly father.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (?Matthew? ?7?:?7-11? NIV)
Jesus tells us that is is OK to ask… no, He encourages us to do so. Our Father loves us more than any earthly father could, so, of course, He will give us what we need. Not necessarily what we think we need, but what He knows we need.

I still struggle with this sometimes. I know God loves me. I know He is able to do all things, including helping me through my storm, but why would He, when so many others need more than I do? The answer is there in Jesus’ message. It doesn’t say “those who really need it…” or “those who ask first… or loudest… or most often…” He says “EVERYONE who asks…”

Even me. Even you.
So, we moved into a rental, still walking distance to my work and the kids’ school. It was smaller, but a perfect home for us for the time being. We were able to set money aside over the next 3 years and rebuild our credit score. We always put God first and never varied in our tithing and offerings given through our church, where we regularly attend. This last year, God blessed us with a home to buy. No fancy financing this time. Not a lot of bells and whistles. Still, a nice home, in walking distance to school and work, with enough rooms for each kid to have their own. And a lot of projects to do to make it our own. I’ll be working on those for a while.
I can almost hear Him;
“Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

If you are not currently in a storm, you either have been recently, or will be soon. We all have storms. We all have doubts. Sure, we should be praising God and building our relationship with our Savior all the time, but it’s during these storms that we fall to our knees and cry out to Him. 

This is when we learn to rely on Him. It’s a common christian myth that God will never give us more than we can handle, but He will certainly never give us more than He can handle. At least some of the storms we face are because God wants us to rely on Him. He wants us to admit that we need Him.

Every time we cry out to God, it’s for a want of more of something. More security. More courage. More strength. More health. More love. More shelter. More wisdom.

James tells us:
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. (?James? ?1?:?5-8? NIV)

What is your storm? What do you need to rely on God for right now. Jesus tells us to ask… to seek… to knock. This is a natural progression towards answered prayer. Ask God in faith. Seek out the answer. When you get to the door, knock, and go through.

Truth be told, there will always be storms. Jesus will always calm them, if we ask.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (?Ephesians? ?3?:?20-21? NIV)

… Just Got Real!

 

IMG_0281Starting out before light on a steep downhill trail with Mark and Lorelei, we were excited to be getting under way and looking forward to the day’s adventure. Although my light was not as bright as I would have liked, we picked through the rocky single track with a minimal amount of stumbles. We reached the bottom and the footbridge fairly quickly and dropped our bags of supplies for later on the return trip.

As the sky lightened and the sun began creeping up over the mountains, the beauty of the canyon became more and more apparent. The single track trail paralleling the North Fork of the American River provided amazing glimpses of the water below and the trees above. We could see the evidence of bears and mountain lions, although we didn’t see any face to face.

We made one small wrong turn that forced us to scramble up the hill back to the correct trail when the trail we were on came to a sudden end. Running away from the river, past the farm, up the road, through the gate, we came to the first climb and there is where the running came to a stop for a while. We hacked and bush-wacked our way through the blackberries up the old Pioneer Mine to find our first book and remove our respective pages. We stopped to read our pages (in order) aloud, which made us feel much better about tearing pages out of a book; we certainly were not destroying literature. Continuing on the, slightly better, trail, we soon reached a jeep road and could run again. Here is where we met up with Ingrid and Ray, who had missed the turn and were doing this loop in reverse. We continued back around, wondering if we would meet up with them again at the other end of the loop and increase our party by two. We made good time running down the gradual descent on good road and soon found ourselves on very runable single track again bordering the creek as we made our way towards book 2.

We repelled down a small drop with a handy rope left for that purpose and took a couple of pictures crossing the creek. The instructions we had directed us to proceed up “the steepest way possible.” What we were not quite prepared for is how steep Ebeneezer’s Highway turned out to be. Crawling, pulling, climbing! No running and very little standing up right took place on this. At one point I lost footing and slid for some distance back down toward where I had come from. I grabbed a tree and stopped myself just before the slope’s steepness increased dramatically and it was here, hanging onto that tree looking down at the creek, hundreds of feet below me, that I realized this was not your typical weekend run.

There were no safety patrols or sweepers. There were no EMTs or medics at aid stations. There were no aid stations. This was real risk! It occurred to me there that I could actually get seriously injured or even die out here.

From there we picked our own paths up to the ridge. We wove our traversing trails back and forth across each other’s. we came across others, one on his way back to a DNF and a couple on their way back to a complete run, as well as some going the same direction we were. We didn’t even all see the same people, re-emphasizing just how vast this hillside is. We joined forces again at Humbug Ridge and ran much of the way to the drop bag location. Although we somehow spread out, with Mark up front, Lorelei behind and myself somewhere in between. At least, until I ran past the turn and got a half mile too far up the road before Race Director, Sean, caught me and guided me back. Lorelei was resting and decided to cut the day short. Mark had already left to go back and Starchy, who had been on the same hill with us had just arrived as well.

After some food and refilling the water and Gatorade and some rest, Starchy and I headed back down the ridge. Our thinking was that, if we could angle down Ebeneezer’s and cross the creek closer to the river, we could save some time and make it back to the footbridge to maybe have time to climb the last hill and get our last book page. That’s where things went wrong.

We found a relatively easy way down the hill and, with a lot of zigging and zagging, we climbed down to the creek and took a couple of pictures before we crossed the ankle-deep water and found a way up the other side. Knowing that we would have to go right after crossing the creek, we angled up and right. We soon discovered that the climb was tougher, steeper, and longer than we thought it should be to get back to the road. If we could just make it up this cliff we would have a better vantage point and be able to get our bearings to plot the remainder of our course back.

Leaves and loose rock made climbing/hiking/crawling/scrambling difficult. It seemed like the top of an outcropping of rock would provide a better view and easier climbing. About 10-15 feet up a hand hold came free and I was headed back down, back first, head towards the bottom. I landed with a crash that sent leaves and rocks and dirt down towards Starchy. When the dust settled and he called out “you OK?” My response was that I was taking inventory. After a few moments I replied that I had hurt my thumb and my ankle, but nothing seemed broken. Once I could stand we made it to the top of the rocks and discovered we were no more than halfway up the side of this mountain. Time to check the map and compass.

Starchy discovered that we were getting further from our former trail and that, in fact, we had crossed the river and not the creek and that we were actually angling away from our destination. Time to turn around and head back. The climb back down to the river was at least as treacherous as the climb up and it took a combination of sliding, falling and climbing to get down to the water. Now we needed to head down stream to the creek and get back on course. But now we were almost out of light, the temperature was falling and we were miles off course in an area that no one would even think to look for us.

We crossed the river several times, but headed in the right direction, in order to walk on whichever side looked more walkable. Several times we had to scramble up and around and back down because the river was too deep to cross or walk thorough. Realizing that we were at least 3 miles from where anyone would look for us, I was beginning to feel anxious and thinking of news reports I have seen over the years that start with “the bodies of two hikers were recovered…”

As a follower of Jesus Christ, it comes naturally to me to pray in times of crisis, although often later than I should. So I prayed. I prayed for courage, knowing that fear was a huge adversary here. I prayed for physical strength. I prayed for wisdom. I prayed for guidance. I suddenly felt calm and warm and prayed, “God, You told us that with the faith of a mustard seed we could move mountains. I don’t need You to move a mountain, just a creek, or us. Put us on the right path.”

In the next five minutes we stopped to take another look at the map and Starchy suddenly got excited and scrambled up the hill. “Get up here!” He calls out, “I’ve got good news.”

“You found the creek?”

“Better”

“You found the path?”

“I’m not spoiling the surprise.”

I scrambled up the hill and found myself standing on the path. THE path. We were now on our the same trail we started on, at least two miles downstream of where we thought we were. We were on the other side of the creek, although we had not crossed it. We were less than 3 miles from the footbridge and food; 5 miles from the finish. One last climb. 1800 feet up… and drive home. What started as 25 miles with 10000 feet of climb ended up being 30 miles with 16000 feet of climb.

Much of the “adventure” I put in my life has no real risk. Many of the things I do to overcome my fears contains no real danger, but feigned danger… a safety net… a cushion. This didn’t. This was real.

Truth be told, many will probably explain God out of this, but I won’t.