This week, I've been thinking a lot about what you do when you can't do anything. What do you do when you're out of options, when you can't "fix it," when all your own resources are useless? And I was reminded of this story of when a bear ate all our food (and we were out in the middle of nowhere). We were without options. God wasn't.
This story encouraged me this week. I hope it encourages you too!
The Biggest Bear I'd Ever Seen
It was nine o'clock and barely dark yet in the Yosemite National Forest. A few birds chirped sleepy "good-nights" to their neighbors as the first stars began to peek from the majestic blue cloak of evening sky. I yawned and rolled over in my sleeping bag. My husband, Bryan, flung his arm over my bag. He was already asleep. I smiled and buried my head into the pillow.
Just as my eyelashes fluttered down on weary cheeks, I heard it. A slow clawing and a soft grunt. I held my breath and listened. The night air rent with the sound of ripping nylon.
"What was that?" I whispered.
"I don't know," Bryan whispered back.
"Here, you see what it is." I huddled in my sleeping bag and motioned for Bryan to go out and explore the campsite.
He unzipped the tent flap, stuck his head out the opening, and flashed the light over the right side of the camp. Before I could utter a word, he was sitting beside me again, the tent flap securely zipped, with his eyes like two gigantic hazel orbs.
"Well?" I asked.
He gulped and stared at me a moment longer. "It...it's the biggest bear I've ever seen," he finally stammered, his eyes still fixed unseeingly upon me. "Right out there eating up all our food!"
Now my eyes were matching his in size.
"What are we going to do?" he whispered.
I clutched the flashlight and poked my head out the tent door. There, not twenty feet from our tent, was a huge black bear. My light shone in two gigantic luminous eyes above a muzzle covered with trail mix. It grunted and swept its head down for another mouthful.
My head was back in the tent before I could think twice. "What are we going to do?" I repeated my husband's question.
"The paper, that paper they gave us at the ranger station, what did it say?" Bryan finally whispered, rummaging through his backpack for the literature we had stuffed there earlier.
"Yosemite bears are very timid," it read.
"Timid. Ha!" I scoffed. "That bear looks anything but timid."
Bryan nodded. We kept reading. "If you encounter a bear," the pamphlet continued, "scare it away immediately by yelling, banging pots together, and throwing rocks at it from a safe distance."
I looked at Bryan. He looked at me.
"May as well give it a try," I whispered.
We each took a deep breath and clamored from the tent, pots and pans in hand. The bear hadn't moved. We nodded at each other, then began. I banged pots and pans and yelled. Bryan blew his whistle, until the sounds slashed through the air with enough fervor to frighten the dead.
The bear just looked at us and kept on eating.
I frowned and picked up some a few rocks to throw at the creature. The rocks landed a couple feet from the animal's nose. It kept eating. We threw more rocks, yelled, and whistled again. Still no response. Very timid, these Yosemite bears, I thought to myself.
Finally, the bear gave us one annoyed look, as if it disapproved of our company, grabbed the food bag in its mouth, and lumbered away into the forest.
Bryan and I sat down on a boulder and looked at each other again. “There goes all our food,” he muttered. We went back to bed. At least the bear was gone and probably wouldn't bother to return since it had taken all the food we had. We climbed back into our sleeping bags, flicked off the flashlight, and proceeded to embark upon a long, restless night filled with dreams of bears in the tent. Every creak of a tree, every falling pine cone, every moan of the wind, became the step or breath of a bear in my dreams.
At last, dawn peeked into the morning sky. Slowly, we got up and made our way outside the tent. There were no bears this morning. Probably curled up comfortably asleep, with a full belly, in a cave somewhere, I thought.
Then, we were confronted again by our problem. We had no food. The enormity of the situation struck us.
I turned to Bryan. "What are we going to do now?" I asked, last night's fright becoming but a minor incident in the face of hiking for two long days without any food. We were fairly deep into Yosemite's back country. There was no turning back now.
"Guess we won't have to worry about bears anymore," Bryan quipped, attempting to mask the concern we both felt. It didn't work. "Don't know," he sighed. He shrugged his shoulders, and I shrugged mine.
"We may as well pack up, though," he continued. "Nothing else to do."
We had come to a situation where we had no answers. We didn't even have any alternatives. The problem was out of our hands.
Just as we were putting the last items into our packs, still at wit's end as to what we were going to do, a woman sauntered out of the woods near our camp.
"Say, we heard your whistle last night. Have a bear?" she asked.
"Did it get your food?" she continued.
We nodded again.
"We have some extra food if you need it."
"Really?" we choked, hardly able to believe our ears.
"Yeah, some trail mix and dried fruit, and other stuff." She smiled. "Would you like it?" We nodded our heads yet again, this time much more eagerly.
"I'll be back in a few minutes," she stated pleasantly.
True to her word, she was back almost immediately with the promised food, more than enough to sustain us for our journey, and better food than we had originally brought.
I stood staring at the food in my hand and smiling as the woman made her way back through the trees. I chuckled to myself and thought about how God takes care of His children so much better than we can take care of ourselves. Just when we think tragedy has come and we're at our wit's end, He finds a way to give us what we need. And His gifts are better and more abundant than anything we can get for ourselves. Somehow, He always finds a way to turn problems into providence, hopeless trouble into triumph.
Now, whenever I am faced with a problem that seems insurmountable, I remember the biggest bear I have ever seen. That bear has become a symbol to me of how God can take impossibility and turn it into blessing. My wit's end is only God's beginning, His opportunity to shower me with His blessings and provision. Problems in my life are not the end, but the forerunner of God's grace, the doorway of His love.