My husband and I were just approaching the trailhead when I saw the sign. Again. WARNING: BEAR FREQUENTING AREA. The weight of impending doom settled on my soul and my mind launched in with its barrage of questions. How many bears? Is it one or a mama with cubs? How long ago? Is it a black bear or a griz? Has it been hanging around in the area or was it just passing through?
Occasionally the sign will answer one of those questions with a date, a description, or a number. Most of the time, though, it’s just a statement of fact. At some point, somebody reported at least one bear near this trail. Everything else remains unclear.
As is, for me, what to do with this information.
Am I supposed to retreat and take another trail? Proceed with caution? Give up and stay inside? What message is this sign supposed to communicate? I had no idea.
Apparently, I wasn’t alone.
A few years ago, in an effort to clear up the confusion, the National Park Service created a new sign. Situated on a red banner above a graphic of a bear, it boldly declared: BEAR ATTACK! Are You Prepared to Avoid One?
“Why no,” I thought. “I’m not.”
To be clear, we carry bear spray and wear the bells and do the things we’re supposed to do, but I’m not prepared. Not really.
Though ominous, this sign left me with no unanswered questions. No dread. No sense of doom. Somewhere between the shocking inquiry and the small print it gave me exactly enough information to wake me up to what I already knew: Yellowstone is bear territory. Travel wisely.
Life Lessons from Yellowstone
Because God is faithful to teach me more about living by faith by walking in Yellowstone’s woods, it didn’t take long for a lesson to surface: Not only do I set off on the trail vaguely worried and unprepared, I live my life the same way.
Maybe you can identify. And whether it’s for the attacks God’s word says we’ll face or the tough times he says we’ll encounter, maybe you want to be more prepared.
We can be.
Even though Yellowstone’s bears can show up anywhere at any time, the small print on the sign (which we’ll explore in future posts) was clear. There are steps we can take to make sure we’re prepared for the presence of a bear whenever we leave the relative safety of the car or the crowds and walk into the woods. Those steps don’t change the nature of bear country, but they do equip us to walk in the wisest way possible.
Our life of faith is the same.
Though the landscape of our lives unfolds within enemy territory, we don’t need to walk with a sense of doom or dread. We are never alone. Jesus was clear. He will be with us until the end of the age. That’s a promise. While the nature of that territory will not change, we’ve been given what we need to walk wisely through potential attack and certain difficulty.
🧭 Come back in February to learn more about being navigating the landscape of life prepared. I’ve put together a 5-scripture printable to accompany the Bear Attack! Are you prepared to avoid one series. You can access it (and a few other things!) here.
Let me leave you with this question: If you were to encounter an ATTACK! Are You Prepared To Avoid One? sign as you made your way through the landscape of your life today, what would your response be?
take heart & happy trails ~ Natalie 🥾
Sharing stories this week at Let’s Have Coffee, Tell His Story, Inspire Me Monday, and Grace & Truth.
Are you an armchair traveler? Would you love to learn what hiking Yellowstone's trails teaches about walking by faith in everyday life?
Get a photo journal (with excerpts!) from Natalie’s October 2022 Yellowstone adventure.
Keep tabs on Natalie’s Yellowstone memoir-in-progress and receive Lessons from Yellowstone to help you navigate the ups and downs of daily life by faith.
I would be so excited and unprepared to face a bear – but my husband would wisely say, “not today” and shepherd me to a safe decision. Life is like facing that bear – and I am so glad God equips us to walk through the hard places. I wish I’d been more prepared when I was younger. I love how God teaches us in our wilderness walks.
My response to everything you wrote is “yes!”. I was initially excited–and then terrified. The stuff we face in life is just like facing a bear and I’m grateful for God’s equipping. Like you, I wish I’d been more prepared when I was younger–especially as a mom. And, I am so, so grateful for the lessons of wilderness walks.
The bear sign would definitely be a wakeup call for alertness and a plan for survival if subsequently attacked by one. IMM #3
Indeed it is!
I remember hiking in Colorado with my husband and seeing the signs for potential cougar attacks. It’s not a sign I usually see in our Alabama walks! 🙂 I love your reminder for us to stay prepared and to remember too that we are never alone. I’m so grateful for that truth!
I’m uncomfortable every single time I see a reminder that we’re vulnerable to attack but, at the same time, I’m grateful because I need the reminder in my everyday life. Like you, I’m grateful for the truth that we are never alone!
I enjoyed your reflections here! I think I’d have been terrified if I saw that sign about bears (though I’m in the UK and we don’t have them here so I’d have been totally unprepared!)
I love your point that we don’t have to walk with a sense of doom or dread because Jesus is with us. We can never truly know what lies ahead but it’s comforting to know that he does!
Even though we have bears here, coming into close range with one out on the trail is terrifying! Yet, even in that, Jesus is with us.
I love your lessons from Yellowstone, Natalie. (We didn’t encounter any bears when we were there, thank goodness.) I’m thankful that we can proceed through life without that sense of doom or dread you speak of because Jesus has promised to be with us. Hugs, friend.
You made my day with your encouraging words. Thank you! And, amen, friend. What a gift that we can make our way through life without doom or dread because of Jesus.
Natalie, this is a very poignant message with a great lesson here. Pausing to reflect upon your words today.
visiting today from Let’s Have Coffee #10&20
Thank you for stopping by! I’m so glad this gave you something to reflect on.
Natalie, I love the lesson here today. This really hits home for me. I often live my life this way as you say. I remember not long ago suffering relentless spiritual attack and whining to God about it in prayer. I truly felt Him asking me, “why are you so unprepared?”
In so many areas we can live our lives “unprepared”, and operate from reactionary emotions, rather than sound responses.
Thank you for this great, thought-provoking lesson today!!
Your comment just made my day! I’m so glad this was thought-provoking for you. Thanks for sharing your thoughts here, as well. I agree!
Natalie, you have shared such a good lesson from your hiking experience. The steps of preparation may not change the nature of our journey, but they will equip us to walk wisely. “We’ve been given what we need to walk wisely through potential attack and certain difficulty.” You brought to mind 2 Peter 1:3: “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence” (NASB).
I call these lessons God has given me about walking by faith from hiking in the wilderness “Lessons from Yellowstone.” I appreciate God’s graciousness in giving them to me and I love to share them. (And I’m a NASB fan. There aren’t a lot of us around.) Thanks for being here and continuing the conversation.