surviving in the woods


According to Wikihow, the best thing to do when one finds oneself lost in the wilderness is to not panic. Just in case it has never occurred to you to not panic when lost, you’re welcome. Now you know.

There is, in fact, a nice little acronym that will come to your aid…STOP:

  • S = sit down
  • T = think
  • O = observe your surroundings
  • P = prepare for survival by gathering materials

That’s my plan for today. I’m feeling a little lost…a little uncertain of my situation…a little disoriented in my surroundings…so, I’d better take this survival advice and just STOP for a while.

A few weeks out from what, essentially, spelled the end for me of something I’d hoped would be a lifelong relationship, I’m unsure of where to go from here. It feels like loss. It feels like being lost. So, I suppose, I should follow the steps and just sit down. Just rest for a little while. Just pause from the panic and…breathe…

SIT DOWN… It’s easier said than done when your mind is racing and your heart has a tendency to drop into familiar places, but it is a self-discipline I must adopt. Psalm 46:10 says to “Be still, and know that I am God”. Truly, that’s all I need to recognize. There IS a God in the middle of this, and He has everything under control even when I can’t see it.

THINK… Trust me…my mind is whirring most of the time, but it’s not always focused on productive thoughts. Colossians 3:2 tells me to “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things”. That is where I need to focus…on the truth that none of this life is accidental and none of it is outside the purview of Christ. The earthly stuff often doesn’t make sense, but heavenly things are real and eternal.

OBSERVE YOUR SURROUNDINGS… In Numbers chapter 13, Moses sent twelve dudes to spy out the land that God had promised to them centuries earlier. Ten of them came back and reported that it was, indeed, a beautiful place…but, unfortunately, it was overrun with giants and danger and proceeding was sooooo not recommended. The other two guys – Joshua and Caleb – assured Moses and the Israelites that, yes, there were some big galoots hanging out in the land…but they’d be no problem for the One True God who had already rescued them again and again. THAT is the perspective I need to have. Are there challenges in my current situation? Sure there are. But, are they a problem too great for God? Absolutely not!

PREPARE FOR SURVIVAL BY GATHERING MATERIALS… In Matthew 14, there is the story of a multitude of people who came to hear Jesus teach. As dinner time approaches, the disciples suggest that Jesus should send all the people home so they can find their own meals. Jesus, instead, asks, “What do you have on hand?” and the disciples report that they can find only a paltry assemblage of snacks. Jesus tells them to gather what they have and, basically, prepare for a miracle. There is so much trust required in this scenario. My earth-bound eyes have a very difficult time seeing beyond physical limitations. But there is Jesus…telling me to gather what I’ve got and trust Him to do the heavy lifting.

It aggravates me that I live in a space of such mental and emotional ups and downs. I wish I was more consistently on one level. But here I am…all over the place. Upbeat mornings turn into downcast afternoons, followed by evenings of hopefulness and, finally, bedtime reflections on sadness and what/whom I’m missing. That isn’t the thought program of a peaceful mind.

Which is why I’m writing this post right now…to call myself back into accountability…to double down on my observance of what I should actually be doing. To refocus on productive steps of surviving and, hopefully, thriving.

It’s a process, I realize. And these are some big, dark, confusing woods I find myself in… But they don’t go on forever, regardless of how it feels. I will get back to a more familiar terrain. I will find security and clarity and safety again. And, hopefully, I will meet the heart that matches mine and which has been shaped like a corresponding puzzle piece specifically for me.

Incidentally…just in case you really are lost in the woods right now and your mobile device battery is running low, you may want to grab a sharp stick and scratch the full list of survival tips into the dirt. They might save your life. Or, at the very least, give you something productive to do as you await rescue.

  1. Don’t panic if you’re lost.
  2. Get oriented.
  3. Stay in one place.
  4. Build a fire.
  5. Signal your location.
  6. Scout your area.
  7. Find a good source of water.
  8. Purify your water.
  9. Find or create shelter.
  10. Find safe food.

You, dear wanderer, are welcome.


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