9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. II Cor. 12:9-10 ESV
As I took one more look over my shoulder at the storm clouds looming over the nearby ridge and listened to the echo of thunder reverberating through the valley, one singular thought was etched in my mind - we needed to move, fast. Our company of ten students and leaders were high in the Eagle Cap Wilderness of Northeastern Oregon. Having just ascended a brutal 3000 feet to an 8000 foot saddle, we were looking at about a mile of exposed ridgeline before we began our descent to Swamp Lake. I turned to Nicole, our 15 year old leader of the day and communicated the urgency of our
situation. “Nicole I know you’re tired, but we need everything you’ve got left. You’ve lead us well this far, now get us off this mountain.”
As our team struggled with exhaustion and fatigue, I reminded them to hit the deck if their hair started to stand on end. Nicole started to whimper, and pretty soon that turned to wracking sobs of pain and fear as she pushed herself and the group as fast as she could. As we rounded a corner, I said a quick prayer that the Lord would spare us from this storm that was quickly gaining ground. Before us a beautiful alpine valley, full of bluebonnets spread upwards towards a snow-capped peak framed by a rainbow - reminders of God’s presence and grace. Suddenly the winds shifted and the thunderclouds began to mercifully pass us by.
Once we were out of the danger zone, I turned to Nicole and asked her, “Is that the closest you’ve ever been to your breaking point?” She responded in-between ragged breaths, “I think so, I’ve never heard myself make those noises before,” to which I retorted with my tongue in my cheek, “Nicole, I’ve never heard anyone make those noises before!”
One of the things I love about the wilderness experience is its ability to quickly push us to our breaking point and beyond. When we are exhausted, hungry, and worn, and circumstances beyond our control push us to keep on, it gives us a chance to realize just how weak we really are. It’s times like these that we get to fully experience God’s strength, and we can resonate the words of the Apostle Paul, “When I am weak then I am strong.” May you recognize today, that no matter what storm you are facing, His strength is made perfect in your weakness.