The Lord Offers A Helping Hand When We Are Bogged Down

(Story courtesy of Jerry Niehoff)

The weather prediction was overcast with periodic showers and gusty winds. We just had a week of unseasonably cold weather, so most of the shallow sloughs were iced up. If a hunter is in the right spot, this climatic situation usually produces a short window of opportunity for great duck and goose hunting.

My hunting partners Bob and Jim, along with the most avid hunter of the group, Cedar my golden retriever, headed for a hunting spot that we thought would work with the conditions. The area we decided to hunt was a wetlands patch adjacent to the Coeur d’ Alene River just 15 minutes from our home in Northern Idaho. This wetlands area has a network of natural channels running through it along with some man-made canals and dikes.

Shortly after dawn we arrived to find that only two areas weren’t frozen. We could see that the openings were covered with ducks and geese, with more flying overhead. We were very excited about the prospects and decided to move towards our hunting spots. Bob headed for the smaller body of open water, while Jim, Cedar, and I set our sights on the larger open water area about a quarter mile away. As we scurried over the ice-covered slough, the ice sagged under our feet. At a few locations we broke through the thin ice to feel the mucky bottom at two feet.

Once we reached our location, we quickly put out a few mallard and goose decoys at the confluence of the channels. While setting out the decoys I discovered that it was essential to keep my feet moving to avoid getting stuck in the muddy clay bottom. After the decoys were setup we camouflaged ourselves in heavy grass cover along the dike. We were barely settled when the mallards started coming back to their open water resting area.

After some great duck shooting we had a flock of geese sneak in behind us. Jim managed to get a going-away shot on a nice goose. The wounded bird set its wings and glided down into the marsh grass about a half- mile north of our blind and on the other side of the main channel.

The narrowest area to cross the main channel was right where our decoys were setup. Jim had hip boots on so the task of retrieving his bird landed on my faithful friend Cedar and me.

We crossed the channel and followed another dike across the wetland to dry ground. Heading north along the edge of the wetlands we reached the area where the goose dropped into the marsh grass. Cedar and I started out across the thin ice again toward the main channel. Cedar moved easily across the ice, but I would periodically break through. Over most of the grassy portion of the wetland the depth of the water was about eighteen inches. I could see that Cedar was not picking up the scent of the goose, so we continued to move north and closer to the main channel.

Cedar worked her way across the ice on the narrow channel without any problem. Seeing that she crossed without incident, I decided to cross in the same area. Upon reaching the exact middle of this 20-foot wide channel, the ice first sagged beneath my feet and then gave way. I initially sank to just above my waist then I tried to move forward but could not break the ice in front of me. In the meantime, I continued to sink deeper into the mud until I hit solid footing. At this point the water was an inch from over-topping my chest-high waders.

When I tried to move in any direction I would end up losing my balance and some cold water would run into my waders. At this point, I realized I was in a bad situation. I tried putting my gun on the ice and pushing myself up, but the ice was not strong enough to hold my weight.

I started to worry about getting wet and suffering hypothermia and how and when my hunting partners would get to me. Panic began to settle into my spirit. During all this time of floundering in the water and mud, I was totally unaware of the whereabouts of Cedar until I looked for her. She was standing on the ice about three feet away from me with a very concerned look in her eyes. I believe she could sense my panic and wanted me reassured by her presence. Without one word from me she instinctively moved sideways to my location.

I reached out with my left hand and grabbed hold of the front part of her floatation vest. She immediately started pulling diagonally from the ice break, never releasing her pulling pressure. I grabbed my gun and pushed on the ice as Cedar continued to lean and pull. I worked my feet, trying to loosen the sucking grip of the mud and prayed for God’s help. As I gained some freedom above the water level Cedar continued to pull and even leaned harder until I was able to get my upper chest on the ice. At that point, I was able to push my gun ahead of me and grab some rushes exposed above the ice. Cedar continued to pull me out of the hole and across ice to we reached the shoreline.

When I was well into the heavy grass cover I was able to get to my knees and give my companion a big hug for all her efforts. Cedar is truly a special dog. I also thanked God for providing His helping hand by way of a loyal Golden Retriever.

When the ice of our world breaks and we get stuck in the adversities that life brings, how we respond determines the direction our lives will take. If we give in to bitterness and anger, turmoil can completely shatter us. But if we respond correctly, hardship will drive us to God and into a deeper relationship with Him.

Adversity is something that all of us have to face at some time in our lives. It is both a challenge and an opportunity. In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul describes a time of great suffering in his life.

He said that the Lord had so blessed him with great revelations that He humbled the apostle with affliction to keep him from being proud: “Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me” 2 Cor. 12:7

The Power of Truth:

Adversity is still God’s most effective tool for ‘growing us up’. If you are facing trials, the Lord may be working out His character in your life. Perhaps He is trying to get your attention, dealing with your pride, or preparing you for future service. If you will humble yourself and work with the situation, God can use your problem to bring greatness into your life.

“For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Matthew 23:12

Suggestion for Prayer:

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” 1 Peter 5:6