Bear Country

Bear Country

by Virginia Forste

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Except for bears. They will kill you.”

That sign was posted in a Gatlinburg, Tennessee, cabin. I wanted to pretend there were not dangerous wild animals wandering near our cabin looking for open trash cans. These aren’t the animatronic Country Bears you find at Walt Disney World; these bears could expose my internal organs with a giant clawed paw if I made the wrong move.

Bear Safety
Here’s a quick lesson in black bear safety:

  1. Know when there are bears in the area.
  2. Make yourself known to the bear. Get pets and children safely indoors.
  3. If attacked, fight back.

People, we’re in bear country. The Bible tells us so. OK, we are in literal bear country in the Midwest but there’s another predator at play around you, no matter your location. He’s called a “deceiver” (Revelation 12:9, NLT) and the “father of lies” (John 8:44, NIV). You might call him the devil or Satan. Jesus said in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (NIV).

The devil is trying to destroy you, your family, your peace, your influence, and your life. And he’s been using this pandemic to accomplish his purposes. He’s trying to keep you isolated, discouraged, dissatisfied, anxious, irritable, and hopeless. He’s a bear. He’s digging through your trash and he hopes to get his claws into you.

I’ll admit it: I chose not to attend church in person even after the building reopened. It was a lot easier to send my particularly energetic children to my basement than stress over a potential case of the wiggles during “big church.” I was also afraid of them catching even a minor cold and being banned from in-person learning at school. Sure, I missed church. I missed the little luxuries of putting on real clothes and leaving the house. I thought they were doing just fine. No one was out robbing any banks, after all. Then I started noticing my kids bickering—particularly on Sunday mornings. While I was threatening to banish my kids to their respective rooms while they begged to watch church online, it was clear that it was time to come back.

Power in Numbers
When we walked into the church building together for the first time in six months, I felt invigorated. The interactions that I would have called shallow meant more to me than I had realized. I missed serving at the Children’s Check-In, seeing old friends, and meeting new families. My elementary-aged kids missed seeing their friends—even my introverted son. There’s just something about being together face to face, even masked up and six feet apart.

The greatest blessing is, of course, that our church childcare is not the bare minimum of “make sure the kids don’t get hurt.” Whom among us would announce that we’re doing enough for our children spiritually? I’m grateful that God doesn’t expect me to be everything for my children. That’s where community comes in. We don’t have to do this parenting thing by ourselves. Black bears are more intimidated by groups than individuals. The devil feels the same way. He’d rather get you alone, isolated, feeling fear, and whispering thoughts to discourage you from trusting God.

Remember what he said to Eve? “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1, NIV). There he goes, planting subtle seeds of doubt. But there is power in numbers. Jesus promises us in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (NIV).

Why Regather?

  1. There are bears in the area.
    Like it or not, there is a spiritual war going on around you. The apostle Peter warns us, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8, NIV).
  2. Make yourself known to the bear. Get pets and children safely indoors.
    It’s odd that we have to be reminded to protect the most vulnerable among us. That’s a good reason to plug into the church body. While there, all of your family members will be armed with the love and the Word of God. Your children won’t be left defenseless and isolated. Your presence among other believers puts the devil on notice!
  3. If attacked, fight back.
    James commands,Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7, NIV). Apparently, playing dead is a terrible idea with an aggressive black bear. Don’t look like an easy meal. Don’t play dead!

Let’s read John 10:10 again in its entirety: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (NIV). Jesus came to give us a fun, glorious, harrowing, exciting, intimidating, adventurous life, not a boring one viewed from a window. Hiking with my family gave me time to bond with them, a few stories, and a cracked phone screen. I could have done without that last one, but it is evidence that I lived. I got out there. I didn’t waste my time sitting in the cabin.

What’s Next?

  1. Fuel up.
    If you are cautious about returning to the church building, mask up, and come on in. Sit as far away from others as you are comfortable. If you are unable to attend in person, participate online in a calm place—like your back porch—with a hot cup of coffee. Turn off your phone and focus on the message.
  1. Find your hiking buddies.
    If you’re not already plugged in, what group could you join? Make a connection. Don’t go it alone or you might look like bear bait. We are much stronger against the enemy together.
  1. Leave the cabin.
    Sure, I could have stayed in the cabin while my family hiked. Then all of my stories would have started with, “On this show I was watching . . .” while they would have come back with the shared experience of facing the wilderness and the triumph of completing a difficult journey together.

Whatever you do, don’t let the bear kill you. Have you given into the bear? Are you prey or are you fighting back?

Virginia Forste is a former elementary education teacher and stay-at-home mom who frequently blogs with other moms at

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