March 31, 2008


As many of you know I have been sick for a few weeks with a mysterious illness. I was laying in bed Monday night and the Lord reminded me of this story I had read a few years ago. It gave me great comfort and I was able to sleep. The next day, Tuesday, I shared it with my friend and remarked to her how I ‘just needed to trust the Lord’. It’s so easy to say but I didn’t realize how difficult it would become. The next day, Wednesday, my left hand and leg went numb. This true story has taken on greater meaning since then. I know somebody was praying for me at the moment God reminded me of this remarkable story. Thank you for your prayers.

His ship was called “Endurance” for good reason. Sir Ernest Shackleton never gave up. He brought home his crew of 28 men despite mountainous challenges. He had been commissioned to cross Antarctica with the British Flag in 1914. His ship was trapped and its rudder sliced open by pack ice within a few months. The crew survived living on ice floes for six months until one of the floes split, nearly drowning a crew member. They headed in life boats to Elephant Island with its abusive wind and high tides. Soon all the seals migrated north for winter and there was nothing left to eat. Shackleton knew he must go at once for help, though it meant crossing the most treacherous sea in the world, in the dead of winter. He took five shipmates and challenged 800 miles of open waters in a 22 foot lifeboat. Sixty foot waves drenched their cramped living quarters every three or four minutes. Salt infiltrated their fresh water.

They were aiming for South Georgia Island where there was a whaling station. They made it there in sixteen days but because of a hurricane they were unable to land on the side of civilization. They would be forced to march across the island. The island had never been crossed. The furthest anybody had ever made it was one mile inland. But Shackleton was determined to save his men. He took two of his crew members and set out on foot.

As they hiked in the moonlight they came to a string of five ice-covered mountains. On the other side lay the whaling station. The only way to find help was to cross these mountains. They ascended the first pass which looked “deceptively easy”. At the top they stared down into a sheer drop with a crevasse-littered valley. They tried the next two passes with the same discouraging results. Finally, as the sun was going down they crested the fourth and final pass. Straddling the steep point at the mountain top they again looked down into a dark icy canyon.

Shackleton drew aside to think. To retreat over the crevasses they had already climbed would mean certain death in these shadows. To camp overnight on the mountain would mean death by freezing. Their only choice was to slide down the steep shadowed face.

If they were killed, at least they would have done everything to save their crew, he reasoned. “We’ll slide,” he said. His shipmates were astounded at his decision. In these shadows they could hit a rock or slip into a crevasse; however they realized they had little choice.

The three of them sat down and linked together as one man. Worsley, the book’s author, remembers it like this:

“Shackleton kicked off. We seemed to shoot into space. For a moment my hair fairly stood on end. Then quite suddenly I felt a glow, and knew that I was grinning! I was actually enjoying it. It was most exhilarating. We were shooting down the side of an almost precipitous mountain at nearly a mile a minute. I yelled with excitement, and found that Shackleton and Crean were yelling too. It seemed ridiculously safe.”

At the bottom they all stood up, brushed off their clothes, and stared at the three-thousand foot cliff they had slid down. They couldn’t speak a word. The only sound was their gasp and the slap of their reindeer gloves as they solemnly shook hands, but they all asked themselves the same question: Where was the fourth man? They had sensed him on the hair-raising slide. Later they would share with each other that they had all felt the presence of another man through the entire crossing of South Georgia, as testified to in Worsley’s journal.

I am at the top of a steep mountain with a choice to make. I have tried the other passes and they failed me. Those passes are fear, control, and man. Fear is certainly not curing me of this illness, and neither is my strong desire to control it. I cannot control this sickness. It has set its own course. Man and medicine, though inspired by the Creator, will ultimately disappoint. I only have one choice as I look down into a dark valley. Trust.

I need to let go of my control and trust God to guide me down. I don’t know what dangers or despairs I will encounter along the way. I don’t know if I will make it safely to the bottom but I do know, I MUST believe, that He is with me. I must hang on to him and ride.

We all have treasures that we need to let go, whether it is our health, our children, our possessions, or our future. Does anyone care to join me in the ride? When we get where we’re going we’ll shake hands all around and marvel at what God has brought us through.

He alone is my rock and my salvation and I shall not be greatly moved (from Psalm 62).

(Quotes from Endurance (W.W. Norton & Co. New York: 1931)


  1. Pam, I was thinking about you tonight and wondering how you were. I will certainly keep praying as you trust.

  2. Pam, I've been thinking about you. What a wonderful story you've shared. I'm teaching a Bible study on Thursday and I'm definitely going to use this in it.
    It's so easy to say "trust" and so hard to live it.
    May God continue to give you His strength to enable you to trust Him.


  3. That fourth man is with you also, and no matter whether you laugh or cry on this ride, He is sharing and feeling all of it with you. Bless you as you lift your heart to Him.


  4. Praying that He is as real to you as He was to those men, Pam.

  5. Pam, your words are such an encouragement. Isn't it true how sometimes our greatest fears can sometimes be the most exhilerating ride? I pray that you are feeling better today and that your rest is real. You obviously are looking to the Greatest Physician for true healing. Cheers and Blessings for this journey. Glynis


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