The Necessity Of The Hunter

Yellowstone National Park is a beautiful place. My family took our last long vacation out to Yellowstone and the surrounding area. We absolutely loved everything about it. The scenery was amazing. There was wildlife everywhere. The trees were huge and fields filled with green grasses and other natural elements. The rivers were beautifully bubbling streams of sparkling water. But it didn’t always used to be that way.

In the early 1990s things in the park didn’t look quite like this. The elk had nearly overpopulated the park. The grass was more sparse. The trees were stripped of bark. The rivers and streams weren’t as clean. All of it because there were too many elk populating the park. But why were there so many elk? Good question! I’m glad you asked.

It all started in the late 1800s and early 1900s when it was open season on the gray wolf. By the end of the 1920s the gray wolf was eradicated from the park altogether. Some thought this was going to be helpful. From not having to worry about visitors to the park region being attacked by a wolf to giving some freedom for the elk to run free, getting rid of the wolf seemed the right thing to do at the time. But little did they know at the time, removing the hunter from the park would have drastic effects on the entire ecosystem of Yellowstone.

Then in 1995 a truck carrying eight gray wolves came into the park and released a controlled population back into the system. What followed could only be hoped for…the park returned to a thriving ecosystem. It turns out hunter are necessary for a thriving system. Predators, while doing bad things in the eyes of some, are necessary to create an atmosphere where all can thrive.

This truth transfers beyond wolves in a national park. As a matter of fact, I think in our lives in general we need predators. We need those people who contradict us and challenge us. Those who seemingly are out to get us because they keep us on our toes.

Just like bringing the wolves back to Yellowstone balanced the ecosystem and brought the elk population back in check which made the rivers run cleaner – so also having some of these challenges in our lives brings our lives back on track as well.

We like to eliminate the problems and run from adversity, but perhaps we should embrace some of the challenges in life a little more intentionally. Perhaps we should give thanks for the circumstances in our lives that make us more alert. Paul tells us to rejoice in all things and to even have joy in our trials. This is very likely the reason why.

In the church we like to complain when things don’t go right, when the government oversteps a line, when we feel like being a Christian is hard. But living a life without challenges is a lot like Yellowstone without wolves. We become complacent and think the world owes us something. We dry up and start caring less about the world around us. Eventually the streams of life get all muddy with troubles of the world and we forget what’s most important.

I’ve heard so many lately say that it’s getting harder and harder to be a pastor in the world. Oddly enough Jesus never told us it would be easy. As a matter of fact if it is easy, I tend to believe that we’re probably not doing something right. Jesus told us that we’ll have struggles in this life. He said the world will try to do to his followers what they did to him. Sure sounds like we should be expecting trouble of some sort doesn’t it?

Look. I know it’s no fun being pursued by wolves. I’ve been in my fair share of situations where someone has thought I was prey. But when we have friendships where people turn on us, jobs where coworkers don’t like us, scenarios where we’re not fully embraced – those moments shape us into who we’re supposed to be.

My advice. Don’t necessarily pray for wolves to surround you. But I would thank God for the times when you are pursued by a predator because predators aren’t always evil. Sometimes predators are necessary to help you live a more alert, focused, and dynamic life.


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