Luke sure got me thinking this week when he used the Donner Party as an illustration in his message Sunday. The Donner Party tragedy has always fascinated me, and I was even spurred on by his sermon to watch a PBS documentary over the weekend just to brush up on my California history. Even though I’ve heard this story many times, I never thought about the spiritual relevance or how I could use this sad story to apply biblical truths in my life.
The leaders, George Donner and James Reid, made dreadful mistakes when they decided to ignore the verbal and written warnings Lansford Hastings had given them about not taking the Hastings cut off through Utah. Yes, the Donner party would make it into California, but the decision to not heed the warnings would prove fatal.
Although we can easily see through history how foolish it was for these men to ignore the warnings they were given, it got me thinking about how often in my own life I’ve done some of these very same things, spiritually speaking. So what are some spiritual truths I can learn from the story of the Donner Party?
Listen to wise counsel. Proverbs 12:15 warns us that “the way of the fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to counsel.” Seems pretty straight forward, right? Receive wise counsel yet how often do I get defensive or even resent when God brings someone into my path to instruct me? Do I listen to the Holy Spirits promptings or warnings in Scripture? Do I appreciate that God may be using a person to help me grow in godliness in order to become more like Christ?
Obey instruction. James 1:22 tells us “Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourself do what it says.” The Donner party was warned in writing “DO NOT GO THIS WAY!” They read the warning yet didn’t follow it. So, do I trust and obey God’s word or just treat His instructions and commands for my life as mere suggestions? Do I see God’s word as essential truths to light my path? How important is obedience to God’s word in my life? Ouch!
Take the right road. Proverbs 14:12 reminds me that “there is a way that seems right but in the end leads to death.” Boy does this verse seem appropriate for the Donner Party tragedy. They thought that they were taking a faster route; one that would save them time and resources. Little did they know that their once daily pace of 10-12 miles would now turn into 1-2 miles per day, and this slower pace would in the end prove fatal for many. What horrors could have been avoided if George Donner and James Reid had just swallowed their pride and turned around when they realized that Lansford Hastings was right. They had taken the WRONG road. Can I heed the warnings?
Pride is at the root of all sin and it has horrible devastating consequences. It keeps me from repenting and reconciling. It blinds me to Gods truth and keeps me from all that God has for me? How often have I let pride keep me from admitting I’ve taken the wrong path or that I’ve done it “my way”?
When I make a decision, do I pray, seek wise counsel, read God’s word to find out what God thinks? Or do I just do my own thing by trusting in my own abilities? Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your path straight.”
How different would history look if the leaders of the Donner party had listened to warnings and followed the instructions they were given? Imagine if they had confessed, repented and humbled themselves? If they had admitted they made a mistake? The story of the Donner Party sure has a lot of life lessons I can learn. Who knew there was so much spiritual truth to ponder? I will never look at the story of the Donner Party quite the same.
About the Author
Nancy Collins is a self employed hairstylist of thirty years. Lover of God’s Word, great food and delicious wine, Nancy has been married for thirty years to her high school sweetheart and best friend. Mother of two wonderful sons who married incredible woman that Nancy calls friends, she is most excited about her precious granddaughter and welcoming another grand baby this summer!