Lessons Learned by Nearly Driving a Youth Group off the Side of a Mountain


by Cindy L. Smith

One day, I almost drove a youth group off the side of a mountain. It was several years ago, but the events of that day still serve asa reminder of God’s peace and love.

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you. –Isaiah 54:10

Now before everyone reading this makes a note to never trust your children in a car with me, I promise that it wasn’t my fault. We’d taken a youth group up to the mountains to go snow tubing. We had a great time and got ready to head back home. We checked, and the weather looked good, but things can change fast when you’re up on the mountain. Without any warning at all, along comes a storm and everything can change.

As we drove back down, the kids were listening to Christian music tapes (yes, tapes), and everyone was laughing and having a great time. Then the snow started falling. Within a very short time, the roads were as slick as a sheet of ice. On the left side of the road was a sheer drop-off the side of the mountain. It went straight down, and there was no guardrail. On the right, of course, was the mountain.


As my minivan started sliding toward the left, it soon became clear to the kids in the car that we were in trouble. The road was just wide enough for two cars. There was no room for error. I was taught to steer into the skid, but that wasn’t possible on this skinny mountain road.

I’m not sure how long this whole scene lasted. Probably much less time than it felt. No matter what I did, the van just kept sliding toward the left, toward the drop-off that I doubt any of us could have survived. I glanced in my rearview mirror and I saw one of the boys - his eyes were wide with fear.

I tried to stay calm, because I didn’t want the kids to know how scared I was, but I was petrified. My heart was pounding, and all I could think about was that I was going over the side of this mountain with these kids that I loved and whose parents I loved.

I tried everything I could think of: tapping the breaks, letting off the gas, giving it a little more gas, turning the wheel gently, turning the wheel not so gently. I couldn’t think of one more thing to do.

Before I relay what happened next, I want you to know that this took place years before that song Jesus Take the Wheel came out. Once I knew that there was nothing else I could do, that I’d exhausted every trick I could think of to regain control of the van, I looked one more time in the rearview mirror at that frightened boy’s face and I let go of the wheel. I just put my hands in the air and said “Jesus.”

The instant I did that, I had peace. I didn’t have to take time to pray for peace. The moment I handed that situation to God and really let it go there WAS peace.  The anxiety was gone. The fear was gone. Instantly. It was replaced by a peace that came from letting go. It’s a peace that can only come from letting go.

Since I’m writing this, anyone reading it can probably guess what happened next: The van changed direction. While my hands were still in the air, the van began to drift away from the left side of the road and it nudged toward the safety of the right side. The van gently hit the side of the mountain and came to a stop.  

As a bonus, the front tires even managed to land in a little ditch. This was important because when we had to get out of the van a couple of hours later, the roads were so slick that the back end started sliding at the smallest movement. Had the front tires not landed in that ditch, the van verily easily could have started sliding back toward the left.

I won’t bother with the whole story of how we eventually got off of that mountain. Let’s just say I owe a debt to friendly salt-truck driver. Once we were safe, the kids all thought this was the most fantastic adventure, and I delivered them all home the next afternoon – 24 hours late.

There is something I like to say when I or one of my friends are going through a trial that we have no control over. I like to say “There is no decision to make here.” If there is something I can do to fix a situation then I will try, but sometimes I just have to say “There is no decision to make here,” and let it go.  Sometimes, there is just nothing more we can do to change the outcome. We’re just kind of along for the ride.

That’s how it was that day on the mountain, and that’s how it’s been many times since. We can yell, scream, and shake our fist at heaven. Some people ask “Why is this happening to me?!” But all of that is a waste of time. It does nothing to change the outcome, and certainly does nothing to give us peace.

I’m not saying we should be passive. We should do all we can do. Had I not tried to steer us away from danger on that mountain, that would have been more foolishness than faith. I believe I have to do all I can do.

We should seek God and make wise choices. We should fight for the things that are important in our lives, but sometimes things - it could be family, finances, our health - it gets to the point when we’ve done all we could, and then there comes that place where nothing we can say or do is going to make any difference. At the point, when we have no decision to make and we’re just along for the ride, that’s when we need let go. Really let go.

I know we can all relate to this: We’re just moving along, living our lives, and everything seems so great, and then we’re quickly reminded that things can change fast when you’re up on the mountain. Storms can come from nowhere and leave us sliding all over just trying to get our footing. But we know – we always know – where we can find peace.

When I was struggling to find a way to stop that van from going over the side of the mountain I was anxious and fearful. But when I let go and said His name, peace came. That same scenario of struggling and then letting go, struggling and letting go has played out in many different ways over the years but each time, when I truly let go, there was peace.

It’s easy to forget that peace and pain can live together, but the peace of God can calm us and carry us - even when it hurts.

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.

When I hit an icy patch, I know that the sooner I let go, the sooner I will have peace. I don’t always like the answer or the outcome. Unlike that day on the mountain, we won’t always quickly land softly and safely. Sometimes, the struggle will be longer, messier, and much nastier, but there can still be peace.

I like to think I get smarter as I get older and that with each new patch of ice that catches me off guard that I will more quickly let it go. And when I do, I know that in Him I can find rest and peace - just like I did that day on the mountain.

Contact Info


Norfolk Apostolic Church
3131 Azalea Garden Road
Norfolk, VA 23513


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