The San Juan Mountains, surrounding the towns of Ouray and Telluride in southwestern Colorado, are some of the most stunning peaks in the Rockies. Two years ago, in a ravine amidst a dense forest of aspens, I shot a massive bull elk with a black powder rifle.

Last fall, I found myself once again back in the steep cliffs, rocky fords and river crossings of the San Juan Range hunting for black bear. I had come alone. On the second morning, I was awakened to a presence. I could feel the Holy Spirit’s closeness. His presence surrounded me. He had entered my sleeping quarters and I could feel His compassion. I sensed that I was to get out of bed and kneel down. As I obeyed, I was instantly overwhelmed by His nearness.

Alongside the nearness of God, I also felt a black, penetrating presence. It was as if a “black bear” had encountered my heart. I knew what it was: unforgiveness. This bruin had followed my every step for five years. I didn’t go on a hunt for an encounter with this kind of black bear! I wept before the Lord that morning and renounced my unforgiveness toward some men who had deeply hurt me. I was empowered of the Holy Spirit to renounce my hatred, angst and unforgiveness. God spoke to me from Romans 8:27-39, “He searched my heart and made intercession for me.” I cried out to Jesus and begged Him to forgive me for my pride and unwillingness to let go of bitterness.

The encounter lasted for over 90-minutes! It’s difficult to describe in words, but suffice to say, I wept the entire time. And then, just as quickly as it had begun, it was over. I was flooded with peace and joy. All of my anger was gone. All of my acidic and toxic thoughts melted away. On that fall day, God hunted down that evil bruin and killed it.

Afterwards I wrote in my journal, “I am free. I am free. I am now more than a conqueror. I am beloved. I forgive these men and love them. I have slain the beast!” God had taken me on a journey from prison to praise, from bitterness to beauty, from pain to power! It’s now been over eight months since the “black bear encounter” and I can say, that I’ve not been the same since. The freedom that has come has been nothing less than miraculous.

Walking in a new freedom,


Steve Holt M.A., D.D.

My newest book, Worshipper Warrior, can be found at