[Originally published in the Monroe News on October 2, 2020]
My brother and I just recently returned from an extended weekend trip to Grand Teton National Park. If you ever get the chance to see the Tetons or their nearby neighbor Yellowstone it is definitely a trip worth taking. We were hopeful having travelled to the land of grizzly bears and moose to see some amazing amounts of wildlife. We came up a little short on that wish.
The primary agenda of this trip was to backpack a large loop around the Teton range. We’d spend three days carrying as little as possible so we could move as quick as possible and hopefully get through the 57 mile loop in one piece. Trips like this really help remind you just how little is needed for us to survive from day to day. Aside from a tent, a sleeping bag, and a mattress pad, we carried just a few other essentials. We didn’t even carry the kitchen sink out there!
As I’ve spent some time reflecting on this wonderful trip and what lessons it might bear for life in general I was drawn to words from Philippians chapter 4. They are bold reflections by St. Paul as he reflects upon God’s provision in his own life. “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.” Spending time out in the wilderness and being one step from living off the land is a quick way to learn to be content. You realize how many of the luxuries you have back home just really aren’t all that necessary. You don’t need the king-size bed. You don’t need facebook or pinterest. You don’t even need that big-screen TV or your Netflix account.
Instead, the lesson the good Father in heaven can help you to learn is what St. Paul describes in Philippians 4:12 “I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” Whatever situation this life puts before us, we can be made ready by God’s gracious hand to handle it. If we are to face hunger and times of need, we can rest assured God will still provide. If we are to face plenty and abundance, God will be with us then too. Never thought you would have to learn how to handle the “challenge” of facing plenty and abundance did you?
We like these trips into the grandeur of this amazing Creation as they do help us reconnect with the simple wonders of life. Maybe you are the one who enjoys seeing the beauty of nature. There’s plenty of that to be had with waterfalls, lakes, mountain vistas and the like. Maybe you’re overwhelmed and need to simplify and get away from all of life’s many distractions. Living with only the things you’ve carried on your back and sleeping on the ground under the stars may be a therapeutic way to help you along.
Maybe you just feel like you’re wandering in this wilderness of life with no clear direction to go. That’s okay. The Lord Jesus is here for you too. He’s given the promise “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age” and He is a God who keeps His promises. Spend some more time in His holy Word, be patient, be still and listen and know that He is God.
Our trip wasn’t without its hardships. In one single day alone we faced morning rain showers, a late afternoon thunderstorm which lit up the sky and brought down hail on our tent, and evening snow which blanketed the ground and dropped temps to freezing. We dealt with a few blisters, sore feet, and a yearning for a tasty piece of pizza upon return to civilization. For all of these hardships, we were thankful. Yes, thankful. We welcomed the challenges of this trip. Some of the best things in life are also the hardest. They force us to dig deep and to rely on one another and to rely on the gifts of God. If life was always easy, we’d soon take everything for granted. In hardships we’re forced to evaluate what is most important to us, and to give thanks for those things. Don’t run away from the hardships in life. Meet them head on. And remember St. Paul’s words in Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
To God be the glory.
Mark Witte is the pastor at Grace Lutheran Church. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org