Wilderness is a trustworthy counselor. If you visit her office, you’ll consistently get truth and grace. Some counselors err on the side of offering too much support and too little challenge. Other counselors go the other extreme. The wilderness has been a type of counselor throughout all of history that somehow knows how to strike the balance.
For sure, the elements and exposure seem too much to handle and we want to panic. Other times, the beauty and serenity almost whisk us away from worldly worries and concerns in a type of heaven-on-earth experience; resting in a meadow on a warm day or fishing in a cascading brook with clouds entertaining us above. But for those who will spend some consistent time in the wilderness they will find her to be a good and trustworthy counselor.
A TRUSTWORTHY COUNSELOR WILL HELP YOU REFLECT
Often people ask, when I spend time in the wilderness how do I make it more intentional? What do I do to make it more of a spiritual experience. Of course the answers will vary but one simple suggestion is just to immerse yourself in a passage of Scripture and see how your surroundings, attitudes, emotions, connect with what God is teaching you in Scripture.
For example, let’s take Matthew 6:19-21 where Jesus taught on laying up treasures in heaven. This is a great passage for wilderness reflection:Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. – Matthew 6:19-21
As you spend a day in the wild, you might want to consider two contrasting angles on this perspective. First, what are those things in your life that moth and rust will destroy? Second, what are those things in your life that are eternal that will last forever?
1 One of the almost guaranteed blessings of wilderness travel, even for just a day trip is that we realize how little we need to be happy.￼
This passage helped me grasp from these two categories, five basic areas to consider. What won’t last is the physical and the familiar. What will last for eternity are souls, service, and sacrifices. Lets consider each of these briefly:
2 THINGS THAT MOTH AND DUST WILL DESTROY1. PHYSICAL: WE LIVE IN A PHYSICAL WORLD, FILLED WITH MANY WONDERFUL THINGS. AND EVERYTHING GOD HAS MADE IS GOOD. BUT, THINK HOW EASY IS IT FOR US TO CLING TO THE MATERIAL WORLD FOR COMFORT OR STATUS, OR EVEN IDENTITY.
Ultimately the world will pass and we cannot take anything with us to the grave. “For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.”
1 Timothy 6:7. One of the almost guaranteed blessings of wilderness travel, even for just a day trip is that we realize how little we need to be happy. A day pack with a rain jacket, some food and water, and our Bible, and we are unbelievably happy. Entertained by frolicking squirrels hopping from tree to tree, surprised by a deer grazing near a stream… these good distractions show us that the Lord has provided a world full of beauty for us to enjoy, and we don’t need to accumulate things to insure happiness. In fact, just the opposite.
Because humans are a bit like hobbits, we tend to get used to our routine, our place, our roles. We become familiar with our surroundings and that allows us to function from a position of peace. This is all good, unless we make familiarity an idol. When God asks us to step out and go a different direction or take on a new responsibility, our fascination with familiarity can easily drown out that still small voice which is calling us onward and outward.
3 THINGS THAT WILL LAST FOR ETERNITY
1. SOULS. SOULS ARE ETERNAL.There is an interesting verse in the book of Hebrews that highlights this truth: “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…” (Hebrews 9:27) This means that after each of us dies we don’t have a second chance. We die once, and then face judgement. This is actually common sense but its a bit sobering when taken plainly as the Scripture reads. This is why evangelism matters. Because souls and their eternal destination matter. The final book of the Bible is called Revelation. In many ways it provides some of the clearest trumpet calls for people to repent of their self-sufficiency and turn humbly to God for salvation:
Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people. He said in a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.’ – Revelation 14:6-7
C.S. Lewis reflects on this reality in his book The Great Divorce:There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.
2. SACRIFICES: AS I THINK OF WHAT GOD HAS INTENDED FOR SACRIFICIAL LIVING, CERTAIN PEOPLE COME TO MIND AS EXAMPLES. MAYBE ON OF THE BEST IS JOHN THE BAPTIST.There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. John 1:6-8Let’s think about this metaphor of “light” for a moment. When camping one evening by the Sea. There was a full moon so I took a quiet walk on the beach to pray and think. When I came back to the crackling fire I looked up at the full moon and the light that it cast on the sea. It was so bright you didn’t even need a headlamp to walk around. I thought, “How profound that the moon does not have any light in itself. It only reflects the light of the sun.” The moon teaches us a lesson from Creation that explains perfectly what it means for us to live sacrificially as witnesses of Christ to others. Here’s what I mean…We are not in and of ourselves a source of light for the world. We merely reflect the light of Jesus Christ by believing in him and walking in his Spirit. As witnesses, we are reflectors of Christ’s light to others just like the moon reflects the light of the sun. The same is true of sacrificial living, and this is why sacrifices last. When we lay our lives down, die to ourselves, and offer ourselves as a living sacrifice we become like the moon to our dark world. It is not our work that saves anyone, we just reflect the true light. (See Romans 12:1-2) Our humble and willing sacrifices simply reflect the Good News of Christ, like the moon offering gleams of light for a ship lost at sea.
3. SERVICE: “FOR EVEN THE SON OF MAN DID NOT COME TO BE SERVED, BUT TO SERVE, AND TO GIVE HIS LIFE AS A RANSOM FOR MANY.” (MARK 10:45)
My friend who used to be the director of a Wilderness Ranch tells an amazing story of an unnamed servant who did something that changed the culture of their summer camp staff. This story illustrates exactly why Jesus said, “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing…” (Matthew 6:3) When we serve quietly, without a desire to receive anything in return, then we are creating something that moth and rust cannot destroy.
1￼ REFLECTION QUESTIONS1 The wilderness is a trustworthy counselor. Spend some time in a remote place hiking or sitting taking in a view and consider: a. Physical comforts and familiar routines won’t last. Are there any ways that God may be challenging me that will require letting go of some physical comfort or familiar routine? How is the wilderness teaching me to let go so that I can more fully enjoy the adventure?
2 In what ways is the wilderness environment teaching you about the eternal value of Souls, Sacrifice, and Service? Pray that Jesus will awake in you the desire to want your life to be about souls, sacrifice, and service. Apart from Him we can do nothing, so pray that He might use this experience in the wilderness to solidify a new trajectory to your life to invest where moth and rust will not destroy