For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Phil 4:11a-13 ESV
In the spring of last year, I participated in an eight day expedition in the Gila Wilderness through the National Outdoor Leadership School. It was a powerful experience. Our group of nine students and two instructors traveled 40 miles by foot through creek bottom-lands, granite summits, Ponderosa Pine forests, and scrub covered mesas. The primary focus of the course was to better prepare and educate the participants to lead similar programs themselves. One of the stated outcomes of the course was for participants to learn to appreciate living simply. I came away with a greater appreciation for the many creature comforts I am so accustomed to, along with a renewed desire to live a more simple life.
On most of the wilderness backpacking trips that we run as an organization, our biggest challenge is helping participants learn to pack light. Believe it or not, you really can live without that package of 20 extra Clif bars and seven spare sets of underwear! Participants always come away from these trips with a lightened pack and a lightened spirit. Journeying into the wilderness with only what you can carry on your back is a powerful lesson in contentment and learning to do without. In our materialistic culture, we can get so focused on obtaining and accumulating stuff that our possessions begin to own us. A week in the back-country reminds us that all we really need to thrive is a warm place to sleep, food and water, and the love and support of others.
The Apostle Paul articulates this truth so well in the book of Philippians. In his lifetime, Paul went from riches and fame to prison and great hardship. He learned his source of contentment was not his circumstances or possessions, but his relationship with Christ. This timeless teaching is as relevant today as it was 2,000 years ago. I’m not sure if Paul would be a backpacker or not today, although he was a sometime tent maker! Even so, I think he would deeply appreciate the value of living simply in nature. May you find some time in the coming days to live simply and find true contentment in Christ.