Camping and Contentment
This last weekend we had our annual church campout at the Platte River campground right here in Michigan. It was a great opportunity for us to get out into God’s original home: with the birds chirping their morning song, the smell of fresh needles on the ground, the rising smoke of the campfire, and the pit patter of rain.
Yes. We were rained out all weekend. But a few of us managed to brave the elements and adjust our activities so that we were dry only at night time. It rained all Friday night, Saturday afternoon, and Sunday morning. We could not sit around the campfire, we ate a potluck lunch from our cars – passing food between cars in the middle of the downpour, and sloshed through the sand and mud in futile attempts to remain dry. This situation is considered a possibility but rarely expected. It raised the all important question:
Why do we go camping?
If you think about it, camping is one of the great ironies of human nature. The majority of people that choose to camp (in a recreational manner) leave the comfort of a stable home with running water and solid walls and appliances. They exchange an environment of security for a weekend of vulnerability. And they pay for it! While paying a mortgage they pay for a tent. While paying for electricity they pay for propane. The cost of all of this equipment, plus transportation, camp fees, reveals that we are willing to pay more to have less.
Non-campers will easily identify with the sentiments expressed above. Avid campers can acknowledge that these are good questions, but will not deter them. It is remarkable how we can adapt given different circumstances. If it is raining we can wear rain gear. We can learn to sleep on a pad instead of a mattress if necessary. We are willing to smell like smoke instead of using perfume/cologne. We can adjust to eating food out of cans and foil instead of gourmet meals freshly made from an electric range. We can learn to adjust to changing situations, even if it means depriving us of a number of things.
Being content does not come easy to us. It is a choice we must choose to make. Paul captures this experience in Philippians 4:11, when he says:
…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances…
Contentment is a choice. It is not based on a universal threshold that all of us can follow. It is a unique experience to all of us. Paul, arguably one of the greatest biblical writers and who authored most of the New Testament, had to learn to be content. Being a brilliant man of God did not make learning this truth any easier for him. No matter what the circumstances, Paul could reach a point where he could say, “I’m going to be okay, no matter what happens.”
Paul continues and explains the extremes he has gone through to learn this lesson. He has gone hungry and been full. He has had very much and very little. But despite his situation, his mentality remained consistent. He had learned what it means to be content.
Paul concludes this passage by explaining the secret to being content. In verse 13 (a verse that many of us apply to everything, even if it is out of context), he says that he can do all these things through Jesus who strengthens him.
This is such an important principle that even the tenth commandment is about being content with what you have (Thou shalt not covet). If Paul, one of the greats in the Bible needed the help of Jesus, how much more do we need Jesus to be content?
It is definitely not an easy task, but it is possible. Next time you go camping, and you enjoy the more primitive shelter, food, and experience, remember
you can learn to be content through Jesus who strengthens you!