6 Faith Lessons I’ve Learned from Camping

Jessica Brodie

Award-winning Christian Novelist and Journalist
Updated Apr 05, 2024
6 Faith Lessons I’ve Learned from Camping

You know that phrase, “You can take the girl out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the girl?” That was me until the pandemic, when my husband and I finally got the nerve to try camping for the first time.  

I was raised in the city and suburbs and didn’t know the first thing about how to pitch a tent, let alone how to find a campsite. But we tried it and quickly discovered we liked it. I’ll admit if I’m forced to choose between a five-star hotel and a tent, I’ll pick the hotel most days. Camping is definitely outside my comfort zone, and I usually come back as exhausted from all the hard work as I do refreshed.

But every time I go camping, I find I learn and grow in ways I never expected. I’ve also learned many spiritual lessons that are helping me in my ongoing Christian journey to become a better and stronger disciple of Christ.

Here, I will share six faith lessons I am learning to embrace through camping.

Photo credit: Unsplash/Dominik Jirovsky

A brightly lit tent in the woods at night

1. Shelter Is Important

Growing up, I was blessed to always have a roof above my head. When it rains, I don’t worry about getting soaked in my house. The roof protects me. The walls keep me warm if it’s cold outside, and when summer temperatures reach triple digits, air conditioning cools me off.

When we go camping, however, I’ve learned the hard way that it’s important we have a safe, secure, and protective place to sleep. A good tent is a necessity. If the tent is leaky, I’ll get rained on if the weather turns bad. If it’s not set up right, the walls can collapse. If there are holes, then mosquitoes, ticks, or other biting insects can get in. Unlike at my house, my camping shelter isn’t guaranteed and automatic — we have to make sure it’s taken care of and properly set up.

As a Christian, I often take for granted that I am a child of God. I know God is there and he is my refuge and my strength, “an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). But sometimes I feel entitled to this, and that’s not right. My salvation is a gift. The fact that God created me in his image (Genesis 1:27) and loves me enough to prepare a place for me in heaven is an outrageous, extraordinary act of generosity, especially considering all the ways I might hurt him. Distractions and pride and other sins create walls between me and my creator, yet over and over again he forgives me and loves me.

The Bible tells us in Scripture about the importance of shelter, particularly about taking shelter in the Lord. Psalm 91:1 reminds us, “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”

I am sheltered from sin and death forevermore by the Lord God himself, and camping helps me remember that shelter — both physical and spiritual — is a blessing and a gift.

Photo credit: Unsplash/Dex Ezekiel

Woman with a backpack hiking in the mountains

2. Being Prepared Is Crucial

As first-born children very much used to a lifetime of responsibility, my husband and I are planners. We truly appreciate preparedness and thinking ahead. Yet there have been times when we prepared so carefully for a trip, only to realize in the middle of the wilderness that we had forgotten something important. When you are in the middle of the forest miles away from anyone, it really pinches when this happens. Back at home, if I really need something, I can go to the store and get it. But it’s not so easy when I’m on a camping trip. I have to do without.

Similarly, it’s important that I am prepared in my spiritual life. Some days it feels like I am immortal and that this world has gone on for thousands of years and will continue for thousands more. Yet the Bible tells me repeatedly that God might return anytime. As Jesus says, “About that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36).

Because of this, we must be ready, always prepared, just in case Jesus returns or it happens to be our last day on earth. Spiritually, I don’t want to be in a bad place when my time comes. It’s important that I remain strongly yoked with the Lord, praying, following his commandments, and meditating on his holy word, so that I’m prepared.

Being prepared while camping reminds me of how important it is to be prepared spiritually.

3. A Good Foundation Makes Everything Better

My husband and I camp both in ground tents (a tent on the ground set up over a tarp for protection) and a rooftop tent (a tent on top of our vehicle). I prefer rooftop tents, though both are fine options — as long as we have a good foundation. If the tent is on the ground, we make sure the ground beneath the tarp is flat and relatively smooth. Even with an air mattress, foam roll, or sleeping bag, a giant rock beneath the tarp can make for a rotten night’s sleep. If we’re using the rooftop tent, we need to make sure the vehicle is parked on a relatively flat surface, otherwise it feels like we’re sliding in one direction all night.

The Bible also talks about the importance of a good foundation. Proverbs 22:6 tells us, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”

Matthew 7:24-27 talks about the wise man, who built his house on the rock and it stood strong when the rains came and the winds blew, as opposed to the foolish man, who built his house on sand. “The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash” (v. 27).

Our foundation makes a difference.

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Poike

man drinking from a fresh spring in the mountains

4. Water Is So Necessary

On our first camping trip, we didn’t bring enough water. Not only did we underestimate how much we’d need for drinking, but also for cooking and for washing dishes after. Now we bring far more than we need, and for good reason. After all, water is precious. It hydrates, and it helps us stay clean.

In the Bible, we also can see the importance of water. Living water flowed from Eden, where the presence of God dwelled with humanity. When Jesus spoke with the Samaritan woman at the well, he told her about the living water he can provide. Whoever drinks of this water, he said, “will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).

Our body needs water to live, but even more important is the living water needed by our soul.

5. Simpler Is Better

My favorite thing about camping is the chance to get away from the world and all its distractions. Usually, my cell phone doesn’t work well when we’re miles away from civilization. We don’t have television, and I’m not tempted to respond to my work email. Without modern amenities and all the other things clamoring for our attention, we’re forced to enjoy simpler things, like sitting around a fire talking, dancing, or gazing up at the stars. Our minds turn to the truly important topics — faith, purpose, love — instead of the mundane.

I’ve discovered that simpler really is better, for it allows me to slow down and focus on what’s important in life. My senses expand, and I am able to hear the sound of my breath or bask in the feel of the sun on my bare arms.

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Ascent Xmedia

Kayakers in nature

6. Creation Soothes the Soul

And finally, camping is a surefire way to enjoy full connection with the Lord. Out in the forest, surrounded by trees, I’m reminded of God’s sovereignty. I naturally rise with the dawn and grow tired as darkness settles. My heart beats in tandem with nature, all of us created by one source: the Lord God Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth.   

Stress takes a backseat. My breathing is fuller and deeper. I realize anew that I am just a speck, one tiny human in all the vast world, so utterly blessed to have been created and loved by God and included in his plan for eternity.

All around me is evidence of God’s hand. As Psalm 19:1 tells us, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

My soul longs to be part of the Lord even more when I slow down enough to bask in God’s creation.

These are just some of the many reasons camping inspires and awakens a God-hunger within me and renews and refreshes me in ways I cannot begin to number. It’s not always easy, but for me, it’s definitely worth it.

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Anastasiia Shavshyna

Jessica Brodie author photo headshotJessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden. She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism. Her newest release is an Advent daily devotional for those seeking true closeness with God, which you can find at https://www.jessicabrodie.com/advent. Learn more about Jessica’s fiction and read her faith blog at http://jessicabrodie.com. She has a weekly YouTube devotional and podcast. You can also connect with her on Facebook,Twitter, and more. She’s also produced a free eBook, A God-Centered Life: 10 Faith-Based Practices When You’re Feeling Anxious, Grumpy, or Stressed

Originally published Tuesday, 02 April 2024.