Wilderness: Of God or an Idol?

Logan Pass and Reynolds Mountain from the Highline Trail, Glacier National Park, Montana
Logan Pass and Reynolds Mountain from the Highline Trail, Glacier National Park, Montana

Because I hang out on social media groups of hikers and travelers, I virtually brush shoulders with people from all over the world.  They come with different backgrounds, cultures, belief systems, and viewpoints – and it’s so much fun to get to know them a little bit through their pictures and trail write-ups.

Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

An unusually high percentage of these hikers and travelers are born-again believers in Christ.  Some of it is due to the fact that many are over 60 – they either grew up in the faith and didn’t leave (or came back) or were impacted in some way by the Jesus Movement of the 1970s.  It’s always interesting to see their perspectives on how they meet with God in the wilderness to this day.

The vast majority of the rest of the people I meet in these groups have some form or other of wilderness worship.  They might pull from multiple religions, be an atheist, or subscribe to one or another belief system.  But they feel “closest to God” in nature or otherwise express their “religion” as stemming from being out in the wild places.

Near Point Imperial in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Near Point Imperial in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

As Christians, we know Who made the wilderness and why we feel close to God in nature.  He made it and His fingerprints are all over it.  Also, the wilderness helps us to still ourselves to hear what God is saying to us.

Views from Electric Pass, White River National Forest, Colorado
Views from Electric Pass, White River National Forest, Colorado

But it can be easy to mistake the messenger for the person who sent the message, so to speak.  When we start looking to the wilderness for our salvation instead of to the Savior, we’ve stepped over a line.  The wilderness has gone from a tool to an idol.

Twin Lakes from the Beartooth Highway, Montana/Wyoming border
Twin Lakes from the Beartooth Highway, Montana/Wyoming border

So how can we keep the wilderness from becoming an idol in our lives?  To answer that question, maybe we should look at what we should be doing to keep anything from becoming an idol.

Trees near Manchester Beach State Park, California
Trees near Manchester Beach State Park, California

Anything in your life that is disconnected from Jesus either is or has the potential to become an idol.  In other words, if Jesus isn’t first and foremost in some part of your life, it could be or become an idol.  It could be a good thing or a bad thing, but the moment it disconnects from Christ, it is an idol and can become a snare to you.

North Window, Arches National Park, Utah
North Window, Arches National Park, Utah

As long as everything in your life is connected to Jesus, you don’t have to fear idols.  This includes the wilderness.  As long as the wilderness is connected to Jesus, it will never become an idol.  We have nothing to fear from slipping into worshiping creation as long as Christ is first in our lives and our wilderness experiences.