Processing Your Christian Summer Camp Experience

It’s not uncommon for kids to leave Christian summer camp on a bit of a spiritual “high,” which is great, but it doesn’t always last. For those few days every summer, all energies are devoted to exploring God’s creation, hearing His word, and worshipping Him with other Christians. That experience can really open anyone’s eyes to the majesty of God, but it’s difficult to encounter that and then return to the normal humdrum routine of life. God is evident in the wilderness, evident in fellowship with other Christians, but He doesn’t seem to be so present in school and watching TV every afternoon with friends.

That’s a hard thing to confront: a true closeness with God at Christian summer camp and then almost nothing. Missionaries returning from fieldwork feel it all the time, and many suffer from depression as a result. It’s certainly caused doubts in faith, but there are ways to process the experience, difficult though that may be. Some people find consolation in the Scriptures. Time and time again, David and the prophets asked God where He was, because they couldn’t feel Him at all; that’s encouraging, because it reveals that the distance felt isn’t due to lack of faith. The spiritual life is a journey, full of mountains and valleys. We’re not promised absolute connection with God until Heaven, so we should expect that in this life we’ll feel closer to and more distant from Him at various times.

Obviously, the natural response is to try to get that spiritual “high” back.  The joy and peace felt so comforting that people would do anything to retrieve them, but that’s not always possible, which has been the cause for those cases of depression. Really, the healthiest response kids can have is learning acceptance: that God allowed them to feel Him completely at Christian summer camp, which is an experience not everyone has. That’s something to be thankful for—and to hold on to, even in other periods of doubt. If you’re a parent confronting this in your kids, you may not be able to recreate camp for them, but you can remind them it happens every year.

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