For many of us, outside in nature is the place where we feel closest to God.
It’s no wonder, because when we look closely at God’s creation all around us—when we really pay attention—it is filled with soul-nourishing beauty, awe-inspiring intricacy, and faith-building lessons.
Throughout scripture, we find images from nature to help us understand God’s love and power.
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2)
Throughout the Bible, mountains are where God’s people encounter God and are commissioned to do God’s work. On Mount Ararat, Noah’s family was commissioned by God to be fruitful and fill the earth. Moses climbed Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments. On Mount Horeb, the prophet Elijah received his recommissioning from God after running away from Jezebel. And it was on a mountain that Jesus was tempted by the Devil to put God to the test and be given power over kingdoms in exchange for worshipping Satan.
And of course, it was standing on a mountainside that Jesus declared his authority from God, giving us some of the most powerful words of our faith in the Beatitudes, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Golden Rule.
On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:37-38)
Water is mentioned more than 700 times in the Bible, more than faith, hope, prayer, and worship, and its symbolism is even more potent because water is essential to life on earth. Water sometimes depicts the Spirit of God. It can refer to other spiritual things. It is often an image of cleansing and purfication. It is sometimes an image of power, conveyance, and safety.
It’s no wonder that at the ocean, we are struck with a sense of God’s power and might, or at a lake or stream, we are filled with God’s peace and tender care.
God’s living creatures
And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (Matthew 6: 28-29)
As a bird watcher, I marvel at the design and behavior of these exquisite creatures. When I did more gardening—and even studying biology and botany in college—I realized every seed, plant, and flower was a miracle and a work of art…a testament to God’s infinite creativity and commitment to Life. Pay attention to the living creatures you see or pass every day—plants or animals. They are living proof of a loving Creator.
Nature’s cycles and seasons
Even cycles and seasons are Nature’s lesson in God’s constancy and love. Some times are more comfortable than others; some times are messier than others; some times are harder than others. But always, night becomes day, winter becomes spring, and beyond the clouds, the sun is always shining.
Let Nature inspire and inform your faith
For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. (Romans 1:20)
O Lord, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom have you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
Here is the sea, great and wide,
which teems with creatures innumerable,
living things both small and great. (Psalm 104:24-25)
But ask the beasts, and they will teach you;
the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you;
or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you;
and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among all these does not know
that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every living thing
and the breath of all mankind. (Job 12:7-10)
Since I became aware of the four essential connections of my life, I’ve been fascinated to realize how often they, themselves, are connected, and the connection between Nature and God is particularly evident. I find that when I’m feeling out of sorts, off-kilter, anxious, or afraid, I can always look to these essential connections and find that one or more needs strengthening. More often than not, immersing myself in the natural world will help restore me, both physically and spiritually.