"Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding,
Who set its measurements? ...
Or who laid its cornerstone,
When the morning stars sang together
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?
Or who enclosed the sea with doors
When, bursting forth, it went out from the womb;
When I made a cloud its garment
And thick darkness its swaddling band,
And I placed boundaries on it
And set a bolt and doors,
And I said, 'Thus far you shall come, but no farther;
And here shall your proud waves stop'?
Have you ever in your life commanded the morning,
And caused the dawn to know its place,
That it might take hold of the ends of the earth,
And the wicked be shaken out of it?...
Have you entered into the springs of the sea
Or walked in the recesses of the deep?...
Have you understood the expanse of the earth? ...
Where is the way to the dwelling of light?
And darkness, where is its place,
That you may take it to its territory
And that you may discern the paths to its home? ...
Have you entered the storehouses of the snow,
Or have you seen the storehouses of the hail ...
Where is the way that the light is divided,
Or the east wind scattered on the earth? ..."
from Job 38
There are times in our lives when each of us encounter dryness of soul, a feeling of being distant from God. As i was walking the sidewalks in London last week, I was surrounded by myriad crowds of people walking to and fro, in a crowd yet seeming alone in the sea of humanity, awash with the despair of the fire that consumed so many lives, the van that drove into a crowd of muslims to kill them, a man wielding a knife in Parliament.
There are difficulties in each of our lives, and yet, we must do what we can to keep our souls alive. Often, I find that when i am in nature, surrounded by God's fingerprints of an artist crafting beauty for his children's pleasure, I find comfort, feel His gentle presence, understand His love even more.
I will never forget one occasion when I felt overwhelmed in nature, certain I was in the presence of a fun, dancing, delightful—and delighted—God. I was in Australia speaking to several groups. At around 5:00 a.m. I awakened to what almost seemed like a dream. Outside my window, birds were cawing, whistling, and singing to one another; insects were chirping and buzzing; and mysterious animals—I knew not what— were hooting and humming.
My daughter and I dressed quickly to walk outside and take it all in. As we stepped out onto the country road in front of our bed-and- breakfast, I was overwhelmed with the celebration of life and the symphony of sound that surrounded us. Gigantic butterflies were gently swaying in the breezes; brilliantly colored flowers and bushes were blooming and sending out sweet scents; parrots and cockatoos were flying around in the high trees. And not far away from us stood an animal leaning on its back legs.
My daughter and I sputtered as we both exclaimed, "Look at that thing in the road! It's a ... I don't know. It's too small to be a kangaroo. Isn't it sweet? And funny? What is it?" As if on cue, it jumped away. We found out later it was a wallaby.
It seemed to me that every point in sight vibrated with movement and flying and chirping, and all was ablaze with color. The warm life of the creatures and plants was almost palpable. It gave new meaning to Genesis 1, when God created the earth. Even though I had never encountered this abundance before, it didn't mean it didn't exist. It always existed like this through the centuries, but once I experienced it, it became a part of me. It awakened a place in my soul that was longing to be stirred. It gave me a hilarious sense of fun and adventure to explore such a foreign but delightfully sensual place. I had a new venue for experiencing life, for enjoying eye pleasure, ear pleasure, tactile pleasure.
Evident in this experience was the fact that there must have been a much more profound substantiation of God's handiwork in creation long, long ago, when the world was untouched by pollution, industrialization, and the forming of large cities. I am not just talking about environmental issues; I was truly astounded at this new world that always existed and yet that I had never experienced. It made me feel as if God had secret places and powers that He would exhibit throughout the universe as an expression of spontaneous creativity, just as his Artist nature demands.
It dawned on me that if this was so pleasing to me somewhere deep inside, then He must have meant for us to experience deep, gratifying delight and joy that we somehow miss out on in our contemporary world. Perhaps the more isolated we are from nature, the more isolated we will feel from God, and so we remove ourselves from one of His most personal gifts to bring us joy.
This indeed gave real meaning to God's question to Job. In other words, "Job, when you consider that My hand made the marvels of nature, which because of the grandeur called forth a spontaneous cheering and song, then you can know that I am beyond understanding. I am bigger than this isolated moment of pain on the earth. Job, in this you can know my eternal transcendence. You can know that I am the infinite, the Creator, your heavenly Father. I am above and beyond all of your finite mind's consideration of what you see in this moment. I am infinite in power, glory, beauty, and purpose. Let what you see comfort you—that I am above and beyond all of your present sufferings and limitations. Then you will be able to trust in the midst of difficulties, which you cannot yet understand."
I realized that in our time of history, living in the throes of a technological world where everyone rides in cars with closed windows and subways that speed along, when we stay inside our enclosed boxes (houses and apartments) to watch television and to play with our machines (computers and gaming devices), the creation of God is blocked out. Often, too, this kind of living produces isolation from real people--and that is a dangerous thing, to be sure.
But we have agency to care for our souls, to invest in faith by believing in His goodness. We must seek to light a candle in all the days of darkness so that others may continue to look for and believe in His light. May you find His comfort and presence to be real in your life today. It is my prayer for you and for me.
Do you ever feel isolated from nature and people in your daily life? What will you do to overcome that, today?
More about walking with God through life here: Dancing With My Father.