Between a pandemic, riots, Supreme Court vacancies, economic and political uncertainty, and all manner of cultural upheaval, this autumn has been—and will continue to be—one of the scariest, most stressful seasons in recent memory.
But it’s still autumn. And we can take comfort in that.
Fall, winter, spring, summer. The annual cycle of seasons is reassuringly predictable at a moment when almost everything is unpredictable. I don’t remember what was happening in the world every October of my 38 years; I can’t recall each year’s unnerving headlines (except for maybe fall 2001). But I do remember the feeling of October that has been consistent through the years. I remember the sights, sounds, and smells that signaled autumn: back-to-school bonfires, Friday night lights, Homecoming dances, folksy autumn playlists, plaid shirts and beanies, trips to the apple-cider mill, hayrides, leaves changing, temperatures dropping, the first frosts—and yes, pumpkin spice everything.
In an unsteady world, the seasons can bring ballast. God’s creation is like that. It’s a steadying, sublime resource for sanity in an insane world—if we can only turn off our devices long enough to avail ourselves of its gifts.
At the beginning of March, when COVID-19 started spreading and the world shut down, I experienced intense anxiety the likes of which I’d never dealt with. It felt like the world was ending; the “end times” fears that so preoccupied my evangelical youth bubbled up with force. My wife had to frequently help me breathe.
Scripture was a great comfort in those days, as was the arrival of spring. I tried to spend as much time outside as possible, noticing the rites of spring that carried on in spite of the chaos of the world: planting a new rose bush and watching it grow, tasting ripened blueberries from our garden, smelling the newly blooming Jasmine, listening to the birdsong that seemed even more joyful than usual. All of it reminded me of the bigger world God created—the intricate systems and cycles he set up to glorify himself, every day and every season, whatever apocalyptic happenings dominated headlines.
God’s creation is a steadying, sublime resource for sanity in an insane world—if we can only turn off our devices long enough to avail ourselves of its gifts.
Even as the volatile stock market gave me motion sickness and the various COVID projections made my chest tight, the rain-cleared spring air filled my lungs with life-giving oxygen, reminding me of the unshakeable sovereignty of Christ over creation: “All things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:16–17). I relished the truth that he is sovereign over sparrows and salmon, weather and wildfires, volcanoes and viruses. “I form light and create darkness,” he said. “I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, who does all these things” (Isa. 45:7).
The seasonal cycles of God’s creation also provide a bias-free perspective at a time when everything seems tainted by partisan agendas. A cold fall wind’s only task is to blow the dead, yellow leaves off the tree. It doesn’t care who wins on November 3. While the world tears itself apart over masks, racism, and whatever we are currently yelling about, the pumpkin patch does what it has done every fall for generations: grows pumpkins.
The seasonal cycles of God’s creation provide a bias-free perspective at a time when everything seems tainted by partisan agendas.
Nature is what it is, not what we want it to be. This is one of the reasons why nature is a crucial source of truth in a fake news, post-truth world. Weather abides no “alternative facts.” It’s either raining or it isn’t. What a gift to be placed in a world where some things—many things, actually—go about their business objectively, and joyfully, regardless of what politicians say on debate stages. Before and after the Roman Empire, Iguazu Falls roared over the jungles of Brazil. While the Battle of Waterloo raged in Europe in 1815, the first summer wildflowers bloomed in the Alps. Certain dates in history may have seemed momentous—July 4, 1776; June 6, 1944; November 22, 1963; September 11, 2001—but to flamingos in Galapagos or Jacaranda trees in Argentina, they were just days; more opportunities to glorify the Creator by doing what they were created to do.
In a world conditioned to crave mediated spectacles and perpetual “breaking news,” the workmanlike consistency of creation can seem mundane. When there are outrages to decry on Twitter and horrifying headlines to inspire hot takes, who has time to notice that the sun is rising again, the morning dew is wet on the grass as it was yesterday, and the shadows of skinnier, leaf-shedding trees are long in the low autumn light?
But ignoring these “normal,” predictable wonders is a missed opportunity to worship God and bask in the comfort and genius of his creation. What we need more than “keeping up” on the ever-changing news is to keep grounded in the unchanging attributes of God—which nature loudly and proudly declares, to whoever has ears to hear (Ps. 19).
What we need more than ‘keeping up’ on the ever-changing news is to keep grounded in the unchanging attributes of God—which nature loudly and proudly declares.
Nature’s seasons remind us: we are mistaken to think it’s a mark of maturity to thrill in unpredictable novelty more than in predictable routine. G. K. Chesterton famously put it this way, comparing children and adults:
Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that he has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.
In this trying season of sin-plagued drama, may we rest in the warmth of a sun that’s still fixed in the heavens. May we sleep soundly in the peace of a planet that keeps spinning, at the whims and good pleasure of a God who never grows bored and always keeps watch.