We live in a world where fantastic photography is available at the tap of a liquid crystal display. A quick search can reveal breathtaking landscapes from across the globe. Wonders of the world are reformatted to fit the screens of our tablets and phones. We view expansive skies, hulking mountain ranges, and stormy seas from the safety of our sofas. The wildness of nature is tamed behind a thin glass cage.
But as our awe before the rugged enormity of earth dissipates one finger swipe at a time, so does our appreciation of the majestic glory of the God who created it.
A couple months ago a friend and I went on a backpacking trip through the Pisgah National Forest. We arrived in the middle of peak fall colors. Hiking along the Art Loeb Trail, my lungs breathed in the beauty of an explosive panorama of orange, yellow, and red. I remember joking that it felt like a scene from Lord of the Rings as we trekked along a ridge of mountain tops. Cresting each peak our eyes feasted on the ruffle of trees blanketing the landscape below us in every direction fading into blue. It was an experience no wide angle lens could capture. The expansive majesty of the Blue Ridge Mountains overwhelmed our senses.
That night, we sat beside a crackling fire at our mountaintop campsite watching the sunset over the furthest mountain range. The moon shone like a spotlight on us as night’s chill began to set in. My friend whispered Psalm 8:3–4 into the vast darkness peppered with pinprick stars:
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?
I went to sleep bundled in my mummy bag, thankful for how small I felt in that moment—and for how enormous God felt.
Rediscovering Big Truth
Brothers and sisters, we need to spend more time in the vastness of nature. In an age that claims to put “the world at your fingertips” it’s easy to fall into thinking we are the center of the universe. We click and swipe through mountains of information. We browse through hundreds of pictures from across the globe. The screens we carry give us a godlike sense of importance and superiority. Social media notifications buzz and bing to remind us just how necessary we are to the world. We can be fooled into thinking we can cram the universe into a flat handheld rectangle with a glass lid. However, when that rectangular device loses connectivity, and we’re vaulted several thousand feet above the earth’s surface beholding 100 miles of forest in every direction, we rediscover how infinitesimal we truly are.
We also rediscover how fearfully glorious the God who created the heavens and the earth really is. His fingers fashioned the mountains. The seas can be gathered in his palm. By the word of his mouth galaxies appeared. When we spend time in the raw environs of nature, we are captivated by the beauty and magnitude of creation.
How much more shall we be captivated by the majestic omnipotence of its Maker? “Let all the earth fear the LORD,” the psalmist commands us. “Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!” (Ps. 33:6–9). As our appreciation for the grandeur of creation grows, so does our appreciation for the Creator.
When we grasp the smallness of our existence, we can only marvel with the psalmist: “What is man that you are mindful of him?” We are undetectable specks on a rock whirring through an immeasurable universe. Why is it the immortal, unfathomable God should take notice of us? What’s more, why should he determine—before the beginning—to send his only Son on a rescue mission for us? When we discover our place in the span of time and space, we also discover the depth of God’s compassion and the determination of his grace. His steadfast love sought for us past blazing galaxies and scorching suns, over craggy mountaintops and roaring seas.
This is the glorious mystery of the gospel. God created a universe to dwarf mankind. Then he reached into that vast expanse with the cleansing blood of his Son, by the power of his Spirit, to snatch us from the clutches of death—clutches that threatened to draw us into an eternity of destruction apart from the blazing glory of his saving love.
Nature is meant to make us feel small. When we venture into the wilderness and peer from summit heights, it provides an incredible background for salvation—the story of how the transcendent glorious Lord of heaven and earth condescended to our trifling existence.
Chances are this isn’t earth-shattering new truth for you. But my hope is that you’ll move from knowing this truth to experiencing it by spending time in the great outdoors with the God who cares for you. Plan a trip. Go hiking. Splash through babbling streams. Climb a mountain. Get into God’s creation. Rediscover your smallness, and his giantness.
As you do, you will marvel with renewed wonder: Who am I, O Lord, that you are mindful of me?