Recently I was a part of a survey that asked a single question, “When do you feel closest to God?” I understand it is a subjective question. Whenever you ask about people’s feelings, that doesn’t mean you are going to find the truth, but you will gain insight into what is going on inside of people. This time the number one response was overwhelming, “When I am in nature.” People clearly felt they connected to God more when they were outside in his creation.
As an avid outdoorsman, I understand what people are saying, but I also wondered why this phenomenon occurs. I want to suggest a few reasons this type of thinking exists, some are positive, and some are negative.
- Creation is the handiwork of God. Popular teaching may suggest that the world is the result of random chance, but in our hearts, we find that hard to believe. There is too much beauty and wonder in the world. The heavens declare the work of God’s hands.
- It is easier to see the hand of God away from man-made things. It is hard to see God inside of buildings, even the most majestic. No artist can truly capture the colors and beauty of a sunrise, no matter how skilled. When we move away from these lesser creations, God’s presence is clearly seen.
- Many people feel trapped. There is a sense of freedom that comes from wide-open spaces. Many people, like myself, work in an office, inside of a building. Our lives are surrounded by brick and mortar. We need the freedom of fresh air and the absence of human activity.
- People are complicated and confusing. Frequently our most meaningful outdoor experiences are with only a couple of people we enjoy or totally alone. When we go to a Church setting to encounter God, there are people. People bring with them their sins, flaws, and issues. Often it feels better to be away from others to see the purity of faith.
- It is a passive way to see God. Seeing God in nature requires that I do nothing besides be outside. I do not have to read and think. I do not have to sing and pay attention. I do not have to work through my emotional issues with others. All I have to do is be. In a world that is rushing everywhere, and our overloaded schedules, we enjoy anything that doesn’t require effort on our part.
- We can use it to justify recreation. Our culture puts a high value on enjoyment. We live for the weekend, and when we can connect God to something we want to do, then all the better. Here is usually how it goes; someone tells me that they love going to the lake on the weekend because they feel close to God there. My question is, “Did you go to experience God, or did you go to spend time with the family in the boat, and God was an added bonus?”
I believe the way our society is progressing there is going to be more and more talk about God in nature. Here are a few of the reasons I think this movement is happening. I would love to hear your thoughts. Just don’t forget that God is not limited by our feelings. The instruction of scripture is that God reveals himself in his world, his worship, and his people. We must not neglect other areas of experiencing his presence and focus on nature alone.