Hey, my friends. Welcome back to Let’s Encourage One Another.
I’ve got to tell you, there are some days where I really struggle to sense God’s presence. Sometimes, life just feels empty and the daily tasks can overwhelm—I’ve got to get dishes done, and the laundry, and the kids need baths, and this needs done, and that’s due tomorrow… and it’s just so much. And I lose sight of God being there with me.
Now, we know it’s not always about experiencing Him in some fantastical way, right? We know, based on Scripture, that He is with us, whether we can sense His presence or not.
But sometimes, I just long to know that He is near.
And one of the ways I have found to consistently put myself in God’s presence is to go outside.
Jeremy Stefano wrote, “The beauty and splendor of creation stir and enrapture the heart, shaping the humble soul in wonder and gratitude.”
So today, I wanted to share more about how God shows up in nature and how we can intentionally make ways to go outside and experience Him—even when life is hard.
God Reveals Himself in Nature
As I have been preparing to homeschool this upcoming fall, I came across an article speaking about the charm of nature study, written by G. Dowton. It starts like this: “…in dealing with birds, animals, flower and all other forms of natural life, we are perhaps, nearer to the Creator than in any other branch of science; for the natural world is the expression of God’s personality in a form that is within the reach of all of us to comprehend in some measure. And is not the natural world one of the greatest proofs that there is a God?”
Do you experience this yourself? You walk outside and you feel closer to God? Whether you are looking up at the expansive sky, or you’re watching a bird build its nest, or maybe even you’re enjoying a soft breeze on your face… there’s just something about being outside that helps us feel closer to God.
Paul, in the book of Romans, shares this same idea. Romans 1, verse 20 says, “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.”
The truth is, creation reveals aspects of God’s character. It tells us more about Him. So by spending time in nature, in His creation, we are able to experience Him more fully.
Tips for Being Outside (Even If It’s Hard For You)
Now, I’ll admit that I’m one that has some challenges being outside for long periods of time. I don’t do well in the heat—or the cold. The wind messes with my equilibrium. The sun causes headaches. I don’t like bugs… You get my point.
But it’s still good for my soul to be outside and I find myself drawn to finding ways to be outside more often, and so, I wanted to share a few tips for you—even if it’s hard for you or you have kiddos with you.
- Go outside for short periods of time. Even 5 or 10 minutes can do wonders for your spirit and lift your heart if you are feeling down.
- Find shady areas to sit if you need to.
- Go outside in the morning or later in the evening, when it’s usually cooler.
- Play a simple game with the kids, like yard darts or Mother, May I.
- Wear comfortable and appropriate clothing for the weather. If you are uncomfortable in what you are wearing, or if you’re afraid of getting it dirty, you won’t be able to enjoy yourself very much.
- When you’re getting ready to get in the car to go somewhere, let the kids play for 10-15 minutes first—or just spend a few extra minutes standing outside before you get in the car.
If you’re in the city, it can be a bit more challenging, because there are obviously more buildings and traffic and such around. The more you can kind of separate yourself from these things, the easier it will be to experience God’s presence there. (That’s not to say God isn’t in the city; we’re just looking for ways to be in nature.)
Getting up above the buildings or going out on a balcony or enjoying a private backyard area or park are all ways to get out into nature. There might also be times you need to travel to a state park or to the country so you can really lean into being in creation.
Similarly, being near windows or bringing plants inside is another way you can experience nature when you can’t always go outside. Even hanging up art prints of nature can help. I know I usually try to choose nature photos on my laptop screensaver when I can.
What to Do While Outside
So you’ve found ways to get outside more often. What are you actually supposed to do while you’re out there?
I encourage you to simply rest and observe. Watch the things going on around you. Take a walk. If it’s dark outside, look up at the stars.
But it’s also good to play games with the kids or go for a bike ride. Work in the garden or leisurely go pick up the mail.
You could also journal or read or pray. Take out a drawing notebook and sketch what you see. Take time to really look at it, to note the details, the behavior. Write down what you observe. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy.
Whatever brings you the most enjoyment is a good way to start.
And really, even on the not-so-sunny days, you could still get outside. In fact, I’m one who loves the rain, and so I’ll try to sneak out to sit on the porch for a few minutes while it’s raining or storming outside. It’s just refreshing for my soul. In fact, it reminds me of times when we would sit on my great-grandmother’s porch as children and watch the thunderstorms.
But as we are spending time outside, one of the questions we want to ask ourselves is, “What does this reveal to me about God?” In other words, “What qualities or attributes of God am I seeing?” Because, remember, creation reveals some of the invisible qualities of God. So what does this flower show me about God? This river? This tree? This storm?
You can also consider what kind of landscapes or environments most easily draw you into His presence. Is it being amongst tall trees? Being near water? Watching wildlife? What do you think it is about that particular environment that helps you experience Him?
Responding to What You Experience
Now, one of the most important pieces for us after being outside, after experiencing God’s presence in some way, is to then choose how we are going to respond to it.
Because the truth is, creation worships its Creator. The sun, the moon, the birds, the trees, the flowers… they all give honor to God. So it begs the question, “Will we worship Him, too?”
Will we praise God and exalt Him as King and Creator of the world?
Will we receive His comfort from the pitter-patter of rain?
Will we be reminded of His love and care as we watch Him care for the birds and other little creatures of the earth?
Will we sing Him a song? Or bow to His power?
Will we take enjoyment from the many colors of flowers we see around us?
Will we affirm our faith and trust in Him, knowing that He truly does have the whole world in His hands, even though it feels chaotic to us?
Sometimes this looks like offering a short prayer in response to God. For example, there’s a short prayer written by Douglas McKelvey for those moments when we hear birds singing. It goes like this:
“You draw praise
from the frailest of things.
So also draw praise
He has other ones for when we see a flower in bloom, or when we unexpectedly see wildlife, or when we see a tree swaying in the wind.
What kind of prayers might you offer to God in light of what you see and experience in His creation? Or maybe you’ll sing some songs instead. Are there worship songs that help you praise the Creator?
While being out in nature is a good spiritual practice to engage in on a regular basis, I share all of this especially for those seasons when we are struggling to experience God’s presence with us.
When you have no words, when you don’t know what to say to God and right now you’re not hearing anything from Him, when you’re tired or overwhelmed, when you’re disheartened or weary… I really invite you to take a step outside—even if only for a few minutes—and rest in His creation.
An Invitation to Journal Gently
Before I go, I want to let you know that these are the final days to register for this round of Journal Gently. If you have experienced trauma or grief, if you are going through a difficult season, and if you tend to write things out in order to process them, then Journal Gently is designed especially for you.
Over the course of 8 weeks, we will talk about how writing can be a way to process hurt, grief, and trauma with God. Each week, you’ll receive an audio training from me that shares an overview of that week’s material and shares some spiritual practices you can explore to bring God into your journey. You’ll also get a short reading and some writing exercises to work through sometime during the week. You actually receive 2 or 3 writing exercises but are only expected to choose one of them to write about. So the workload isn’t too heavy, and you can return to those exercises when you are ready.
So you get the audio training, short reading, and writing exercises from me on Mondays, and then, by the end of the week, you are invited to respond to me about what you are learning, how you are experiencing God, what questions you have, and where you might still need Him to show up. This will be direct, 1:1 access to me via email—so you can respond when you are ready, and you can share only what you are comfortable sharing with me. But I can still be there to support you, to answer questions and provide feedback, and to pray you through this journey.
Because healing can be hard. And it can be scary. And I want to be here for you as you take these first steps of maybe even sharing your own story with yourself for the first time… of saying the words, of writing down your memories, of facing what you have experienced.
Journal Gently will start on August 1 and run through September 23.
Okay, that is all for today, my friends. Until next time… let’s encourage one another.
Learn more and register for Journal Gently, an 8-week program designed to help you use writing as a way to process hurt, grief, and trauma with God.
QUOTES + BIBLE VERSES:
- “The beauty and splendor of creation stir and enrapture the heart, shaping the humble soul in wonder and gratitude.” (Jeremy Stefano)
- “…in dealing with birds, animals, flower and all other forms of natural life, we are perhaps, nearer to the Creator than in any other branch of science; for the natural world is the expression of God’s personality in a form that is within the reach of all of us to comprehend in some measure. And is not the natural world one of the greatest proofs that there is a God?” (G. Dowton, “The Charm of Nature Study”)
- “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.” (Romans 1:20 NLT)
INTERESTED IN WRITTEN SPIRITUAL DIRECTION?
I’d be honored to walk with you through a difficult season and help you discover God’s presence and work in your life.