An excitement stirs within my family every time we enter the wilderness—an excitement that’s simply not present when we’re in an urban environment. We are drawn to the wild places of the world, especially in Africa. Our hearts leap at the sight of a field of elephants, a meadow of wildebeests, or wild dogs on a hunt. Stars in Africa seem to shine like diamonds and sunrises often look like a blazing orange canvas. We love bouncing on dirt roads, eating on the banks of the Okavango Delta, and hiking through lush animal habitat.
Every person—great and small, young and old—has sensed a passion for God’s creation from time to time, and I believe that passion was instilled in us by God himself. If you carefully read Genesis, you’ll see that Adam was created outside of the Garden of Eden. He was only placed inside the garden after being formed from the dust of the earth. Our connection to nature is as deep-rooted as our very likeness to God.
The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there he placed the man whom he had formed. (Genesis 2:8 NASB)
The Call of Creation
There are times when creation calls to our souls. Not all seem to answer this call, though. Some people are uncomfortable experiencing the wild, while others jump at the chance for the adventure that outdoor life brings. I’ve often wondered what it is that draws some of us to those wild places, while others cling to the creature comforts of the city and suburbia.
Scripture tells us of great men of faith who spent time in the wilderness. Whether they entered the wilderness because of refuge or rescue, they left that place having heard from God and receiving the answers they sought.
- Moses fled to Midian in the wilderness of Shur, and heard the Lord from within the burning bush (Exodus 3). He later led the Israelites through the wilderness toward the Promised Land, and climbed Mount Sinai to receive instructions from the Lord (Exodus 19, 20).
- David, who wrote many of the Psalms, established his faith in the Lord while tending his father’s flocks in the hills and fields. He later hid from King Saul in the wilderness before he himself became King of Israel (1 Samuel 23).
- Elijah escaped to the wilderness to hide from Jezebel, and there he heard the still, small voice of the Lord (1 Kings 19).
- John the Baptist lived in the wilderness before beginning his ministry to prepare Israel for the coming of the Messiah (Luke 1).
- Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness before he began his public ministry (Matthew 4), and often retreated to the mountains to pray.
Time and time again, we see Biblical heroes seeking refuge in the wild. If God used time in the wilderness to teach people in the Bible, then we, too, should try to discern what God is teaching us when we experience his creation.
A Place of Solitude
I have observed that the reason those men of faith found God in the “wild” was that, in the places of silence and solitude, they could fully focus on him. They could let their minds clear and their hearts connect to God in nature more than they could in the hustle and bustle of daily life. If there was so much noise in the lives of these Biblical figures that they had to retreat to find God, how much more do we need similar places of silence and solitude today? Our lives are constantly bombarded with information, and we need time for refuge and calm.
The mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. (Isaiah 55:12 NIV)
God speaks to us and teaches us when we enter his creation, whether we are sitting on the beach, riding a boat on Lake Martin, hiking a trail at Oak Mountain, or taking an excursion to Africa. God wants to speak to us in nature, but it’s up to us to seek his heart and his face in those moments. It’s vital that we then listen to what He says and apply the lessons we learn to our lives, both in and out of the wilderness.
Take time to enjoy God’s creation and praise him for the beauty of all he has made. He will speak to you when you slow down and listen for his still, small voice.
The only thing better than going into creation and enjoying all that it has to offer is letting the Creator come into my heart and enjoying all that he has to offer.
Chris Tomlin, lyrics
From the highest of heights to the depths of the sea