Finding rest in nature

By Larry Platner

‘For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to
them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have
been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have
been made.’ Romans 1:19-20. (ESV)

Some years ago my wife and I moved to London from Birmingham. Prior to our move we drove down to have a look at the area where we planned to live. When we got there, my wife wanted to walk around the streets to get a feel for the area. I wanted to head to the nearest park. You see my greatest fear in moving to London was being cut off from nature.

Fortunately, nearby was Regents Park, a large park with playing fields, a rose garden and nature areas. Also nearby was Hampstead Heath, a large forested park. During the 13 years that we lived in London I frequented these parks often as well as occasionally taking the train with my bike to the Chilterns, a hilly green area on the edge of London. For me these outings were essential to my well-being. There is just something about being outdoors in a park or natural area that refreshes me.

Walking in nature 

Just before the 2020 lockdown we moved to Sheffield. Within a five
minute walk down the hill we live on, (almost everyone lives on a hill in Sheffield), is a river bordered by trees. Up the hill from our home is the Wadsley Common, a large area of woodlands and fields of heather and bracken.

During the lockdown my wife and I regularly took walks and it made a big difference to our frame of mind. And from the number of others that we saw taking walks it was obvious that many others found this to be true for them.

What is it about nature that refreshes us? Of course, there is the beauty of nature, refreshing exercise and the feeling of escape from the confines of home (especially during the lockdown) but is there something deeper?

What is it about nature?

Our earth is God’s creation. He owns it and most importantly of all he called it “good”. This goodness is not attributed by us because of how its resources benefit us but because God, the source of all values, values it as good.

Nature is not ours to treat in anyway we choose for the sole benefit of ourselves. As God’s creation it is sacred. It obeys God, submits to His commands, benefits from God’s sustaining and providing hand, and serves God’s purposes. God is actively involved with creation.

What this means is that as we observe nature we are observing the hand of God at work, the glory of God. We see in nature the character of God. We see a God of beauty, of detail, of order, of symmetry, of delight, of care, of diversity yet unity.

Being in God’s presence

So to go for a walk in a nature area or even to sit in one’s back garden and take in the colours, the feel of the wind, the flight and sound of birds, is to see God’s glory. It is to be reminded of His goodness, His provision, His attention to the smallest detail while at the same time He shows us His power in the grand display of mountains, a sunrise or sunset, a waterfall and more.

These attest to his power but power that produces goodness and love. As we take this in we should remind ourselves that we likewise are God’s creation and like all of creation are recipients of his goodness, of his loving care and delight in blessing us.

When I am out walking in his creation I find that it soothes my soul. After a long hike, even though I am physically tired, my soul and spirit are rested and refreshed. It is like having been in God’s presence, enjoying the pleasure of His company.

I honestly believe that regular doses of time in the beauty of nature, be it a local park or national park, a back garden, are essential to restoring and resting our souls. In our Western world we have been taught that it is only through knowledge that we can know God. But when we are experiencing nature, seeing, touching and smelling, we are connecting with God who created it and us. 

Psalm 114:1-13

Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts!

Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!

Let them praise the name of the LORD!
For he commanded and they were created.
And he established them forever and ever;
he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.

Praise the LORD from the earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind fulfilling his word!

Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!
Beasts and all livestock, creeping things and flying birds!

Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!
Young men and maidens together, old men and children!

Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted;
his majesty is above earth and heaven.