The benefits of spending time outside in God’s creation
Parents would do well to encourage their children to spend more time outside instead of indoors glued to tablets or playing video games. While there is maybe nothing sinful with spending more time inside, science suggests (and has perhaps even proven) that spending time outdoors improves a person’s overall physical and mental health. A healthy, active lifestyle is certainly better than keeping one’s body at rest all the time. Some have theorized that more active people live longer than those who sit around and do nothing. However, it is true that some people don’t have the ability (for example, people with severe physical ailments) or the time to do this. If we don’t have the time due to more important matters (whatever they may be), then we don’t have the time. But if we have the opportunities to get outside and enjoy God’s wonderful creation, then we have to ask ourselves, “Why not?”
Below is a non-comprehensive list of some possible (and perhaps proven) benefits of being outdoors. We need to remember that not all of the things in this list are necessarily accurate, but plausible possibilities at the least. So I am not going along with all this completely dogmatically.
According to one source, being outdoors can:
Reduce stress and lower blood pressure
Support mental and physical healing
Help with the aging process
And according to another, being outdoors can:
Help avoid certain vision problems
Boost the immune system
Relax and calm the mind and body
Boost Vitamin D levels
No matter how spending time outdoors can help us be healthy and happy, we are still soldiers fighting upon a spiritual battlefield
On the other hand, we need to remember that just because we live a healthy lifestyle by taking care of our bodies doesn’t guarantee a long life. Our Lord is sovereign, and He alone determines our days (Acts 17:24-27; Job 14:4-5; James 4:14; Proverbs 20:24). Tomorrow is never guaranteed. The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away (Job 1:21). That is why spiritual health comes before all else. Good eating and consistent bodily exercise can indeed help us spiritually (albeit indirectly) to some degree. However, we must remember that many believers in third-world countries do not have access to good, healthy food. Yet, that does not make them inferior Christians with less potential (Romans 14:17). God can use those kinds of circumstances to test and grow our faith. The truth is that we are often our strongest when we are at our weakest (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). How true this will be during the tribulation when we will lack proper physical nutrition and resources like never before during the beast’s persecution of the church!
9 If anyone has an ear, let him hear: 10 If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.
Lovely as the great outdoors are, we cannot let anything, even nature, take our focus off of the spiritual
Hobbies are a wonderful thing and perfectly fine to pursue in moderation. However, our relationship with the Lord should take first place in our lives. We want to invest more of our time and energy into our walk with God than anything else. And if we prioritize spiritual growth as we should, we will learn to love and put other people before our own interests. First, we must consider our family members (both physical and spiritual) and then all people in general. But it is necessary and advisable to leave some time for ourselves, because it is good to have balance in our lives.
In regards to exercising and spending time outdoors, they have many great benefits. “But godliness is profitable for all things” (1 Timothy 4:8).
8 For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.
Different biomes within nature, and how nature pointing to God has spiritual import for both unbelievers and believers alike
With all the above said, I would like to briefly discuss some of the different biomes of nature. Oxford Languages defines a “biome” as “a large naturally occurring community of flora and fauna occupying a major habitat, e.g., forest or tundra.” Our goal is not to examine any biome specifically to study flora and fauna contained therein. Our aim is to show how nature can point unbelievers to Christ, and also how it can spiritually benefit believers. We have already demonstrated above the physical and mental advantages of spending time outdoors, so we will not spend too much more time there, but will here try to focus a bit more on the spiritual side of things.
We can gain some spiritual benefits from spending time outdoors and marveling at God’s beautiful creation. I can personally testify that nature brought me closer to my Heavenly Father. Although just spending time outdoors won’t necessarily inherently grow us spiritually, it can still help us there indirectly: the natural world can help us if it causes us to marvel at the Power and Majesty of our Lord and Savior (Psalm 19:1-2; Revelation 4:11; Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 66:4; etc.). So nature can be good for us physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Natural revelation is the first and foundational proof of God’s existence, evidence so great that all unbelievers are without excuse for their choice to reject their Creator (Romans 1:19-23; 2 Peter 3:3-6). For believers, nature can positively affect our lives, and we have the right to enjoy and appreciate God’s Creation.
The Bible uses different things to represent both good and evil. For example, Scripture compares lions to the righteous, God, and Satan (Proverbs 28:1; Revelation 5:5; 1 Peter 5:8). So it is true that some aspects of nature can at times symbolize evil and wickedness. However, that fact, by itself, does not make these elements evil and sinful in and of themselves, nor should it dim our appreciation of nature. We should not take biblical symbolism too far to the point where we over-allegorize things or get superstitious.
Holmes Rolston III states the following:
The Bible is not a book of science, and therefore not of ecology. It does, however, sketch a vision of human ecology, and contemporary readers encounter claims about how to value nature. The Bible’s vision is simultaneously biocentric, anthropocentric, and theocentric. The Hebrews discovered who they were as they discovered where they were, and their scriptures can be a catalyst in our ecological crisis.
I would note for the above (since this could potentially be misleading) that this life we live IS all about Jesus Christ! He is greater than all there is and comes first before anything else. We must remember that God did not need to create us (Psalm 50:8-15) – or anything else, for that matter – and paved the way for an eternal life we don’t deserve (Romans 6:23). God doesn’t need us, but we need Him! We don’t live for ourselves or even for creation, but for God (Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 2:10).
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ 29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”
It is worth noting that knowing the land (its weather, seasons, and topography) is crucial for people today, just as it was in ancient times (the Hebrews, Babylonians, and Egyptians are some of the more well-known examples that come to mind).
As an example, the Egyptians used the timing of the Nile River inundation to plant crops. Topography has and still determines much of how societies arise, grow, function, and spread. The landscape and layout of any particular place can determine many things such as health, production, military success, growth, commerce, and the list goes on. In Scripture, we see many examples of this, such as Tire and Sidon, which sat by the Mediterranean coast for sea-based commercial trade with other nations. Many fortresses and cities were set high on hills with a close water source for protection and sustenance. Abraham and Lot separated when they chose which land they wanted for themselves (Genesis 13). So crucial is a topography that God would send plagues and natural (or divinely sent) disasters on certain lands to punish specific peoples. As the Creator of them, our Lord knows how important and fragile ecosystems are that He would sometimes discipline or punish a people by afflicting the topography. The Bible mentions God sending floods, causing earthquakes, sending hail, drought, and other natural and divine phenomena.
To state a basic but most-important principle, everyone (especially believers as ambassadors who represent Christ and all He is and has made) needs to obey the command to take care of this world God has entrusted to our care (Genesis 2:15; Genesis 6:19-20). The reality is that most people throughout human history have done a pretty poor job at this. Additionally, our Lord wants us to take care of animals (Proverbs 12:10; Proverbs 27:23; Genesis 1:26). The earth belongs to God (Deuteronomy 10:14; 1 Chronicles 29:11; Psalm 24:1-2), so why would we disrespect our Master’s property? As Christians, we need to be good stewards of all that our Creator has entrusted to our care.
The Hebrew word for “keep” in Genesis 2:15 is shamar, שָׁמַר, and means to keep, guard, preserve, keep watch, and save life. God wants us to protect, save, and preserve His creation. The sad thing is that we have destroyed so much of it.
Everything below is not a claim that we are meant to see all the specifics mentioned from the creation around us. These are simply mentioned here as things that nature can help remind us of.
Oceans and Rivers
There will be no more ocean in the new heaven and earth because there will be no need for one (Revelation 21:1). The sea commonly symbolize wickedness (Revelation 20:33; Revelation 13:1; Psalm 74:13-14; Zechariah 10:11; Isaiah 57:20). Nonetheless, the depth and immensity of the world’s oceans (the Indian, Arctic, Atlantic, and Pacific) can help remind us of just how deep the Father’s love for us is (Ephesians 3:17-23). Additionally, we don’t have to walk on a beach or cruise on a vessel to appreciate this immense biome. On the contrary, we can simply think about all the aspects of nature (oceans included), no matter where we are. David had a good habit of recounting many elements of God’s creation even when he was not present with them (for example, the sea, sky, and ground).
We believers may face the many “storms” and “waves” that life throws our way. However, we must remember that Jesus is with us at all times. Trials and tests will continue to come. But nothing lasts forever ( 1 Corinthians 10:13). Everything has it’s time which means that God has ordained all things for a specific period (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).
17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. 18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. 19 The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all;
Rivers are another powerful reminder of the creativity of the Great Designer. We see these waterways mentioned throughout Scripture from Genesis in the original paradise (Genesis 2:10-14) to Revelation, climaxing in the last paradise (Revelation 22:1-2). Rivers can remind us of the great river that will flow through multiple channels (most likely twelve that will flow from the city’s twelve gates to the very presence and throne of God) into the great and eternal city that is to come, the New Jerusalem.
Since rivers are constantly moving, they are an excellent reminder that we as believers should always strive ahead without looking back (Philippians 3:13). The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once stated, “You cannot step into the same river twice, for other waters are continually flowing on.” We believers would do well to learn from this. We must always confess our sins immediately if we are aware of them and throw our bad habits and errors “onto the shore” so that they do not flow down with us. We must learn to confess, forget, and move on (1 John 1:9). And the Christian life is filled with hardships (rapids) just as it has calmer times (pools). Rivers are a good reminder of the life that is ours as believers (John 7:38).
Probably the most famous river in all of Scripture is the Jordan. Other passages that mention rivers include (but are not limited to) Psalm 46:4, Zechariah 14:8, Ezekiel 47:1-7, and Psalm 36:8. Jesus compared a believer’s heart to rivers flowing with living water (John 7:38).
Deserts and Wastelands
Although Scripture doesn’t suggest it directly, there is a good reason to believe there will no longer be any desert in the new heavens and new earth. At least a few passages show the negativity of this dry and arid biome (Psalm 107:35, Isaiah 41:18, Isaiah 43:19; Isaiah 35:1-10). None of these passages explicitly state there will be no desert in the new heavens or new earth per se, but the fact that dry wastelands will spring with life in the Millennium suggests that deserts should never have existed. They are probably a result of the Genesis curse. The vibe we get from them in Scripture seems more negative than positive. The same is possible for other wastelands, such as the arctic tundra. Matthew 12:43 suggests that dry and waterless places are the preferred habitat of demons. However, we don’t want to take that passage too far. “Wastelands” connote the idea of destruction and desolation (Ezekiel 33:28; Jeremiah 25:11-14). Additionally, Satan tempted Jesus in the desert regions of Judea (Matthew 4:1-11).
The Lord tested His people in the desert wilderness of Sinai and the Negev (and other areas as well) (Deuteronomy 8:2, Exodus 16). For the Hebrews to enter the promised land, they had to do so in faith. But they failed the test – failed it to the degree that the older generation of Israel would not see the inheritance promised to them (Deuteronomy 1:35). Instead, they would wander the wilderness for forty years.
Deserts are a good reminder to us believers how empty we were before we came to Christ. They are a good illustration that we are nothing but desperately thirsty people in an area dry and parched, caught as we are in the desolate wasteland of Satan’s world system. But when we think about our Lord and Savior, we remember that He quenched our eternal thirst (John 4:13-14). When we think about deserts, we can remember how the Lord led the nation of Israel through the wilderness. The Lord used the desert to test His people to see if they would stay faithful to Him or not. We know how the story goes. The point is that all believers will have to cross “their deserts” throughout their lives, because testing is a big part of the Christian life. Yet we know that if we would but trust in God to lead us through the heat and the sand and the thirst, we would make it safely through. We must avoid Israel’s mistakes (1 Corinthians 10; Hebrews 3)!
Grass found in grasslands, much like the other elements and biomes we have mentioned thus far, is highly symbolic in Scripture. The frailty and temporary existence of this plant of great variety reminds us as Christ’s followers that our time here on earth is very short and fleeting (Psalm 103:15-18; 1 Peter 1:24). Our lives depend on God’s timetable, not ours. Therefore, we would do well to react accordingly to the example Scripture lays out for us (2 Peter 3:10-18). Furthermore, the very idea that grass is short-lived should instill in us a greater fear and reverence for God that leads us to conduct and orient our lives in closer fellowship with Him. The more we love Him, the more we naturally want to obey Him (John 14:15).
The temporary nature of grass can also help remind us that even though this world and our physical bodies are fleeting, our eternal life and the new heavens and new earth will never fade away (1 Peter 1:3-9). There is no true happiness and fulfillment to be found in this life wherein we are separated (at least in part) from God. But there will be true happiness and fulfillment in the next! And just as how eternal life will always abide, the Word of God shall stand forever (Isaiah 40:8). This Isaiah passage should encourage us by strengthening our hope and trust in Scripture, a hope that never disappoints (Romans 5:5). How wonderful it is to know we have access to the very words of God that will live on with us in eternity! We have these words in our possession now, so we need to make the most of them with all the strength that lies within us (Matthew 22:37).
Mountains, Forests, and Trees
Mountains are perhaps amongst the most majestic of all the biomes in the world. Nothing inspires majesty and grandeur more than these extraordinary works of God’s almighty hand. They help us to remember just how small we are in this massive, endless universe in which we now live. This truth can impress upon our minds just how big our God is compared to all our sins and trials. The difference is that God has no limits while mountains do. The Lord’s grace and forgiveness are unending (Matthew 18:22), and His power is unlimited. All in all, everything about Him is infinite, including His whole character (Psalm 136; 118).
Mountains are the highest points on earth, resting closer to the sky than any other natural structure. How can any believer or unbeliever not think about their Creator when they behold such a magnificent reminder of how high and lofty He is? Despite this, our Lord is not beyond reach even though His knowledge and power are far beyond us (Acts 17:27; Deuteronomy 30:11-15). His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9). Mountains should remind us believers of the Millennial and New Jerusalem we will one day enjoy with our dear Lord Jesus forever because they are described as the ”holy mountain of God” (Isaiah 56:7; Joel 3:17; Micah 4:1-13; Isaiah 2:2). The Mount of Olives will be the first place our Lord touches down at His second advent for the battle of Armageddon when He splits it in half (Zechariah 14:1-5).
Mountains are large. However, they will give way to their Creator, who carries much greater power. Mountains are physical, but our Lord is both physical and spiritual who can create and destroy. It is no coincidence why so many passages mention our Lord conquering mountains, and that is to help us gauge the scope of God’s power, something we can’t do even close to perfect this side of eternity (Micah 1:4; Isaiah 54:10; Job 28:9). As large and intimidating as mountains may be, they are nothing compared to the strength and might of our heavenly Father. They can be moved and shaken, but our Savior cannot. They have their limits and have only existed for a short time (Psalm 90:2). Yet, God is eternal and is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). But like Him, they are majestic and beautiful (though still not as much) Hebrews 1:3-4. Overall, mountains help us to remember the many amazing aspects of the God we serve. And I will add that the word “awesome” is best fit for the One who epitomizes that word better than anyone or anything else.
Trees, much like mountains, are another great reminder of the power and majesty of God. Some of the largest specimens in the world (redwoods and giant sequoias) can reach heights up to 380 feet (hyperion is known as the world’s tallest standing tree). Like mountains, they point skyward, almost acting like fingers reminding us that there is only one way to heaven through Jesus Christ. All we have to do is look up and take the hint. For believers, mountains and trees can help us remember that it is only through God’s strength that we can do what He asks of us.
1 I lift up my eyes to the mountains— where does my help come from? 2 My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.
There are many different kinds of trees in the world (many different kinds of forests), far too many to count. This diversity helps us remember the variety of spiritual gifts and ministries within the church. Forests display a sense of unity in that they all stand together in harmony. These diverse and unique biomes bring to our minds the unity and gentleness that should exist within the body of Christ. Believers must stand together all while building each other up (1 Corinthians 12:15-26). And since we are on this topic, we remember that Israel is the root of the tree containing the natural branches while all gentiles are grafted into it (Romans 11:17-31).
Trees can provide shelter and food depending on the variety. Just sitting under large vegetation can bring to our minds the truth that God shelters and protects us. The growth of God’s kingdom is compared to that of a mustard tree (Matthew 13:32).
Matthew 7:17 uses good, fruit-bearing trees to describe godly teachers. On the other side are the bad trees (wolves in sheep’s clothing), representing false teachers who produce bad fruit. These largest of plants bring to mind that we are on this earth to bear fruit for Jesus Christ through the spiritual gifts and ministries we all have. It is eye-opening how Jesus used creation to demonstrate so many biblical principles! Since that is the case, we would do well to accept these reminders our Lord has left us. They help us remember the truth of the present and the past, and the future. The Romans crucified our Lord on a tree (Acts 5:30). If we look back into the past, the most critical thing to think about is the price Christ paid on our behalf to grant us the eternal life we shall one day share with Him forever. We look to the cross in the past, focus on the biblical principles used of trees in the present, and set our sights on the future that awaits us in the new heavens and new earth where all the trees of life will exist forever (Revelation 22:2).
The Sky and the Universe
The sky (or earth’s atmosphere) isn’t usually regarded as the same as space itself. The third heaven most likely exists above the earth’s atmosphere, but not in space per se. Scripture describes three heavens—the sky (or earth’s atmosphere), space (also known as the universe), and the third heaven itself (1 Kings 8:27). Nonetheless, they both boast their fair share of beauty in God’s grand array of artwork. They are larger and more vast than any of the other aspects of creation we have mentioned thus far. Space seems unlimited, but it is an excellent reminder to us that God is even more so. He created it and existed long before it ever came into being. Our Savior is not limited by time or space because He is all-powerful in that He is omnipresent (Jeremiah 23:24;).
Proverbs 15:3 should comfort all of us because we know that God sees and knows everything we think, say, and do, whether good or bad. Nothing escapes His attention.
When we suffer as believers, we don’t suffer alone. No matter where we are, our Lord is with us holding us close to Himself. No mountain is too high, no river too wide, and ocean too deep for God to sustain and protect us. Nothing can separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:39). No universe is too large that He cannot support us. When we take to flight, He is with us. If we blast off into outer space, He is there (Psalm 139:8). When we descend to the depths, He is waiting. Our Lord knows His creation better than we ever will (Job 38).
Believers may become intimated by the size of the universe in that we don’t know the end or the beginning. But our heavenly Father does because these aspects of His creation are His workmanship. The seemingly never-ending galaxies can bring to our minds the truth that Christ and His kingdom have no end (Revelation 22:13; Psalm 145:13; Daniel 4:3). The new heavens and new earth we shall forever share with our eternal King cannot be defiled or fade away in any way (1 Peter 1:4). Every aspect of God’s character is never-ending and will never change (James 1:17). And as we should already know, we cannot separate our Lord from His Word (John 1:1). Our love for the truth goes hand in glove with our love for God because both are compatible and cannot be separated. Even though “the grass withers and the flower fades away, the Word of God abides forever (Isaiah 40:8).
When we consider the magnificence of the sky and the stars, we can’t help but marvel at the eternal One who created them (Psalm 8). None of the creation is as majestic as our faithful Majesty Himself. No person on the face of this earth doesn’t see God when they view and marvel at His creation. Whether those who reject Him like it or not, they are staring at undeniable proof of the existence for the One they have exchanged for the biggest liar and fraud of all time (Romans 1:25). It is a terrible shame that most have chosen to credit all there is to anything but the One who made it all (Isaiah 53). Despite the hate and rejection, God made a way for all human beings to come to Him and escape the terrible fate due all of us. And when it is all said and done, our Lord will be able to speak to all those who rejected Him that He died for them. It is not the Father’s will that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:8-10).
To resume our topic, the Bible compares believers and angels to stars (Revelation 12:4). Satan deceived one-third of angels into his satanic rebellion and will do so again during the tribulation by leading one-third of believers alive at that time into apostasy. Our heavenly Father is mentioned as the morning star (Revelation 22:16; 2 Peter 1:19), a title once used of Lucifer before his fall (Isaiah 14:12). The vast number of stars in the universe can’t help but remind us of the many angels and our brothers and sisters we will spend eternity with forever (Revelation 7:9-17).
The sky (not space itself per se) will be the place where our Lord will come back to receive His own and to pay back those who oppose Him (Matthew 24:30; Revelation 1:7). The sky is an excellent reminder that our Lord is coming quickly, a fact we should use as motivation to make the most of the time and be ready for His coming (Matthew 24:36). The clouds bring to mind the passages we have just examined that speak of our Lord’s quick and decisive return to repay each man according to his work. Ironically, our Lord rightly accused the leaders of Israel of not telling the signs of the times even though they could tell what the weather would be like based on the appearance of the sky (Matthew 16:1-4). Every time we look up outside, we should remind ourselves of Luke 21:28 as encouragement. Our Lord will come from above and descend below to rescue His own and destroy His enemies (Revelation 19:11-21).
Oh, how marvelous and wonderful is God’s beautiful creation! Nature speaks to us, but we must listen to it through all the wonderful passages which use it as reminders of who our God is. Therefore, we should relate to it well. We must take care of what God has left us with, and we must take the lessons we can learn from nature and apply them in our lives. Therefore, let us allow the great outdoors to draw our hearts closer to God.