On Monday, I wrote about a time when God used music to impact me deeply and draw me closer in my walk with him. Music, coupled with God’s Word, can be deeply spiritually formational. Today, I’d like to look at another practice that has been powerful for me personally—listening to the voice of creation as it testifies to its Creator.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world…” (Psalm 19:1-4).

“Their voice goes out into all the earth.” That’s a profound statement. We cannot understand creation’s voice or make out its words without the written Word of God to turn our ears. But creation, coupled with God’s Word, can be a powerful combination.

A few years ago, I wrote about how I’ve experienced this for the Conversations Journal blog. It was part of the same series as Monday’s music article:

“Learning Surrender on a Cruise”

We need the eyes of faith and the testimony of Scripture to really hear and appreciate nature’s voice. But make no mistake—nature is speaking. If we listen and open our hearts, God can use the voice of his created world to form our souls.

I experience this whenever I’m at the beach or on a large body of water—especially the ocean.

When I was in college, I had an internship that took me on several incentive trips. Imagine 25 college students on a cruise ship in December. Yes. It was awesome (especially when 18 of us rented mopeds and circled the island of Cozumel, Mexico—but that’s a story for another time).

During those years, I was growing spiritually in big ways. The growth came in fits and starts to be sure, but it was mostly a good time for me spiritually. On one of those trips, I recall standing on the top deck of the ship staring out over the Atlantic water. As I soaked in the sheer massiveness of the water before me, the glitter of the sun off the waves, and even the occasional dolphin playing in the water, God brought to mind passages like Psalm 36:

“Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your justice like the great deep” (Psalm 36.5-6).

As I imagined the depth of the water beneath me and the distance between me and solid ground, I was moved by how small I felt. The incredible sight before me was actually speaking of the even greater reality of God’s love, faithfulness, righteousness and justice—not to mention his sovereignty, power and beauty.

The moment was at once overwhelming and haunting, intimidating and alluring.

God was drawing me in. He was using the world he created to help me learn how to relate to him, in this case, with intense surrender and submission. I felt like a little child in God’s arms (not a bad place to be according to Christ, Matthew 18.3).

I will never get the ocean to submit to my pitiful will. That wouldn’t be fun anyway. The fun of the ocean is in learning its ways and experiencing its beauty and power. Perhaps God is the same. I’ll never get God to submit to me either, and that’s a good thing. Real life is found in surrendering to him, learning his ways and experiencing his beauty and power.

When we do this, when we learn to surrender to him as the mysterious, overpowering force of love he really is, he promises to take us on the ride of our lives.

I wonder what we would discover about God if we really opened our ears to listen to the voice of creation around us. I’m not sure we’d learn anything new as much as perhaps experience God anchoring his truth in our hearts more deeply. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, very physical experiences, anchor God’s truth in our hearts.

Perhaps in a lesser (but still meaningful) way, creation does something similar.

The chill of the air, the crunch of snow underfoot, the blinding rays of the sun, the new birth of spring on its way (please, Lord, make it come soon)—how is creation echoing, amplifying or reminding you of the truth of God’s Word?

Consume the pages of Scripture, but take a moment this week to listen to the voice of creation as well.