I was born with a Bible in my hand (not literally), in church before I was even born (literally). I can’t remember my first Bible, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was one of those soft, cute little fabric storybook Bibles with crunchy things on the inside.
What a gift.
Not that first Bible (though it was), but the Bible as a whole: growing up with parents who taught it to me and gave me daily opportunities to learn it. Because of that gift, I’ve known as far back as my memories reach that God created the world. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
So it’s always taken imagination to picture what it would be like to only know about God through his creation (Rom 1:20)—to imagine myself as one of the many people now or throughout history who didn’t have the Bible, who didn’t even know such a thing as the Bible existed, who never heard the name of Christ.
But it wasn’t hard for me to see how “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” To me, it’s always made sense that the glorious, wide world had to have a creator.
I made the earth and created man on it; it was my hands that stretched out the heavens, and I commanded all their host. (Isa 45:12 ESV)
God’s existence and his power are clear through creation. Yet creation also reveals much more of who God is than we give it credit for. It’s a supernova shining in the pitch black, and by its light I now see God’s goodness in brighter and brighter colors.
I’d like to take a moment to share a few ways that creation has made God’s goodness impossible for me to ignore.
Close your eyes and taste your favorite meal. (Or one of your favorites if, like me, you can’t pick just one.) The smell, the texture, the sweetness, the spice, the heat.
We can survive on bland foods: plain rice and broccoli and eggs. That’s a marvel in itself—that what we need to nourish our bodies exists in abundance. And I’m not even going to get into how amazing it is that “you can literally turn Twinkies into fingernails,” as I read once.1
But we have a God who gave us so much more than what we need to survive. He gave us what we could savor—an endless variety of flavors that we can combine in innumerable ways to create masterpieces almost too stunning to eat.
Variety (& creativity)
It’s everywhere. In the deserts of the United States alone, there are over 10,000 species of insect. The human eye can detect around 1 million colors.
Just look at any decently stocked produce section. Watermelon radishes, starfruit, purple asparagus, yuzu, bitter melon.
Or go to any zoo or aquarium.
We don’t need variety like this, but it’s there for us. It’s there because God is a good and creative God.
How many are your works, Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. (Ps 104:24 NIV)
But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? (Job 12:7–9 ESV)
And this variety isn’t just something to observe—it’s something that expands how we perceive time passing. Joshua Foer writes:
Monotony collapses time; novelty unfolds it. You can exercise daily and eat healthily and live a long life, while experiencing a short one. If you spend your life sitting in a cubicle and passing papers, one day is bound to blend unmemorably into the next – and disappear. That’s why it’s so important to change routines regularly, and take vacations to exotic locales, and have as many new experiences as possible that can serve to anchor our memories. Creating new memories stretches out psychological time, and lengthens our perception of our lives.2
Sunsets, first snowfalls, flowers, faces. Constellations. Spiderwebs. The Aurora Borealis.
There’s no logical reason for all the beauty. Yes, there’s an argument that without attractiveness species would end and that predators lure prey through bright colors. But really, does the world need to be gorgeous in so many ways?
Joy & rest
There’s a way to feel better built into the human body, available to almost everyone. It’s free. It’s easy. It’s walking.
Walking is good for your mind. Walking can help in the treatment of both anxiety and depression (especially the latter). It can improve self-esteem and happiness. Walking outdoors may provide additional benefits.
Walking in green space can improve sleep. Regular walking in green space may improve both sleep quality and quantity, and reduce episodes of insomnia.3
I could list study results and anecdotes here, but walking has gotten so much attention in recent years that you’re probably not too skeptical about its benefits.
And even if you can’t walk, other forms of movement still provide the same kinds of benefits. God made us to move—Adam and Eve’s job of keeping the garden before the Fall would have involved a lot of movement!—and for movement to make us feel good. Our bodies are wired to help us feel greater joy throughout our days apart from exercise because of exercise:
When you exercise, you provide a low-dose jolt to the brain’s reward centers—the system of the brain that helps you anticipate pleasure, feel motivated, and maintain hope. Over time, regular exercise remodels the reward system, leading to higher circulating levels of dopamine and more available dopamine receptors. In this way, exercise can both relieve depression and expand your capacity for joy. 4
—Dr. Kelly McGonigal
There’s something else here that, to me, reveals how God’s goodness and grace extend to our physical and mental health rather than merely our spiritual health: it’s that moderate exercise gives us immense benefits.
According to the World Health Organization, a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week is recommended to achieve health benefits. Similarly, the American College of Cardiology recommends moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity for 40 minutes, 3 to 4 times per week.5
We have 10,080 minutes per week, and we only need to exercise for 75 to 150 minutes of them.
We don’t need to train long and hard, hour after hour, day after day, year after year. What’s more, doing that can actually hurt us.
A study of 1,878 joggers and 10,158 non-joggers for up to 35 years found that “the optimal amount of jogging was 2 to 3 times per week at a slow or average pace. Interestingly, those jogging at a strenuous pace did not exhibit a mortality rate statistically different from that of the sedentary group.”6
Just like in the Christian life, God asks us to work, but also invites us to rest.
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (Gal 6:9 ESV)
But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. (Isa 40:31 ESV)
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matt 11:28–30 ESV)
Goodness in the ground
Have you heard of grounding? Kind of an odd word, but it means making direct skin contact with the ground, like with bare feet. And it’s good for you.
When I first read about it as one way to help cure jet lag7 years ago, I was skeptical despite the scientific evidences provided.
But according to studies, the benefits of grounding aren’t made up. Here’s an abstract from a study by James L. Oschman, Gaétan Chevalier, and Richard Brown:
Multi-disciplinary research has revealed that electrically conductive contact of the human body with the surface of the Earth (grounding or earthing) produces intriguing effects on physiology and health. Such effects relate to inflammation, immune responses, wound healing, and prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.8
Am I suggesting that when you’re sick just go stand on the grass? No; I’m suggesting it’s amazing that God designed spending time in his creation to be beneficial for us. Beautiful and beneficial—because he’s good.
Yes, I’m putting dogs here. You can substitute cats or whatever kind of animal you like if you’re not a cat person or dog person. Otters? Giraffes? Something that’s not a mammal?
But back to dogs. They’re designed to be pack animals, and they just so happen to be able to form packs with people. All kinds of dogs—giant and tiny, docile and defiant, adorable and majestic. For just about every type of person, there’s a dog that would make the perfect companion. Did God need to create dogs? Of course not.
But I believe he did it for us. Yes, he commanded humans to subdue the earth (Gen 1:28). Yes, animals do work for us (and “whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast,” Prov 12:10). But he also knew how much animals like dogs could make us smile, make us laugh, and warm our feet while we get ready in the morning.
In fact, the idea for this article popped into my head right after taking these photos.
I remember sitting in a chapel service during high school and being mildly surprised when the speaker said that God wasn’t sitting in heaven with a bat waiting for us to sin so he could hit us with it.
On one hand, I knew this was true because Christ died for us. But on the other, there was a lot of focus in my school and church on keeping the rules—on the law-giving and holy and orderly elements of the character of God.
I missed out on seeing God’s love and beauty; I failed to look around at creation’s invitation to seek him. Creation is the world’s oldest advertisement—for its Creator.
Creation is the world’s oldest advertisement—for its Creator.
So let’s not stop at noticing the invitation, appreciating the advertisement.
Let’s praise the Lord for his goodness.
The Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works. (Ps 145:9 KJV)
I will meditate on the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works. Men shall speak of the might of your awesome acts, and I will declare your greatness. They shall utter the memory of your great goodness, and shall sing of your righteousness. (Ps 145:5–7 ESV)
Let’s accept that invitation to know him more and open his Word.
Let’s reflect: our God made this wide, wonderful world. He appointed us as his stewards, and he made us in his image.
- Every Person an Icon: Why Creation Signifies Dignity for All
- What Happened on the 7 Days of Creation? (Walkthrough + Video)
- What Are the Christian Views on Creation?
- Abel James, The Wild Diet (New York: Avery, 2015).
- Joshua Foer, Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything (New York: Penguin Books, 2012), 77.
- See “Health Benefits of Walking.”
- https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/five_surprising_ways_exercise_changes_your_brain, accessed March 30, 2023
- “The Impact of Excessive endurance exercise on the heart,” accessed March 30, 2023.
- “The Impact of Excessive endurance exercise on the heart,” accessed March 30, 2023. For more on this, watch the TED Talk that first had me floored at God’s goodness in this area: “Run for Your Life! At a Comfortable Pace, and Not Too Far.”
- Dave Asprey, Head Strong: The Bulletproof Plan to Ativate Untapped Brain Energy to Work Smarter and Think Faster—in Just Two Weeks (New York: Bulletproof, 2017), 71.
- “The effects of grounding (earthing) on inflammation, the immune response, wound healing, and prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases,” accessed March 30, 2023.