We can certainly learn plenty from computer screens (and technology of every kind), but—for the sake of your soul—go outside! Go outside and look around as often as you can. For so many reasons, your mind and body need the outdoors. I’ll cover just two reasons here.
1. The glory of God is declared by the natural world.
But consider this—none of these things are accidents. They are gifts crafted by the Father Himself for the sole purpose of our enjoyment. Think about it. Beauty and pleasure contribute little if anything to functionality. Flowers could serve the same purpose if they were all the same size, shape, and color. For that matter, color is basically worthless. We don’t need it to survive. Clean air with no fragrance serves our lungs every bit as well as a breeze carrying the scent of freshly cut grass and the neighbor’s lavender bushes. But God delights in our enjoyment of His creation. It’s part of His conversation with us. He says “I want your soul to be refreshed” every time we inhale sweetly perfumed air. He says “I want you to be filled with joy and wonder” every time we watch a baby bird stumble and then take flight for the first time. He says “I want you to remember Me” every time we study His handiwork in the artistry of a canna leaf or the perfect symmetry of a fern. He says “I like to hear you laugh” when we witness two squirrels chasing each other and fighting over the same nut even though there’s an untouched pile a few feet away.
Every sunrise reminds us of new mercies. Every rainfall tells a story of His provision. Every rainbow speaks a promise.
Psalm 19:1 tells us that “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the expanse proclaims the work of his hands.” Theologians call the perception we can have of God from the created world “general revelation,” and obviously we need the “special revelation” of the Scriptures (and Christ’s gospel in them) to be reconciled to our Creator, but we can still behold some of the glorious wonders of our Creator through the wonderful world He has created.
I admit that I can be rather ridiculous in my enjoyment of nature. My daughters have rolled their eyes at me many times when I squeal with delight at the sight of some little bird or ladybug or lizard. Imagine my reaction to watching baby sea turtles find their way into the ocean a few years ago. Forget about it. I might have (definitely) cried.
I am not suggesting that we all have to enjoy the outdoors in the same ways or even in the same amounts. But many times I have found myself alone in nature and realized that I was the only witness to something glorious happening right before my eyes, that the Lord saw fit to put His artistry and power on display just for me. I believe He desires to do that for each of us, and it’s a conversation we do not want to miss. Make time for these conversations. Experience what He called “good” during creation and desires to share with you now. Take joy in what He has made for His glory and your enjoyment. It will serve your mind and body in immeasurable ways.
2. The outside world can help you battle sin.
Of course, sin can happen outside just as easily and often as it does inside. Unfortunately, being present in the beauty of nature doesn’t magically remove the ugliness of our sin nature. However, I could reasonably argue that it’s much more difficult to hide in our sin when we are outside in wide open spaces. Further, it is easier to forget our sinful desires when a majestic moment in nature takes our breath away and changes the subject of our thoughts.
In a sermon many years ago, John Piper pointed out the absence of windows in stores that sell pornography. He observed that the reason for this is that it is very difficult to engage in this particular sin when we look at the sky. I couldn’t agree more, but I also think the same idea would apply to most any sin. Fully engaging in the grandeur of nature reminds us of our smallness and makes us forgetful of our small desires. When we consider God’s work during creation, we must remember that we were specifically designed to enjoy it!
Things changed dramatically when sin entered the world, but not so much that this desire was completely removed from us. Consider Barnabas Piper’s words:
The world God created was not ok or decent or fine; it was exactly right. It was good. . . . But what we often forget is that sin and the curse did not evaporate the good and replace it. They did not recreate the world as a heinously evil hellscape. Sin corrupted the good, but the world still has God’s fingerprints all over it and tendrils of Eden woven through it. Nothing is completely as it should be, but neither is the world utterly corrupt. The good that once defined all of creation still shines throughout it.
We were created for Eden, and we still have desires for Eden. We belong in nature. Today it isn’t as perfect as it once was or will be when Christ returns, but we are much closer to it when we spend time outside than when we surround ourselves with closed doors and windows or stare at screens too long. Even if only for a few brief moments, develop a daily habit of walking away from whatever is demanding too much of your attention (especially if it is sinful) to go look at the sky. Your future self will thank you.
This is an excerpt from a brand new book I wrote with my husband Jared — Go Outside . . . and 19 Other Keys to Thriving in Your 20’s, now available from Moody Publishers. Order for your favorite high school grads, college students, or young professionals from wherever good books are sold.