Since we will all suffer in this fallen world, I’m always eager to learn how great Christians of the past persevered through suffering. In an article titled “Amy Carmichael’s Secret to Fighting Discouragement,” Eliza Thomas says Amy Carmichael’s love of nature helped her persevere in her ministry.
I’ve often wondered how Amy could maintain such supernatural joy in the face of “griefs which can come down like an avalanche over the soul.” Reading her writings has taught me that there were four main things that bolstered her spirit and her faith—saturation in Scripture, delight in the presence of God, the support of a Christian community, and the glorious beauty of the natural world….
We need as many spiritual encouragements as we can find in order to thrive in the midst of suffering. The beauty of nature speaks to us of God’s beauty, and sometimes this is just what a dry soul needs.
Amy’s spiritual response to the beauty of the natural world is perfectly in step with the psalmist’s cry, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky proclaims the work of his hands” (Ps. 19:1). Amy was a born naturalist because she understood that creation is a marvel that inspires worship of the Creator and that renews our minds for service in difficult spiritual landscapes….
The apostle Paul encourages us to set our minds on “whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable” (Phil. 4:8 NIV, emphasis added). Attentiveness to aesthetic beauty is an aspect of Christian experience that enables believers to stand firm even in the face of suffering….
I’ve come across a similar love of nature in the life of William Wilberforce, who was known to constantly take long walks while praying or contemplating poetry and Scripture. He wrote in a letter to his sister,
I was out before six, and made the fields my oratory, the sun shining as bright and as warm as at Midsummer. I think my own devotions become more fervent when offered in this way amidst the general chorus, with which all nature seems on such a morning to be swelling the song of praise and thanksgiving.
Just as Amy Carmichael’s love of nature poured out in her writing, Jonathan Edwards, another great lover of the beauty of nature, often referenced nature in his sermons. Stephen Nichols writes,
This Divine Being, who so permeates the universe, is, Edwards informs us, “distinguished from all other beings and exalted above ’em chiefly by his divine beauty.” This beauty is known in and through the world, and the world is, in an ontological sense, the communication of God’s being.” Edwards doesn’t merely employ nature to help one see God. In Edwards’s scheme of things God is communicated in that which is seen….
In short, Edwards finds much in nature worthy of his attention. Further, Edwards viewed his appreciation of the theater of creation as an act of worship.
As the great Christian men and women of the past have discovered, the beauty of nature speaks to us of God in countless ways. Not only does it uplift our souls in worship, but, as we see from the writings of both Carmichael and Edwards, it also gives us a language by which we can communicate the beauty of God to others. Let us learn from these persevering Christians! Fill your heart and mind with the beauty of nature.