Nature wordlessly speaks of God's presence

By Rabbi Marc Gellman, Tribune Content Agency on

I firmly believe that there is a spiritual vaccine against this pandemic that is available to us right now. It has four components, each one rooted in the Bible.

The first is the belief, rooted in the first verse of Psalm 23 "The Lord is my shepherd I shall not lack anything" (my translation) that even now, because God is with us, we lack nothing we really need to survive and even thrive during these times of fear and isolation. The hope that a medical vaccine will be found ought not blind us to the fact that we have everything we need to survive right now.

The second is the belief, rooted in Isaiah 45:7 that the God we worship is not just the God of Christmas trees and holiday meals. God is the God who "makes light and creates darkness, who makes peace and creates evil." God is the sovereign of our entire life experience. God is the God who gives and the God who takes away, and our response is to say in humility and awe, "Blessed is the name of the Lord."

The third goes back to Psalm 23 in the fourth verse where we affirm the truth of God's actual promise to us. That promise is not a promise of a life without any suffering. It is rather a promise of a life in which every day our blessings exceed our burdens. It is a life in which, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil." We are not living an unaccompanied life.

The fourth is the lesson of nature. We may be separated from other people, but we are not separated from nature, and nature is God's tonic and teacher. In Psalm 19:1-6 we read:

"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world."


Nature wordlessly speaks of God's presence. At a time when we are all urged to perform social distancing, let us respond by practicing natural non-distancing. Go out into nature now, and alone, and see for yourselves how perfect the natural world is in all its manifestations. The comfort we seek from each other will return someday soon. However, the comfort we seek in nature is available to us now. Even though viruses are part of that natural order, they will be overcome because nature is not morally blind. In nature, as in our lives in society, life has an edge and life will prevail.

The Psalmist is not the only prophet of nature as teacher. Consider the work of Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau's time at Walden Pond also taught him to see God through nature.

He believed that, "It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see."

He saw that nature has a way of calming us in troubled times. "There are moments when all anxiety and stated toil are becalmed in the infinite leisure and repose of nature," Thoreau said.


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