Most of us don’t go about our day pondering such questions as, “Is the universe friendly?” But we do sometimes go about our days, especially the hard days, the days of pain, of fear and of frustration — wondering the purpose of it all. Why does it all mean? We go through the same routines and yet feel, at times, that we’ve gained nothing in life but years. Our spouses hurt us, our children disappoint us and we look in the mirror and see a more ragged and torqued out version of ourselves and ask — What’s it about? What am I living for? Or, on a broader scale, we wonder, even if we don’t phrase it that way, “Is the universe friendly?”
It would seem, “No.” It’s a cold vacuum inhospitable to life outside our planet and made of distances unreachable by us even if we lived a thousand lifetimes. Stars explode, asteroids like shrapnel sling through the dark skies, themselves soaked with radiation and other invisible forces that would kill instantly.
On the other hand, we live in a bubble, a cocoon made for us. Our atmosphere, miles high, is composed of air that drapes over our heads like a blue protective blanket and that shields us from the harshness of outer space. (When was the last time you heard of anyone hurt by an asteroid?)
Also, if we had seen only one sunset, or one sunrise, ever — we’d declare it miraculous. But, because they happen every day, twice a day, we take them and their beauty for granted.
Think, too, of the miracle of plant-based food. Someone puts a seed in dirt, and the dirt, along with water and sunlight, converts this seed into a plant or tree thickly rich with either fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts — so good for us, so healthy for us, so tasty and plentiful. And each one of those fruits, grains, nuts and vegetables contains more seeds that create more fruit, grains, nuts and vegetables with more seeds. It’s a potentially infinite supply of food that grows, literally, out of the ground for us! How does a seed convert dirt into food? Or maybe it’s the dirt that converts the seed into food? Either way, like sunrises and sunsets, if we saw only once in our lives a seed converting dirt into food, or dirt converting a seed into food, we’d be awed. But because it’s all that we know we don’t marvel at the miracle that it is.
In The Sorrows of Young Werther, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) wrote about a young man rejoicing in it all. “Oh, how thankful I am that my heart can feel the simple, harmless joys of the man who brings to the table a head of cabbage he has grown himself, and in a single moment enjoys not only the vegetable, but all the fine days and fresh mornings since he planted it, the mild evenings when he watered it, and the pleasure he felt while watching it grow.” Sure, there’s a blotch on the banana, a bruise on the apple. But what came first, the banana or the blotch, the apple or the bruise? And the banana and the apple, each carrying their own seeds in them, speak of a love and goodness directed toward us by the God who put the blue sky over our heads for us and the bird and other animals to live in.
“But now ask the beasts, and they will teach you; And the birds of the air, and they will tell you; Or speak to the earth, and it will teach you; And the fish of the sea will explain to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this, in whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind?” (Job 12:7–19).
And this God, in whose hand is our breath, is also the One who went to the cross for us.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16, 17).
Often, life isn’t fair, easy or understandable. (How often have we, struggling with tragedy, bemoaned, “This just doesn’t make sense!”) But if we would look at creation, even our fallen creation, and marvel at the miracle of it all, we would see evidence of the loving God who created it all, and we would draw hope, peace and comfort from it, especially knowing that its Creator is, also, our Redeemer — the One went to the cross, not to condemn anyone but to save everyone willing to be saved.
The constellations that careen across the cosmos to light up our nights, the birds that flap their wings and ruffle our hair, the seeds in the ground that sprout into the food on our tables — they speak to us of a God whom we can trust, love and lean on, especially in times of pains, sorrow and suffering.
More important than the question, “Is the universe friendly?” is the question, “Is the God who created and sustains the universe friendly?” And from the sky above to the ground below, to Jesus on the cross in between both, we can know that He’s not only friendly… but loving as well.
Written by Clifford Goldstein