How Cosmic Glory and Natural Disasters Showcase the Gospel

Both the awe-inspiring beauty of creation and its destructive potential demonstrate important truths about God, man, and the provision for our redemption.

Every so often, the heavens appear to part, unveiling glimpses of unmitigated majesty that leave us standing in breathless wonder. And through these glorious displays, we see illustrated in creation the framework of the gospel.

The historic geomagnetic storm of May 10-11, 2024, revealed one such exhibition of splendor as the aurora borealis, or northern lights, shimmered across skies at latitudes in which they are rarely witnessed. Throughout much of the US, families and neighbors gathered outside in awe, standing on porches, roadsides, or mountain overlooks to marvel at the celestial display.

As cascades of purple, green, and white danced across the dark expanse of sky, and pillars of light extended upward from the horizon, the natural response of believers across North America was to lift our collective gaze heavenward and cry: “Glory!”

Only a few weeks previously, we had also assembled outside to observe cosmic wonders. We shielded our eyes while the moon passed over the face of the sun in a total solar eclipse, darkening the afternoon brilliance and briefly interrupting the established rhythms of night and day. After such a marvelous display, our response then too was to praise God for the incomprehensible beauty and immensity of the cosmos.

In our joyful declarations, we stand in good company with our biblical forefathers. We recall the exclamations of the psalmist and of the prophet Isaiah as he gazed upon the stars:

  • “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).
  • “Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name; by the greatness of his might and because he is strong in power, not one is missing” (Isaiah 40:26).

The wonderous sights in the heavens display teleological evidence of a Creator, demanding the necessity of an eternal God to originate and orchestrate the complexities of the cosmos. And the glory of creation itself reveals glimpses of the nature of that God: his character, eternal power, and divine nature (Romans 1:20).

Sixteenth-century Reformer John Calvin, in his commentary on Hebrews 11:3, beautifully explains both the extent and limitations of the revelation of God through his creation as thus:

God has given us, throughout the whole framework of this world, clear evidences of his eternal wisdom, goodness, and power; and though he is in himself invisible, he in a manner becomes visible to us in his works. Correctly then is this world called the mirror of divinity; not that there is sufficient clearness for man to gain a full knowledge of God, by looking at the world, but that he has thus so far revealed himself, that the ignorance of the ungodly is without excuse. Now the faithful, to whom he has given eyes, see sparks of his glory, as it were, glittering in every created thing. The world was no doubt made, that it might be the theatre of the divine glory.

Through the natural wonders of this “theatre of the divine glory,” we can see reflected distinct attributes of God: he is all-powerful, wise, good, faithful, creative, and so much more. And by recognizing even this limited portion of God’s attributes, we discover the introduction to the gospel, because the gospel begins with God himself. Indeed, as Calvin quoted from the Apostle Paul, God has revealed enough of his character through creation that the unregenerate are left without excuse for their unbelief.

Not only can we better understand our Creator by gazing upon the heavens, but we gain a clearer perspective on ourselves as human beings. Our delicate, finite eyes cannot directly observe a solar eclipse without protection from the sun’s glare, diminished as it may be. Nor can our limited eyesight distinguish the full radiance of the auroras without assistance from a camera lens. As we stand under the vast expanse of sky, we innately feel the smallness of our own position as mankind inhabiting the earth. In the words of the psalmist: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:3-4). While we can rightly feel insignificant before the grandeur of God and his creation, God graciously and faithfully demonstrates his care for us.

The heavens, therefore, declare the foundation of the gospel: that there is a God, that he reigns with power, glory, and goodness over his creation, and that we as humans are dependent upon him. 

The heavens, therefore, declare the foundation of the gospel: that there is a God, that he reigns with power, glory, and goodness over his creation, and that we as humans are dependent upon him. 

The Gospel Amid the Destructive Forces of Nature

Yet the glory we see reflected in creation remains an incomplete image.

The same skies that danced with aurora lights in the northern hemisphere gathered clouds that unleashed torrential downpours on southern Brazil, causing floods that devastated towns and cities throughout the state of Rio Grande do Sul. By May 22, 2024, at least 161 people were reported killed, and over 580,000 were forced to evacuate from their homes. Likewise, in Afghanistan—a nation already suffering under the brutal regime of the Taliban—floods and subsequent landslides have claimed the lives of an estimated 300 people since the beginning of May.

Few events arouse such intense feelings of helplessness as natural disasters. How can we defend against floods, fires, earthquakes, tornados, or hurricanes? We fear the destructive forces of nature while grieving the seemingly nonsensical loss of life.

Disaster, too, often turns our thoughts toward God, but rather than reveling in his majesty, we are often tempted to question his divine power and justice. Yet we know that, while God retains authority and dominion over creation, he has placed both mankind and the natural world under the curse of sin as a result of the fall of our first parents in Genesis 3.

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:20-23)

Disasters, pain, and suffering on our sin-stricken earth routinely assert the fallen condition of mankind and our desperate need for redemption.

The Gospel on Full Display

When disaster strikes, rather than risk losing ourselves to the unrelenting internal question, Where was God? let us remember that God has already intervened in his creation in the most glorious way possible. His dispatched his Son Jesus to set foot on the earth, where he demonstrated his authority over the wind and waves (Matthew 8:27) and walked atop the very rocks he proclaimed would cry out to praise him if his disciples’ acclamations were silenced (Luke 19:40). The sun’s light was extinguished as he hung on the cross, bearing the weight of our sins. The earth shook and stones fractured into pieces in the moment that his life-breath ceased and he surrendered to death (Matthew 27:51). And, after his resurrection, he ascended to heaven, from which he still wields all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18).

As creation itself points created beings to Christ, so must we. Our Creator has commissioned us to share with an unseeing, unbelieving world the full image of the gospel reflected only partly in creation: the glory of God, the curse of sin, and the hope of eternal restoration through Christ.

The fullness of redemption is coming, not only for us as believers but for all of creation. One day, our faith shall be made sight, as penned Horatio Spafford, and the clouds be rolled back as a scroll. The heavens and earth will be made wholly, wonderfully new. And our memories of the cosmic glories we witness in the present will become fully eclipsed by the magnificence of the Lord himself.

Katelyn Hawkins

Katelyn Hawkins is a communications specialist with ABWE. She serves as managing editor for Message Magazine and the ABWE blog. She holds an M.A. in Social Sciences and B.A. in Communications, and has lived in locations across Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.