Man vs. Nature

Rebecca Van Noord

Ezra 9:1–10:44; 1 John 4:7–12; Psalm 107:23–43

As a teenager, I devoured stories about men and women at odds with nature. These man vs. nature struggles always told of a battle of wills. Nature was always at its most magnificent and most frightening: untamed, unwieldy, and heartless. The characters seemed to be living on the edge of human experience—they were not focused and resolute, anticipating the next turn of events like a typical Hollywood action film, but frightened and helpless before an uncaring force.

If we read Psa 107, we’ll find this genre isn’t unique to contemporary novels. Biblical writers also used the man vs. nature theme to show battling wills. Psalm 107 reads like a riveting short story: “Those who went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the high seas; they saw the works of Yahweh, and his wonderful deeds in the deep. For he spoke and raised up a stormy wind, and it whipped up its waves. They rose to the heavens; they plunged to the depths. Their soul melted in their calamity. They reeled and staggered like a drunkard, and they were at their wits’ end” (Psa 107:23–27).

When faced with uncontrollable forces, people make choices that mean life or death. In the stories of my youth, the characters were sometimes able to use their wits to get to safety. But most often, they died trying. The English idiom used in this psalm, “their wits’ end,” is actually a rendering of the Hebrew idiom, “their wisdom was swallowed up.” The men in this psalm weren’t just flustered; they were helpless. Their resources and smarts couldn’t battle this power.

Yet the men didn’t meet only a cold, deadly force when they came to the end of their own strength. “Then they cried out to Yahweh in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distresses” (Psa 107:28). Submission in the battle of wills leads to Yahweh’s love and care. He is more than willing to guide us to the safe harbor (Psa 107:30).

When faced with difficult circumstances, do you rely on your own strength, even when it’s insufficient? If you cry out to God, do you believe that He will answer?

This article was originally posted in Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan.