Meditations

What I’ve Learned About God from Outer Space

November 11, 2020
What I've Learned About God from Outer Space

Many of you know how much my son, Finn, loves outer space. Most days we spend A LOT of time learning about space, talking about space, pretending we’re in space or about to be in space. We read about space, watch videos about space, and when we sleep, we dream about space. Because of his obsession, I’ve inadvertently learned a ton about outer space. This has made me reflect on God, and myself, as I’ve considered His creation. I thought I’d share with you what I’ve learned about God from studying outer space.

lessons from outer space
My space-loving son, Finn (4)

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky displays what his hands have made.”

Psalm 19:1

God is big, and I am small.

The Universe is gigantic in a way that is impossible to measure and grasp. Most scientists seem to agree that the universe is approximately 13.8 billion years old, and that space is constantly expanding. The only thing we know for sure, according to NASA is that the universe is “much larger than the volume we can directly observe.”

Some believe that the universe is currently 93 billion light years wide. Here’s what this means: light travels approximately 5.88 trillion miles in one year. So 93 billion light years is 5.88 trillion miles 93 billion times. That’s, like, a lot.

Our galaxy is approximately 100,000 light years wide (although a recent number put it at 200,000 light years wide). This means that if we were in a spacecraft traveling at 186,282 miles per second, it would take us 100,000 years to get from one end to the other. Or, it could take us 200,000 years!

And, our galaxy isn’t even the biggest. Our closest neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy, is twice the size of our Milky Way home.

Our solar system is massive. Our sun alone can fit a million earths inside of it – and it is a relatively average-sized star!

Actual image of our sun, with Venus (which is roughly the same size as Earth) passing in front of the sun. Venus is the small black dot in the upper left corner of the sun. Photo courtesy of NASA/SDO

We used to think that Earth was unique in the universe – but it turns out there could be as many as tens of billions of other earth like planets in the universe.

Even if you’re like me and those numbers just get jumbled in your head and make no sense, this is the bottom line: our universe is massively gigantic. And the God who made each galaxy, each nebula, each supermassive black hole – He is capable. He is larger than anything we can fathom. And He is Our God.

God is powerful, and I am powerless. 

“If he commands it, the sun won’t rise and the stars won’t shine. He alone has spread out the heavens and marches on the waves of the sea. He made all the stars—the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the southern sky. He does great things too marvelous to understand. He performs countless miracles.”

Job 9:7-10

There are so many ways that things can go wrong in our universe. A comet, large asteroid, or even a rogue planet could obliterate us. Our sun could supernova and envelope the entire earth. We could get pulled into a wandering black hole. Our galaxy could collide with another galaxy (helllloooo, Andromeda!) or our moon could drift away, slowing our rotation and creating chaos in our ecosystem resulting in a slow, painful starvation for our planet. There are a hundred million ways that our universe could devolve into chaos and death. 

It’s terrifying. 

“In this spectacular image captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, the galaxy NGC 2799 (on the left) is seemingly being pulled into the center of the galaxy NGC 2798 (on the right).” Read more about this photo here.

And yet, God controls all of this. 

If He wanted the sun to stop shining, it would happen. He put the planets and stars in their place – it’s not an accident the Earth is where it is. 

He could re-route a massive asteroid in the tiniest millisecond without lifting a finger. This is our God. 

As powerless as we are to change any of the things in our solar system, God is infinitely in control. 

This should increase our faith and our trust in Him.  This should inspire us to cast our anxiety on Him – and truly let it go.

“Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name. Because of his great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing. O Jacob, how can you say the LORD does not see your troubles? O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights? Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.”

Isaiah 40:26-29

We actually know very little. 

So far in our quest for information about our universe, we’ve produced more questions than answers. With each mystery that we “solve,” we introduce a new array of mysteries. 

Not to mention that we’re constantly disproving ourselves. With each major scientific discovery, we’re proving wrong a former scientific belief. Think about the fact that we “discovered” that we aren’t the only solar system in our universe – by this discovery, we were undoing hundreds of years of scientific understanding. 

This is happening every day in the scientific community. 

Finn and I recently watched a special on comets (How the Universe Works. Season 2, ep. 6 “Frozen Wanderers,” filmed in 2012. All of the scientists who were interviewed on this episode were very excited about the spacecraft Rosetta and its comet lander, Philae. Rosetta would pull up next to the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and drop off Philae, a comet lander who would explore the comet and answer some of our deepest questions. The scientists were convinced that Rosetta and Philae would “solve” the question of how liquid water got to earth – they believed that comets must have collided with earth in the early days of its formation. Since comets are made of ice, this would have delivered water to our surface.

An artist’s concept of the Rosetta spacecraft releasing the Philae lander to comet 67P. The Rosetta spacecraft was named after the Rosetta Stone – scientists hoped the mission would be able to unlock the mysteries of our planet’s formation. Photo from NASA. Read more here.

After Finn and I watched the show, I went online and looked up what happened with Rosetta and Philae. Here’s the short version: Philae got lost on the comet and never accomplished really its purpose. Rosetta was able to get some samples from the comet’s tail, but it was determined that the water that could come from this comet was too “heavy.” So, not the water that we have here on earth.

From this experience, scientists now think that water on earth didn’t come from comets – but maybe they came from asteroids! NASA recently collected samples from a large asteroid called Bennu – and I’m sure the mystery will be solved.

Or, will it?

All of this reminds me of our humble place – that we actually know so little about our earth, about the solar system we live in, and the universe at large.

But, there is a Being who does know everything. He stitched together every fragment of this universe and He controls its every movement. 

“You are worn out by your many plans. Let your astrologers and your stargazers, who foretell the future month by month, come to you, rise up, and save you. They are like straw. Fire burns them. They can’t rescue themselves from the flames. There are no glowing coals to keep them warm and no fire for them to sit by.”

Isaiah 47:13-14

God is creative. 

Why is Uranus tipped on its side? Why do the stars align to make patterns and shapes? Why is every planet, every star, every comet and asteroid so amazingly unique, so insanely fascinating? 

It’s because our God is a creative Creator. It seems like He simply enjoys creating things for the sake of art and beauty. 

That is amazing to me. 

NGC 6302 AKA The Butterfly Nebula. This spectacular cloud of gas is caused by a star in its death throes spewing gases. Photo captured by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. Read more about this photo here

And God is so holistic in His creation. 

There are things about our universe that are terrifying, there are things that are hilarious and weird, there are things that are tear-jerkingly beautiful, and things that make us hold our breath in wonder. All created by the same God. 

This should make us in awe of Him. 

Life does not revolve around us. 

In 1543, Nicholaus Copernicus detailed his “radical” theory that everything in the Universe does NOT revolve around the Earth. His theory wasn’t even immediately accepted! That was less than 500 years ago – which, in the span of history, is a short time. 

Since then, we’ve learned that our solar system is NOT the center of our galaxy, and that we are in an orbital rotation with AT LEAST 500 other solar systems in our Milky Way galaxy. 

It’s only been 100 years since we accepted that our galaxy is not the only galaxy in the Universe. And, not only does the Universe NOT revolve around us, there are far more galaxies than we ever could have imagined. One prediction is that there are 100 billion galaxies in our universe, but this number will likely double as our technology increases. 

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope reveals thousands of galaxies in a single image here. Read more here.

So, the universe and life as we know it do not revolve around us. 

But all of this knowledge doesn’t fix the fact that as humans we’re prone to self-absorption. We may KNOW that life doesn’t revolve around us, but we sure act like it does. 

How do we do this?

By often thinking only of ourselves. 

By taking the little things personally. 

By frequently failing to consider what others may be experiencing. 

By consistently obsessing over our image. 

How do we remedy this?

By keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2, Colossians 3:1-3).

Despite the fact that the Universe was created by Him and it really does revolve around Him, He never acted that way. Which leads to my next point…

We are special to God. 

“When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers— the moon and the stars you set in place— what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them? Yet you made them only a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor.”

Psalm 8:3-5

Somehow, for some reason, though we are an insignificant speck in the vastness that is the universe, God does not treat us that way. 

Jesus gave up all the riches and glory of Heaven in order to reach down and rescue us – even though we would not recognize Him as our Creator and would reject and murder Him. 

Yet He still pursues us. 

Think of the parable of the lost sheep. It doesn’t matter if He had a trillion other sheep in the pen, if you were lost, He’d be searching for you in the darkness. 

When I consider how spectacularly huge our universe is – with at least 100 billion trillion stars in it, each one as bright and powerful as our own sun (if not more!), many with their own solar systems revolving around them – and God is the one sustaining all of them. How does He even have time to hear us? 

And yet, He does. 

Not only does He hear us, He cares for us deeply. In a way we cannot fathom. 

Remember, even the hairs on your head are numbered (Matthew 10:30). By Him. 

Consider who knows you that well and who loves you that deeply to possess such random, inconsequential and frivolous information about you. I love my husband and children as much as anybody has ever loved anyone, and I would not ever consider spending the time to count the individual hairs on their heads. 

And yet God, who sustains our vast universe, knows us and loves us in that way. 

Read more about God’s incredible love here.

Here’s the bottom line:

I have this notion that God is just so impossible to fathom that I don’t even try. But this is robbing me of the opportunity to be in awe of God. And it’s keeping me from realizing my humble position – and God’s amazing love.

“By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the depths in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!”

Psalm 33:5-8 

So take some time to think about the vastness of our universe, the power of our God, and how insignificant we really are. Then, turn your thoughts to the fact that despite our smallness, God cares deeply for us and sacrificed Himself in order to be close to us.

Praise Him!

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1 Comment

  • Reply Anne- One Determined Life November 11, 2020 at 10:23 pm

    My daughter is doing space science right now for school and it’s amazing!!
    I love that we discover how much bigger space is than we ever thought possible. That space actually continues to grow.
    These are some great insights. Thank you for sharing 🙂

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