Why do we feel closer to God in the wilderness?

The love we feel for the splendor of the heavens, the plains, the sea and the mountains, for the silence of nature which is borne in upon us its thousands of tiny sounds, for the breath of the wind or the warmth of the sun, this love of which every human being has at least an inkling, is an incomplete, painful love, because the beauty of the world makes us yearn for some universal beauty that does not seem to respond to us.
— Simone Weil

I absolutely love this quote by Simone Weil because she puts into words the feeling that wells up within me every time I look out from a mountain top or smell a bonfire or stand in the rain. A closeness to God that almost feels tangible.

And when we look back through Scriptures we see God using the wilderness as a space in which He can communicate with His people. He called Abraham into the wilderness to tell him of His promises. He called Moses into the wilderness to manifest Himself through a burning bush. He called Elijah into the wilderness to speak through a gentle whisper. He called Jacob into the wilderness to speak to him through a dream.

Why the wilderness?

Because there’s no one there. It’s quiet. We can listen.

That’s not to say we can’t hear God in the middle of the concrete jungle but when we go on retreats or need to get away to refocus, reprioritize, relax and rejuvenate, where do we go? A cabin in the woods. A lodge. An isolated Airbnb. Somewhere where it’s just us and God. And there we find the clarity that we were searching for because we had the silence in which to listen.

I recently got back from a several-day canoe trip through Canyonland National Park in Utah. Every night as I sat by the fire and watched the sun set behind the silhouetted canyons and the colorful sky turn to pitch black dotted with billions of stars, I couldn’t help but worship. What else could I do? As Simone Weil put it, "the beauty of the world makes us yearn for some universal beauty that does not seem to respond to us.” We exist in it. But not a part of it.

We’re aching to be reconciled with our Creator, made perfect and able to sing with the rocks and the hills that cry out in praise of our Maker. And in that silence when our soul is overflowing with worship, we can listen to God’s reply.