Imagine being given the task of going to an ocean beach to search for a single grain of blue sand. As this idea forms a picture in your mind, you are already feeling the folly of it. With the Hubble and Webb telescopes, astronomers are discovering that the universe is so enormous that our little blue planet is as numerically insignificant as is one grain of sand on an ocean beach. The question that haunts us now is this: How do we mesh this scientific truth with the significance of our beautiful, life-filled planet as it orbits in so much space—a space filled with more celestial bodies than grains of sand on the earth?
No doubt we believe that our existence as created beings living out a historical narrative on a living planet of magnificent beauty and complexity is significant. In fact, according to the Bible, it is so significant that, when Earth fell into the grip of sin and suffering, the God of the vast universe loved it so much that he sent his only Son to save it. Now, if God “so loved the world,” which is such a tiny, tiny speck in the universe, one cannot help but wonder what else out there in the vastness of God’s creation God loves sacrificially. How far into the universe does fallen creation and loving salvation extend?
Christians also trust that when our physical life is over, we will remain alive in spirit to continue in relationship with God and his children in heaven. We are also promised that we will be reestablished on a new Earth upon which we will live an everlasting life with new bodies. Will that new Earth be within the Milky Way galaxy? There is plenty of room for it!
Considering how numerically and spatially insignificant Earth is in the universe and yet also realizing how hugely significant it is to God, we cannot help but wonder how one reality fits into the other. Does the purpose of our time-measured earthly existence in any way fulfill or fit into the purposes found in the unimaginably immense universe where other living beings possibly thrive? Or did God create all those stars just for better oceanic navigation or for romantic gazing at the night sky? Or is it God’s decree that God’s people on Earth will never be allowed to traverse the millions of light years to other worlds outside our solar system because there is enough of life, enough of suffering, and enough of salvation right here for a complete everlasting-life experience?
Skeptics of Christianity accusingly ask, “How can any religion be so presumptuous as to claim that their God and theology, formulated within such a limited time and space, has cosmic significance?” Atheists say that the universe is just scattered debris from a very big bang, that it has no purpose, that it just happened.
Our telescopes create more questions than answers. But they certainly elicit a response. Psalm 19 is one such response: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.” In other words, what telescopes can now show us is that God is worthy of even greater worship and awe because God’s creative and ruling power is more incredible than we can ever imagine. When we peer into space, it is reasonable to humbly fall prostrate before God while also being comforted that God’s essence is sacrificial love.
God knows exactly where that single grain of blue sand on the beach is located. And if there are any other blue grains on God’s cosmic beach, God knows them too.