I always think that we can encounter God through art. I came across Van Gogh's Starry Night on the internet tonight, and found it to be such a powerful painting that can draw us to God. When I look at paintings, I always ask questions: eg: why would the artist paint the sky this way? why did he use those colours? why did he paint in that particular style etc. Artists communicate their feelings through their arts (be it painting, poem, song, mime, dance or drama), which is always beyond a mere physical or scientific description. I reckon this is much more powerful than straightforward words. So consider for a moment that Van Gogh might have been feeling something so powerful that he had to go beyond the familiar to express it through this painting.
Van Gogh was suffering from a mental illness called "acute mania with hallucinations of sight and hearing." I can imagine that he frequently was living in fear that he would never escape his 'prison'. I can imagine his battle because I also face my own personal fear. In fact, I believe we all do, whether it be medical condition, the loss of a loved one, financial worries, addiction, or any of the troubles that make us wonder whether God knows of our suffering; whether He will ever truly deliver us from affliction. In such moments it is tempting to collapse in hopelessness.
But if you look closely to the painting, you'd realise that the sky that swirls across the canvas shows vitality and power that speaks of God's presence. The stars explode in radiance. The earth seems to respond to the movement in the heavens, forming its own living waves in the mountains and the rolling trees beneath them. In the sleepy village, the windows of the houses glow with the same light that illuminates the universe. The church steeple in the center seems to struggle to point to God, who is so alive in this scene. But the little church is dwarfed by the cypress trees at the left, which seem to capture the joy of the inhabited creation around them by erupting in a living flame of praise.
Vincent's desire to be useful, transforms into the wish to become an artist while still be in God's service. He writes: "To try to understand the real significance of what the great artists, the serious masters, tell us in their masterpieces, that leads to God; one man wrote or told it in a book; another, in a picture." This really inspires me!