A week ago, I got news from a friend that someone in our home church passed away unexpectedly. He was set to marry our friend last Saturday, and he was the son of the beloved doctor who delivered my third son. In addition, he was a beautiful part of our church experience each week. He was on the ministry staff, and – though I didn’t know him well – I appreciated his presence and what it meant to the people I loved so much.
Grief is a wild and rippley thing, and it sometimes rushes into our path when we least expect it. Though I knew the man who passed only a little, I felt the ground under my feet give way a bit as grief swept through my life. He was family to people who have treated me like family, and my heart cried out in protest at all the world had just lost. How could it be?, I wondered. And then, a little angry, How could it be!
As I tossed and turned the night before his funeral – the night that should have been his wedding night, I asked God for some wisdom – for something to make sense of this tragedy, for some evidence that His hand was providing for those closest to the loss. All night, my mind kept drifting to scripture from the creation story:
. . .In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the earth.
I didn’t know what the creation story had to do with what I was praying for, but the next morning as I got dressed for church and prayed for my friends – I reluctantly pulled up Genesis 1. I read the first two verses:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
I read these words, and then I re-read them. “[D]arkness was over the surface of the deep, and the spirit of God was hovering over the waters . . .” where else had I read about God’s spirit hovering? I did a quick google word search, and quickly found Luke 1:35 (MSG):
“The angel answered [Mary], The Holy Spirit will come upon you, the power of the Highest hover over you; Therefore, the child you bring to birth will be called Holy, Son of God.”
And then wasn’t there something about the Holy Spirit resting on the disciples at Pentecost after Jesus’ ascension? I flipped to Acts 2:2-4, and there I read:
2Suddenly a sound like a mighty rushing wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3They saw tongues like flames of a fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.…
So perhaps you are wondering where I am going with this, and why the goose-chase through scriptures? Let me explain.
I love patterns, and I love how everything God does on a universal level repeats through nature, through history, and through the microscopic intricacies of our hearts. I look for these patterns because they remind me that science can be a holy discipline, describing and uncovering evidence of a great designer. I look for these patterns because they remind me that when my heart experiences winter, spring is coming. I look for these patterns because they remind me that there is something so much bigger than me and all that I can see in this sliver of time.
So when I read last Sunday morning that God hovered over the earth when it was formless and empty, when darkness covered everything, my heart leapt within me. You see, in my tossing and turning on Saturday night – I was so consumed with the depth of my friends’ grief that I had forgotten, momentarily, who God is. I had forgotten that since the beginning of time He has been hovering over the dark places, the forgotten places, the empty places, slowly exhaling a masterful design for new and abundant life. I had forgotten how he hovers over bleak places in history, how he hovers over bleak hearts, and how he hovers over you and me.
There is so much I don’t understand about creation, so much I don’t understand about the Holy Spirit, and so much I don’t understand about deep suffering. I don’t know why the earth was formless and void in the beginning. I don’t know how God filled an empty womb. I don’t know how he lets his spirit rest upon me, and I don’t know how He continually reaps beauty and life from things that seem too sin-stained and horrid to touch. All I know is that He does these things, and every aspect of nature and every season of my life eventually shows me that this is true.
Dear friends, I know so many of us are grieving – some in the most profound of ways. As you continue through this journey, I pray that you take a deep breath and remember that God has always hovered over the places that feel dark and formless, and I know even now, He hovers over you.
Ecclesiastes 3:11: “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”