"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."
- Genesis 1:2(NIV)
Formless... empty... darkness... When I read these words, the thought that comes to mind is: isn't this the human condition? Let's look at each word:
Formless: without a clear or definite shape and structure. Isn't this often what life feels like? You get up in the morning earlier than you want, try to wake up before you get to work or school, spend all day trying to learn something new or be effective at your chosen activity, try not to upset your friends or coworkers or teachers or coaches or bosses, finish school or work and go to the next activity until you finally get to go home, where you have to try to maintain your relationship with a family you may not entirely get along with, and if you're a student you STILL have school to do in the form of hated homework before you can go to bed to start the process over tomorrow. In the middle of all this process, as you're trying to be the best worker or student or athlete or musician or performer of WHATEVER you do... you may find yourself wondering what the purpose of it all is. What is really the purpose and meaning of your life? It all seems to just be BUSY, without any direction.
This may lead you to the sense that life is EMPTY: having no value or purpose. You may think, "I do all this stuff, but what does it really do? Is all of life just to work to eat, so I can work and eat and work and eat until I eventually retire and die???" The author of Ecclesiastes frames our thoughts well when he laments in chapter 2, verse 17:
"So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind."
Ultimately, though, I think the thing that tatters the corners of our thoughts and eats away at our hearts is the tiny, little voice in the back of our mind that whispers so convincingly, "Life is darkness. There is nothing but darkness inside of you and other people." And we find ourselves believing it, being filled to vomiting with darkness, because we see darkness all around us. We see friends contemplate suicide and can't help but admit we've been there, classmates cut their bodies because they don't want to die but they can't deal with the pain inside anymore, we fight with our parents to the point we wish we didn't know them, our so-called friends whisper lies behind our backs or spit disrespect right in our faces, our parents walk out on their marriage and shatter our families, our boyfriends or girlfriends promise us love but leave us empty or just plain leave, our coaches or conductors or teachers or bosses abuse us emotionally no matter how hard we work to earn their approval, friends and family are eaten from the inside by cancer... and that's just in our personal lives. Then we look into the world and see starvation, the threat of nuclear war, children shot in schools, girls raped at parties, children molested... and how can we see anything but darkness? It clouds everything with despair.
But what happened next in creation, in the very next verse, in fact? Genesis 1:3(NIV):
"And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light."
The first thing God did to a formless, dark, and empty nothingness... was to infuse it with light. What does that sound like?
"the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned."
- Matthew 4:16(NIV)
"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."
- John 1:14(NIV)
"When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'”
- John 8:12(NIV)
Just as the spoken WORD of God into the EMPTINESS before creation brought LIGHT and LIFE... so did Jesus ("the Word of God") when He came bursting into our world as an infant in that cave in Bethlehem. So does Jesus when He comes bursting into your heart and life through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Now... that doesn't mean there won't be hardship in your life. As the world descended into sin under the influence of Satan, despite the light that God had given to it, so you will face trouble in your life, even as you walk in faith:
"Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."
- 1 Peter 5:8(NIV)
But in your suffering, remember the following verses 9&10(NIV):
"Resist him [the devil], standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast."
The darkness, remember... is only part of the story, and a temporary part at that. The ending is "eternal glory."
"Then I saw 'a new heaven and a new earth,' for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. "He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!' Then he said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.'"
- Revelation 21:1-5(NIV)