As I write this, it’s the morning of Nov. 5, 2020, and the outcome of the presidential election is still not final.
In the weeks leading up to the Nov. 3 election, every news outlet was braced for chaos at the polls or on city streets. Thankfully, that didn’t happen, although that doesn’t mean all is at peace. By the time you read this, who knows what might be happening.
The truth is, we live in a world of chaos — we always have.
Earlier this morning I did some reading about the theology of chaos. In a 2009 Christianity Today article, CT writer Mark Galli writes: “The human heart beats with the hope that somehow, someway and someday, the chaos will be quelled. It is a hope addressed by every major political figure and every major religion. The coming kingdom of righteousness and peace is so central to the Christian faith, some have summed up that faith as a ‘theology of hope.’” Then Galli asks: “But what if we discover that chaos can be created by God’s command? What then?”
What then, indeed. The very first words of the Bible describe creation itself coming from chaos. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,” begins Genesis, and then it goes on to describe the process. “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.” Next, God spoke order into the disorder, harnessing the chaos, creating light and seasons, plants and animals, stars and galaxies and people. From chaos came creation itself.
In 2011, Galli wrote again about chaos, this time about God purposefully disrupting our ordered lives, rattling our status quo and comfort and our lethargic worship and our settling for lesser things. “This means at least two things,” Galli wrote. “Either God is not going to spare us from heartache, suffering and chaos, or he’s actually going to bring heartache, suffering and chaos into our lives sometime.”
Allow trouble or cause it, God is God, and whatever he does it’s always because he loves us. He’s always at work in the lives of his people, making us into the people he has called us to be. One of my favorite passages of scripture is Psalm 18. It describes a violent storm, terror and distress, “the cords of death coiled around me.” The earth trembles and quakes. God is furious with anger, smoke rising from his nostrils.He parts the heavens and comes down to earth, with darkness as his covering. He’s hurling hailstones and bolts of lightning.
So, there’s all this terror and chaos at the hand of God, but then something happens. The psalmist writes: “He (God) reached down ... and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters ... He rescued me from my powerful enemy ... He brought me out into a spacious place. He rescued me because he delighted in me” (Psalm 18:4-19).
If we belong to God, we can trust that even in the chaos, he is at work. If he takes something away, if our plans are thwarted, if our dreams are shattered, he is doing something good on our behalf — he rescues those he loves. Sometimes chaos comes to remind us of the mysterious, unfathomable nature of God or as a sign of a terror-filled judgment against sin, Galli writes. “But in either case, we are assured that the Spirit is hovering over the turbulence, preparing to create, sooner or later, something remarkable.”