Where is God in the Chaos?

Aug 24 / Savoy Stevens
In a year of unprecedented and unexpected chaos, many are searching for the solid rock of certainty amidst the waves of upheaval caused by a global pandemic. Many are asking Where is God in the chaos? If God is a God of order, why do things feel so messy and disorienting? Is God a God of order at all?

Even as I write this, smoke and ash fill the air as wildfires ravage the hills surrounding the California valley where I live, threatening to kill, displace families, disturb rhythms, disorder lives, households, and economic systems already in disarray.

The creation narrative in Genesis appears to imagine a world ordered and tidy with a God who made it so. But what about when it is not? The early verses of Genesis paint a picture of an all-powerful God who orders the universe in six easy days and then takes a rest.

Separating dark from light, water from sky, evening from morning as if the world were a cosmic laundry heap to fold, tidy, and put away. If you have spent any amount of time doing laundry, you know the futile process. Even as you sort, wash, fold, and put away - you create more laundry by toiling in the very clothes you wear!

Like the endless cycle of laundry, from a scientific perspective, chaos, order, and disorder are components of an endless cycle of creation. Chaos plays an integral role in an unfolding universe. We are learning more and more from the field of science that complexity and chaos are a vital part of creation and the creative process. The double rod pendulum experiment is an example.

A closer look at the Genesis creation narrative reveals similar themes between the relationship of chaos, order and creation. The Genesis creation narrative describes the state of things before God creates the world as tohu-bohu. Interpreted from the original Hebrew, this is not a formless void, but rather a rhyme, an echo, background noise, hubbub, hullabaloo, chaos. The narrative suggests something messy, but full of life. Before there was creation there was an opening, a shift. In Genesis, the “deep” that the Spirit of God hovered over, was chaotic. Yet, out of chaos and complexity, new things emerged.

In the Old Testament, God’s Spirit or ruach is the life force of created things. In the New Testament, God’s Spirit or pneuma is the life force of resurrection which, starting from Easter, makes everything eternally alive. The Spirit of God is a universal motivating force pulling creation into greater and greater levels of complexity and orienting us towards the future.

The world is still chaotic and messy. God is in the midst of the chaos, hovering over the face of the deep doing a new thing. Because we share God’s Spirit, we are continually invited to participate in the new thing. When we see chaos from this perspective, we can find peace, that even in the midst of disorder and complexity, God is doing a new thing. We can then prayerfully discern our own role in God’s good work.

Please join us in lifting up Savoy, her family and her friends as they face the unknowns fire has brought them in the Bay Area. Each day has possibilities of navigating evacuations with ever changing weather conditions. We believe, as Savoy does, God is doing a new thing and God is present, giving them wisdom and grace to do what needs to be done. Thank you in advance for your prayers. -In the Spirit's Grip Together, Companioning Center

Update 9/14/2020: Savoy and her family are safe from the fires and have returned home to intact dwellings. The air quality continues to reflect the rage of wildfires around them, even as they are contained. Please continue to join us in lifting them up as they do the sacred work of healing from the trauma. - In the Spirit's Grip Together, Companioning Center

Savoy Stevens

Savoy Stevens, M.Div. is a spiritual director and minister in the Bay Area. She holds a Master’s of Divinity, with a concentration in Spiritual Formation from Portland Seminary and was trained, supervised, and certified as a spiritual director through George Fox University. Her postgraduate coursework includes Interfaith Studies at the University of Wales, Trinity Saint David. Savoy practices spiritual direction from an ecumenical, non-denominational perspective, welcoming directees from all faith traditions. She approaches direction sessions with curiosity and acceptance, listening deeply for the resonance of the Divine in the grit of everyday life. She asks questions and offers her undivided attention as a reflective tool for increasing your sense of the Divine. She considers spiritual direction a radical act of resistance in a culture consumed with certainty, overexposure, and noise.