1 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. 3 Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light.
Yesterday, at Advent, we began our Why Series. In trying to start to put our arms around the colossal question of why bad things happen to good people, we began--like Adam Hamilton’s book on the same subject--with the creation story.
My thoughts about the creation story have forever been shaped by my friend, former professor, and mentor, Bishop Will Willimon, who was the first to point out to me the depth of the Hebrew word translated “formless void” in our English translations. “Formless void” is an adequate rendering of the Hebrew, but it doesn’t quite capture the menacing nature of the dark nothingness of the tohuw wabohuw (click on each word to see a small word study, hear the pronunciation, and see other instances of the word in the Old Testament). In the beginning, there was already this brooding emptiness, chaos.
Bishop Willimon’s insights on this passage were revelatory to me. God did not create the tohuw wahohuw. It was already there. But, God went to work on it. God spoke light out of the darkness, and started bringing order out of the chaos.
If you’re in the throes of chaos, grief and pain, I’m not sure this helps, but it certainly helped me to try and make sense of the problem of suffering and evil.