I often find myself drifting into contemplative states—ones in which I look back and replay certain parts of my life to analyze them all over again. They can be sweet, nostalgic trips into my past, but they can also take me back to seasons that do not feel worth reliving. Regardless of where my thoughts wander (or are taken captive along the way), I’m reminded that life is a rollercoaster. The ups and downs, for better or for worse, won’t last forever.
But in the midst of the ups and downs, there are seasons that leave us somewhere in the middle—waiting, wondering, listening in silence so heavy it’s almost loud.
Sometimes those seasons can begin to feel a little like the beginning of time: “formless and empty … darkness over the face of the deep” (Genesis 1:2).
Maybe this feels like a perfect description of your life right now; maybe it feels like a stretch. But let’s take a closer look at this word “formless.” If we go back to its original Hebrew translation (tohu), we see that it generally labels a situation in which purpose and worth are not present. At its core, this word is less about something being without form and more about it being without function. This same Hebrew word is used in Jeremiah 4:23 to describe a nonfunctional, unproductive state.
We’ve all been there—seasons in which our life feels “without function,” totally missing the crucial things that would make it seem “very good” (Genesis 1:31).
Maybe you’re waiting on an acceptance letter to college. Maybe you’re waiting to hear back about that interview, or maybe you’re waiting for God to cross your path with your future spouse’s. Maybe you’re waiting and longing to get pregnant so you can hold that little piece of yourself in your arms. Maybe you’re waiting for healing. Maybe you’re waiting for reconciliation, for your parents to get back together, for the authentic community you’ve been trying to find. Maybe you’re waiting for something else entirely.
The good news? This is how God-stories start. The earliest proof we have is (you guessed it!) back in Genesis 1:2 where we started this conversation. While the earth was formless and empty, “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” God hovered, so close, so near—ready to burst forth with light and open our eyes to everything that once sat in darkness. From the very beginning of creation, God showed us that He won’t leave us in the dark. We see confirmation of this in biblical leaders and prophets and key characters over and over again.
Are you in a season of waiting? You’re in good company, my friend.
After God told Noah to build a massive ark and preserve his family and two of each kind of the earth’s animals from a flood, Noah waited for the rain to come, waited for the floods to stop, and then waited for the water to subside.
Even when he could begin to see glimpses of hope (dry land), he had to wait an additional 40 days before anyone could take one step off of that boat. That’s around nine months of some seriously close quarters while he waited for a sign (Genesis 7–8).
Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90 before they conceived the child God had promised them (Genesis 17:15–17). Can you imagine? Abraham couldn’t either; he literally laughed out loud when God told him!
After Joseph’s death, the Israelites in Egypt grew into a formidable nation and were eventually forced into slavery by a ruler who feared their size. They waited nearly 400 years to be delivered from brutal slavery before God provided a leader (yes, Moses!) to lead them out of Egypt and into freedom (Exodus 1–15).
Moses and the Israelites then wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, waiting to enter the Promised Land (Exodus 16–Deuteronomy 2:14). But at the end of his good and faithful journey, Moses climbed to the top of Mount Nebo, where the Lord showed him the whole Promised Land, but told him he would not enter it with the rest of the people (Deuteronomy 32:48–52). While Moses didn’t get to physically cross over into Canaan, God showed Moses all that he had waited for before he took his final breath. Even if we don’t get to see the “finish line,” our waiting is never in vain. In fact, it may even be critical to the story God has written coming to fruition after we’re gone.
Scripture is jam-packed with these stories of waiting. This tells us that waiting is not God’s absence; it is His avenue. Throughout history, God has shown time and time again that in waiting we experience the reality that He operates in a different realm of time—one that is beyond our comprehension. While we are waiting, God is anticipating, because He knows how the story ends.
And He has already promised it’s a good ending! The suffering that comes with waiting “…is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland” (Isaiah 43:18–19 NLT).
So your darkness “without function,” your wasteland, your waiting? Hold onto hope, sister. It means your story has already started, and God always finishes what he starts.