One thing I am a huge advocate for is having a consistent and thoughtful devotional life. I am very critical of what has become the "devotional grab bag" approach that Christians use when they spend time reading the Bible or praying alone to God.
What I mean by devotional grab bag is: we take a verse or two (typically from a New Testament letter or from a psalm or proverb), and treat it like a fortune cookie saying, expecting there to be a goodie-two-shoes piece of knowledge for us to apply to our lives.
I find this extremely unhelpful because the Bible does not present itself as a collection of devotional materials. Rather, it presents itself as one, unified story of how God is restoring and healing us and his world.
In my own devotional times, I have decided to meditate on and pray through the opening 11 chapters of the first book of the Bible: Genesis. These 11 chapters provide a poetic, yet spiritual overview of the creation of the world, as well as humanity's tendency to rebel against God, as He desires to partner with us to steward and cultivate life on earth.
I firmly believe that when we engage with the Bible as a unified story, it allows seeing more clearly the consistent themes and ideas the authors of Scripture are trying to communicate: we learn more about God because we can see just how consistent He is throughout the entire biblical story.
A key theme I have found, which begins in the first sentences of the entire Bible is this:
God is present over your chaos.
At the very beginning of the Bible's story, we are introduced to an incredible mind and being, God.
Now, throughout chapter one of Genesis, we see God loosely and poetically personified, acting like a King in a cosmic temple. He orders where things should be placed, he ordains roles to his statues (aka image bearers, aka us!) He possesses knowledge and wisdom to see what is truly good in the world, and sets all of humanity up to steward and care for the earth, to cultivate the most beautiful and fruitful potential for life for all creatures.
This entire poetic depiction begins when God creates the sky and the ground...and His Spirit "hover[s] over the waters" (Gen. 1:2, NIV).
There are some quick things to unpack, to show just how profound this verse is:
First, we know from the very first verse that the waters are not peaceful. This isn't like waking to a beautiful sunrise over a beach with warm, calm tides. The land is described as "wild and waste" and "darkness" covers the deep. These "waters" in the story most likely are monstrous, with waves recklessly throwing themselves around.
Also, whenever the Bible talks about God's "Spirit," it is referring to God's personal Presence, which often manifests on or in His people, to deliver incredible words of wisdom or prophesy, or to comfort and guide them.
Another way to phrase Genesis 1:2 could be: "God personally hovered over the chaotic waters."
From this, we see God bring forth dry land, organize the waters, and provide peaceful space for life to flourish (Gen. 1:3-11, NIV).
While studying this passage, I was brought to another couple of verses. These were the words of a prayer from the book of Psalms.
"25 In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26 They will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
Like clothing you will change them
and they will be discarded.
27 But you remain the same,
and your years will never end."
While meditating on the creation story from above, the author recognizes a couple things. One, God is still at work in creating and redeeming creation, as He is changing them, and two, despite the circumstances being made new, God remains the same.
To bring it full circle, God is personally invested in the chaos of this world. In the beginning, His personal Presence is hovering over it, desiring to calm it and provide space for life to flourish.
That God is the same one pursuing you and is currently "hovering" over the areas of your life that he wants to calm and change. Maybe these are genuine areas of chaos: tight schedules, uncertain circumstances, places of hurt or instances of regret.
What if we were to believe that even in these areas of chaos, God personally hovered over them, that He is present in the "chaotic waters" of your life.
If we were to believe these truths, we could finally allow and trust God's guidance. We could allow God to provide us the answers of calm and clarity that we desperately pray and search for.
When we trust in God's Presence in the midst of our "chaotic waters," we acknowledge the only One who can truly calm them.