Darkness and light. Typically, when I think of dark and light imagery in the Bible, I think of goodness and evil, or perhaps the contrast between life and death or holiness and sin. There’s the verse in John that calls Jesus the “true light, which gives light to everyone”. (John 1:9) Such a powerful idea, but just how deep does this analogy go? Is there more to it than the Star Wars theology of the light side (good) and the dark side (evil)?
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to stay in a cabin out in the woods. While we were there, I spent some time each night standing out on the back porch, just listening to the sounds of nature all around me. To be honest, I couldn’t help but feel a little uneasy standing there, staring out into that dark void just beyond the reach of the porch light. Total blackness. No matter how hard I’d stare into those trees, I couldn’t make out anything, and yet it seemed like I could hear everything — every rustle of the leaves, every snap of a twig, every howling beast on four legs. And as much as I’d like to think that, as a 33-year-old adult, I’ve gotten over any childish fears of the dark, the truth is I can’t help but feel some anxiety while looking out into those shadows obviously teeming with bloodthirsty creatures. Then a thought hit me: in the day time, the view from that same porch is breathtaking — nothing about it is scary. I could sit there and soak in the view for hours and not feel the least bit anxious. In fact, I feel the opposite of anxiety. I feel at peace. So what’s the difference? The same spot but different times — one in the light, one in the dark.
The concept really sank in for me as I was recently studying the book of Daniel. There was this moment where Daniel was absolutely in desperate need of some wisdom from God. And not just any wisdom — like some supernatural, unbelievable, miraculous wisdom — some interpret-the-King’s-dream-before-he-even-tells-it-to-you wisdom! And, as huge of a request as that was, God came through. Daniel’s response was recorded in chapter two:
Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; He removes kings and sets up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; He reveals deep and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him.
— Daniel 2:20–22
Here darkness and light represent something more than goodness and badness. Light illustrates wisdom, while darkness represents the unknown, the mysterious. Just like my inability to see through the oppressive darkness of the woods, Daniel needed the light of wisdom to find the answers he sought. It should be comforting for us to know that God can see perfectly in the dark. Or David says it like this:
Even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.
— Psalm 139:11–12
When we think about our uncertain futures, the heavy decisions on the horizon, or our problems, it can feel a lot like staring from that porch into the scary unknown. But the truth is that God sees everything. Nothing is hidden from him, including our future. That should change the way we approach life, decisions and our future. Instead of living in constant anxiety, trying desperately to see through the darkness on our own, we must see the importance of seeking God for wisdom and to trust him. And, ultimately, to remember that we don’t have to see everything that’s in the darkness to not be afraid. We just need to trust the one who can.