Isaiah / chapter 50 (read the chapter)
When we talk about God, one of the first things that comes to mind is light. Jesus is described in the Gospels as the Light of the World (Jn 8:12) and the true light that gives light to every person (Jn 1:9). In fact, the Bible begins with God saying, “Let there be light!” (Gen 1:3). So, that’s why it seemed a bit odd to come to the end of this chapter and discover that, sometimes, those who follow the Lord walk in the dark:
“Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on their God. But now, all you who light fires and provide yourselves with flaming torches, go, walk in the light of your fires and of the torches you have set ablaze. This is what you shall receive from my hand: You will lie down in torment.” (vs 10-11)
Obviously, God is once again warning His people against idolatry. Instead of trusting in God to provide them with light for the journey, they have taken to finding their own fire and lighting their own torches. Instead of accepting the Pillar-of-Fire-God who brought them out of Egypt, they have resorted to nursing their own flickering little flame, hoping it will illuminate the path just enough so they can see to take the next step.
But as I contemplated this, I wondered why God—who is described as Light—would ever leave His children “in the dark.” Would He? Why would He do that? And, if He would, how would He expect His children to rely on Him for the journey? If they can’t see where to walk, how will they know where to go?
Thinking about being left “in the dark” reminded me of one of the most astounding passages from Miracle in the Andes, the book about three young men who climbed out of the Andes after the plane their rugby team had chartered crashed in the mountains.
Nando Parrado, author of the book and one of the three who climbed out, wrote about being “in the dark” when it came to traversing the mountains:
None of us had much to say as we followed the gentle incline of the
glacier up to the mountain’s lower slopes. We thought we knew what
lay ahead, and how dangerous the mountain could be. . . We knew
that deep crevasses lay hidden beneath the thin crust of frozen snow,
and that rocks the size of television sets often came crashing down
from crumbling outcrops high on the mountain. But we knew nothing
about the techniques and strategies of mountaineering, and what we
didn’t know was enough to kill us.
We didn’t know, for example, that the [plane's] altimeter was wrong;
the crash site wasn’t at seven thousand feet, as we thought, but close to
twelve thousand. Nor did we know that the mountain we were about to
challenge was one of the highest in the Andes, soaring to the height of
nearly seventeen thousand feet, with slopes so steep and difficult they
would test a team of expert climbers.
Experienced mountaineers, in fact, would not have gone anywhere
near this mountain without an arsenal of specialized gear, including
steel pitons, ice screws, safety lines, and other critical gadgets designed
to keep them safely anchored to the slopes. They would carry ice axes,
weatherproof tents, and sturdy thermal boots fitted with crampons—
metal spikes that provide traction on the steepest, iciest inclines. They
would be in peak physical condition, of course, and they would climb
at a time of their own choosing, and carefully plot the safest route to
The three of us were climbing in street clothes, with only the crude tools
we could fashion out of materials salvaged from the plane. Our bodies
were already ravaged from months of exhaustion, starvation, and
exposure, and our backgrounds had done little to prepare us for the task.
Uruguay was a warm and low-lying country. None of us had ever seen
real mountains before. Prior to the crash, Roberto and Tintin had never
even seen snow. If we had known anything about climbing, we’d have
seen we were already doomed. Luckily, we knew nothing, and our
ignorance provided our only chance.
Those three young men (and the thirteen others they saved) are only alive today because they didn’t know anything about climbing mountains. If they had known more, they wouldn’t have dared to try the impossible. If they had been able to “see” what really lay ahead of them, they would probably have crawled into a cold, dark corner of the wreckage and waited to die.
In their case, being “in the dark” about the impossibility of their situation was a very good thing. In fact, it was the only thing that enabled them to do what they did. I think the same is true for us in our walk with God. At times, the things ahead of us in this life would look overwhelming and impossible, if we could “see” them in the daylight. Thus, God in His kindness and wisdom, sometimes keeps us in the dark, asking us to trust His voice even if we can’t see the path.
It is such a simple request, yet so hard to do! Sometimes, the temptation to find our own torch and light it up is nearly overpowering. It’s not easy for us to give up “control.” We want to see the path that lies ahead. We want to know every curve, every twist, every turn, every steep part. We want to try to figure out how we will navigate every tough spot.
But God doesn’t want us to figure it out. He wants us to trust Him. Nando and his friends climbed over mountains that were seventeen thousand feet high in worn-out shoes, with no ropes. And they did it not knowing how they were going to do it, just putting one foot in front of the other.
If that’s what it feels like you’re doing in life, if you feel like you’re walking in the dark, it might just be because God is keeping you there. So, instead of using your energy to light a torch for yourself, use your energy to trust in God. Whether it’s light or dark, He knows the way, and He will lead you in it!