Light and dark are constant themes in the Bible. Most notably — Genesis 1 and John 1 paint the picture of the very words of God creating darkness and light and separating the two. I think as humans we are naturally drawn to light. To summer days at the beach versus gloomy winter ones. To bright happy music rather than dissonance. To happiness at any expense, always avoiding sadness and mourning. God himself is almost always described as indescribable light and consuming fire. His followers are described as those who walk in light and are themselves the light of the world.
But as a friend recently pointed out to me, God is also described as darkness. Before the world began as we know it, God’s presence hovering over the waters existed only in darkness, until he commanded light to exist. When God spoke to Abram it was in the night accompanied by “terrifying darkness” (Gen 15:12). When Moses comes face to face with God and Israel witnesses his presence descend onto the mountaintop, the description is of deep darkness (Ex 20:21, Dt 5:23, Heb 12: 18). When David recalls God’s miraculous rescue from Saul’s army, he says that God “shrouded himself in darkness, veiling his approach with dark rain clouds” (Ps 18:11). When God’s presence filled the temple, it isn’t with indescribable light or beauty, but “a thick cloud of darkness” (1 Kgs 8:12). He uses shadows, darkness, and destruction again and again as a means of bringing about mourning and repentance to wandering souls (Isa 47:5, Jer 13:16, Eze 32:8, Joel 2:2).
Not only is God covered by darkness, he also uses darkness to cover his people. He used a cloud to guide his people in the desert (Ex 14:20). And he often uses darkness in our lives to teach and guide us. “And I will give you treasure in the darkness–secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name” (Isa 45:3). His ways are often described as mysterious or inexplicable — shrouded or dimmed to our human eyes. The word “darkness” is most used in the book of Job. If ever the purposes of God were shrouded in mystery and suffering, it would be in Job’s life. He often used sickness and even death (like with Lazarus), the darkest of human experiences, to bring greater glory to himself and teach his people about faith (Jn 11:4).
Yet time and time again we are told that this darkness cannot overtake us. Dark is not dark to the God who’s very being is Light. He can see in the dark. There are no secrets or hidden places that are too far gone for him to reach in to (Job 12:22, 1 Cor 4:5). “He reveals deep and mysterious things and knows what lies hidden in darkness” (Dan 2:22). Even if we ask the darkness to cover us, the night will shine as bright as day to Him (Ps 139:11-12). He is the light of the world — death and darkness hold no power over him (Jn 8:12). We are commanded not to dread anything evil that could come from the darkness (Ps 91:6).
I find so much comfort in knowing there is no competing god of darkness that is at war with our souls. God is a god of both darkness and light. When we find our lives filled with more sorrow than joy, more confusion than certainty, and more darkness than light — we can be sure he is in that too. He has not halted on the border of light, waiting for our return. He is with us even in the valley of the shadow of death; he hold us in the night and sings to our souls from dusk to dawn. He sends both darkness and light (Ps 104:20, 22), for he created both. “I create the light and make the darkness. I send good times and bad times. I, the Lord, am the one who does these things” (Isa. 45:7). And he promises to lead us from the “darkness and deepest gloom” (Ps 107:14) and to use our time in the darkness to mold us and shape us into his likeness.
So, today, if you find yourself to be in darkness, be encouraged. Sickness, death, mourning, depression, confusion, and pain are not the end of your story. God is still in the darkness and has not left your side. And he promises that “the people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine” (Isa 9:2). So what should you do while you wait for the darkness to lift? “If you are walking darkness, without a ray of light, trust in the Lord and rely on your God” (Isa 50:10).