Two Kinds of Darkness Two Kinds of Light
By Edith Schaeffer
"Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil: that put darkness for light and light for darkness; that put bitter sweet, and sweet for bitter!” Isaiah 5:20
Screaming headlines spill out of the paper on our doorstep, shocking reports interrupt the music coming from the radio, shattering news from the TV is followed by weather reports and news of the latest strike. We get almost numb to the point of simply mashing the potatoes a little harder before beating them with hot milk and butter, turning our minds away from having to deal with the present history we are living in. That is, we do until something comes so close to our lives that we cry out, “that’s not possible;” “I don’t believe it—that couldn’t happen here;” “How could such dark darkness be creeping into a place that I thought had so much light?”
The King James version puts it, “If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness.” Darkness is deeper, more dangerous if a person thinks he has an adequate light, if the light is a smoky lantern which throws grotesque shadows instead of lighting a room or a rocky path. To trust a “light that is darkness” is like trusting a bridge with rotten planks!
Somewhere in this area of Rochester, with its culture and education, there is occult and Satan worship, drugs are pedaled, and a “worldview” is being passed from one person to another as the right way to view things. The other day a seemingly very ordinary boy, trusted in the neighborhood, came home and killed his parents and a younger brother and sister with an ax. And this is America, with tree-lined streets where dinner is being cooked and the smell of mashed potatoes and apple pie drifts out of the windows. We aren’t describing a jungle, or even a slum.
The context of this dark light being spoken of in Matthew is the eye. The Bible speaks of the need for “eyes of understanding” that is, the understanding of truth. If you have been given a lie in place of the truth then you have been given a smoke-filled lantern rather than the true light. And you will be stumbling into deeper darkness all the time.
The statistics roll out in endless recitations . . . statistics about AIDS, statistics about crack, cocaine and alcoholism, statistics about increasing crime, child abuse, pornography, and abortion. We hear of the rise of new cults on every side and the increase of people involving themselves in the New Age Movement. Why are people flocking to “channels” who are really old-fashioned “mediums” claiming to be able to get in touch with people who have died long ago? Why are people flocking to mystical religions and cults, to the occult and to the worship of Satan?
“But,” you and I may say, “I’m not going to go to a New Age seminar, nor would I try out a ‘channel’ to see how she goes into a trance. I’m never tempted to experience mystical religions, or Hindu temples in my travels.” But our need to examine our lamp chimneys is constant. “Oh God, is the light I’m carrying clear . . . or is it muddied up with some form of denial of your truth in my own choices or actions? Does the understanding upon which I base my choices and actions, come from a consistent closeness to you, O God, in daily talking to you and honestly listening to your Word?
In Isaiah 50:10,11 another contrast is given that we need every day. Sometimes we strain forward as we wait to “get going” on our next project, our next decision. We find it hard to wait and patience is pushed in the face by impatience! Can we wait for guidance and direction for help in making a decision that seems to need to be made immediately? Can we trust God to take time to answer our prayer for his help once again?
Fran and I used to keep Isaiah 50:10,11 close by as a reminder. Verse 10 pictures one of us who trusts the Lord, walking in the dark, in a foggy place without a light. Here we are told to wait for the Lord, to rely upon God as we wait for him to show us where to step next in making a choice or decision about the next portion of life. Verse11 comes as a contrast telling us what not to do. This verse speaks of those of us who light our own sparks, our own fires. In other words it speaks of our saying “This time I can’t wait—I am going on with my own plans, my own ideas.” The promise given at the end of the verse is similar to the one given to Eve and Adam after the fall. “Go walk in the light of your fires, and the torches you have set ablaze. This is what you will receive from my hand, you will lie down in torment.” This is a sharp contrast that needs our constant attention when we are waiting for guidance.
Two important realities to be aware of as we continue in this portion of history. Two important warnings of “woe ahead!” “Woe unto them that put darkness for light.” Then again beware of a sorrowful end if you put your own sparks ablaze for your next choice, instead of waiting for the Lord’s wise leading.
Edith Schaeffer co-founded L'Abri Fellowship with her husband, Francis Schaeffer.
This article was previously published in Eternity Magazine, June 1988.