I always pack a flashlight because sometimes I misjudge how long a hike will take. Once, the sun set six miles from the trailhead. I did a two-hour night hike through trees, barely able to distinguish the path from the forest floor. If the battery had failed I would have had no choice but to bivouac, eat my last granola bar, and wait for dawn. The experience reminds me of a lesson Jesus taught.
Jerusalem Jews had tried to seize Jesus, so He had taken the disciples across the River Jordan. Then word had come that Lazarus was sick in Bethany on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Jesus did nothing for two days. His sudden announcement elicited a startled and anxious question.
[Jesus] said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” (John 11:7-10)
Jesus’ response was a question to engage minds and teach the importance of walking in the light. Light is a big theme in John. In many contexts it refers to the will and ways of God. Jesus called Himself the Light of the World, meaning that His presence provides light for us. People either desire more truth and welcome the light, or they prefer their evil ways and reject light (John 3:19-21).
Like us, the disciples were still learning. Human nature avoids danger whenever possible. They dreaded Jerusalem; they expected to die there (John 11:16). Jesus saw things differently. For Him, danger did not exist in the light of the will of God, only on a spiritual night hike because we have no light in us. If we stay with Him, in His will and timing, we are safe because He protects us to accomplish His will. Presumptuous or well-intentioned things done contrary to God’s will are risky. Claiming that we are acting in faith makes no difference, it’s more like magic thinking than true faith.
So, should people who think they cannot hear God or know His will feel afraid to venture out spiritually? No! God is gracious. We have a reassurance that He judges according to how much we know of His will. (Luke 12:47-48). He also wants us to grow in hearing His voice and obeying—to grow in faith. If we are pursuing His presence He will lead us out of the dark into the dawn of His light—just as Jesus led His disciples.