Book Review: The Disciplines of Life by V. Raymond Edman

The Discipline of Darkness

”That walketh in darkness, and hath no light?” (Isa. 50:10)

There is profound and practical truth in the statement, ”Never doubt in the dark what God told you in the light.” This statement implies that it is possible for the child of God to ”be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (Col. 1:9), and ”understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17). We are admonished in Romans 12:1, 2, to be living sacrifices, not conformed to this world, ”transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” It is entirely possible for the child of God in the light of the Word, by the gracious guidance of the Holy Spirit, by obedience to the light given by God, to be persuaded of the will of God, much as the Apostle Paul was told, ”Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome” (Acts 23:11). After such revelation of the will of God, there seems to come with eternal inevitability ”the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth” (I Pet. 1:7). Paul was a prisoner, suffered shipwreck, and was given up for dead before he reached Rome, but he arrived, according to the promise of God. This trial of faith provides the discipline of darkness for God’s child, that he may learn to trust his Father in the shadow as well as in the sunshine.


Joseph learned that discipline in his life. In the quiet and shelter of his childhood home he had come to know by dreams and visions that he was to have a place of pre-eminence among his older brothers. His pathway led through hatred, envy, and rejection by his own, who sold him into slavery in Egypt. Menial service and murderous misrepresentation were his lot in Potiphar’s house, and in the prison he was forgotten of men, but not of God. He endured the discipline of darkness because, ”Until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the Lord tried him” (Ps. 105:19, R.V.). That discipline sweetened him so that, at the summit of his success, when all Egypt was subject to his word, he could say to his brethren, ”But as for you, ye thought evil against me: but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (Gen. 50:20). The dreams of youth, disciplined by darkness, made it possible for him to perform magnanimously the prerogatives of power.


Jeremiah came to know this discipline. When misunderstood and misrepresented by others, he received the assurance of His Lord, ”Verily it shall be well with thy remnant; verily I will cause the enemy to entreat thee well in the time of evil and in the time of affliction. . . . They shall fight against thee, but they shall not prevail against thee: for I am with thee to save thee and to deliver thee, saith the Lord” (Jer. 15:11,20). After he had received that gracious promise, he went deeper into distress and difficulty, into the dungeon, and into danger of death both from the citizens of the city and from the enemy outside the walls. When the city was taken, however, Jeremiah heard anew, ”But I will deliver thee in that day, saith the Lord: and thou shalt not be given into the hand of the men of whom thou art afraid. For I will surely deliver thee, and thou shalt not fall by the sword, but thy life shall be for a prey unto thee: because thou hast put thy trust in me, saith the Lord” (39:17,18). The dungeon was no place in which to doubt that deliverance was at hand.


John the Baptist knew this discipline in another way. John was ”a burning and a shining light” (John 5:35), and great multitudes were attracted by his fiery preaching. In the days of his popularity and power he said of the Lord Jesus, ”He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Very possibly he did not know that ”decrease” would lead to the hatred of implacable Herodias, to the dungeon, and finally to ignominious death. His perplexity in the darkness is expressed by his question sent by way of his disciples to the Lord, ”Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” (Matt. 11:3). In response to such deep travail of soul, the Lord Jesus replied, ”Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me” (vs.6). The discipline of darkness would cause us to be offended (”to stumble”); but there is a gracious possibility that we can be so established in the will of God that we will not doubt in the dark what was told us in the light.

Above many, Job came to know this discipline. He had walked in the light, upright before men and approved by God (Job 1:1,8), a man of deep personal piety (vs. 5) and of great earthly prosperity (vs. 3). Twice it was said of him by the Most High, ”Hast thou considered my servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?” (1:8; 2:3). Suddenly he was plunged into dismay, desolation, disease, and despair.

There is the ”dark night of the soul” for some of God’s true children; a prolonged and painful period when God seems to be altogether absent, when health is gone, when friends forsake or aggravate, when days are dark and nights are long, when tomorrow holds no promise of light or alleviation from hopelessness, when the rest of the grave is preferred to the wearisome round of suffering and sorrow. Was a human heart ever more disconsolate than that of Job, who complained constantly: ”Why is light given to a man whose way is hid, and whom God hath hedged in?” (3:23). ”Oh, that I might have my request . . . . even that it would be please God to destroy me” (6:8,9). ”If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean; Yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me” (9:30,31). ”Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and holdest me for thine enemy? Wilt thou break a leaf driven to and fro? and wilt thou pursue the dry stubble?” (13:24,25).

The darkness brings to us haunting shadows that insinuate, ”God has forgotten to be gracious,” ”God concerns not Himself with you,” ”God’s will would not bring you into the shadow,” ”God has forsaken you because you have disobeyed Him,” and a thousand similar subtle snares of Satan. On the contrary, the discipline of darkness can show us the wonderful truth of Isaiah 50:10, ”Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of His servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.” Trust Him and Him alone; stay upon Him when all else fails. Our temptation is to give up all hope in the dark or else to kindle a fire of our own (Isa. 50:11) which will prove to be loss and sorrow. Rather, we find as heart and mind are stayed upon the Lord, that ”Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness: he is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous” (Ps. 112:4).

This is the discipline of darkness: Never doubt in the dark what God told you in the light. —V. Raymond Edman


O Jesus, I Have Promised

O Jesus, I have promised

To serve Thee to the end;

Be Thou forever near me,

My Master and my Friend:

I shall not fear the battle

If Thou art by my side,

Nor wander from the pathway

If Thou wilt be my guide.

Oh, let me feel Thee near me;

The world is ever near.

I see the sights that dazzle,

The tempting sounds I hear.

My foes are ever near me,

Around me and within;

But, Jesus, draw Thou nearer,

And shield my soul from sin.

O Jesus, Thou hast promised

To all who follow Thee,

That where Thou art in glory

There shall Thy servant be;

And, Jesus, I have promised

To serve Thee to the end.

Oh! give me grace to follow,

My Master and my Friend.

—John E. Bode

The Disciplines of LifeThe Disciplines of Life by V. Raymond Edman is currently out of print but you can still find a few paperback copies on Amazon at the link below.