Days in the Cave Part 1

Lyn Thompson, Pastoral Care, CTCA/Southwestern Regional Medical Center

David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave of Adullam: and when his brethren and all his father's house heard it, they went down thither to him. - 1Samuel 22:1

Caves, by nature, are dark, dank, lonely places. They're often regarded as homes for smelly, evil things, as harborers of hidden terror or places of defeat and death. But they're places many of us crawl to when, like a wounded animal, we're badly hurt. Sometimes we go there peacefully to lick our wounds in solitude.

Sometimes we're thrown in, as Joseph was in the Bible, when his brothers sold him into slavery or when he was put in prison. In those times, there's confusion along with the pain. But, by God's grace, there can also be singular strength; and while the days in the cave are tough, they don't overwhelm us.

It was to the cave of Adullam that David retreated when he had nowhere else to go, as the verse above tells us. He'd lost everything -- his safety, his friend Jonathan, his counselor Samuel, his pride before the king of Gath when he'd acted like a madman to keep from being killed, and his marital unity with his wife Michal, Saul's daughter.

It was to this same cave that God brought another 400 men, men of like circumstances, those who were discontented, in debt and in distress from Saul's rule. It was to a cave that Elijah came in I Kings 19:9, as he ran for his life from Jezebel. It was to a mental cave that Peter probably arrived between the time he denied Christ and the day Jesus commissioned him to "feed My sheep." And it's to a cave-like experience many of us come, or are led, when seemingly pushed beyond our limits of endurance.

No one likes to talk about days in the cave. They're tough days filled with darkness. We feel guilty we have them, so we often put on masks for others and feign strength, when, in reality, we wonder how we can go on for even one more day.

During the course of my life, up until late 1984, I'd known a few days in the cave, suffered some minor hurts and felt some pain, but there'd been nothing I'd call major, nothing that didn't end fairly quickly, nothing I couldn't reason out within a short period of time, nothing that shook the anchors of my faith or caused me to even consider words like "chronic depression" or "despondency."

Then, during a four-year period, beginning with my husband's death, my life took some difficult turns that included not only my grief over losing the love of my life; but breast cancer, chemotherapy and reconstruction; a chemical imbalance in my brain and menopause, both results of the chemotherapy; and a number of daily stresses, major losses and deep emotional wounds inflicted by people I loved.

During the last year of this period, I spent such a great number of days in my mental cave that, at one point, I cried out along with Job and Elijah, "It would have been better if I'd never been born. Just let me die."

As a Christian, I tried every "proven, godly" method and principle I could think of to help myself, including those I'd taught others over the years. I tried reciting Scripture, singing praise songs, listening to the counsel of good friends and practicing positive thought patterns like remembering all the good God had done in my life. I tried counting my blessings, keeping busy and reading about others who'd undergone trials. All of it helped. . .sometimes. And other times, none of it did. And through it all, the pain remained. From time to time, I'd grab a Bible verse like a sword and swing it around, testing the weight and feel of it, thinking that somehow, by magic, this one would either provide some meaning to this madness or would, at least, change everything. But it didn't. The darkness was still dark, the questions still unanswered and the pain still real.

At about that same time, however, one Bible verse seemed to keep coming to mind on a regular basis. . .Ps. 46:10, "Be still and know that I am God." I looked it up in another translation. "Cease striving and know that I am God." That made it very clear: Quit trying to figure out everything. Quit worrying about the dark days. Quit trying to find my own light in the darkness. Quit worrying about the future. Quit trying to live in the past. Quit. . .cease. . .stop. . .and know that I am God. The last part of the verse told me to once again make Him my focus -- even though I couldn't feel His presence, didn't know His purposes and couldn't see His direction.

It didn't happen overnight, but slowly. . .an hour here or there, a day, then two, then more, I was able to do what the verse said. As I quit struggling in my mind with being in the cave, I began to discover jewels of light in the blackness. God's Word says that where He is, even the darkness is light about Him, Ps. 139:12. As I concentrated on Him, He began to let me see rays of light, gemstones in the rock, that I knew I'd take with me as personal discoveries when His path for me led out of the cave.

This devotional was previously published by the author and is used by permission of the author.

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