I’ve been thinking about caves. Weird, I know, right? But recently I had the privilege of climbing to (on rock steps – we’re not talking ropes and crampons here) and exploring, a series of huge caves on an island in Vietnam. It got me reflecting on caves in the Bible and why people went there. Caves were places of refuge, but usually a last resort, and often dark and lonely.
Here are a few that came to mind. Can you relate to any of these “cave moments”?
- When you’re distressed and afraid.
When Saul is chasing David and he is running for his life he hides in a cave with others who are disillusioned.
1 Samuel 22: 1-3
David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father’s household heard about it, they went down to him there. All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander.
Maybe it feels like circumstances are just too much for you and you’re afraid, or angry or discouraged. You may need to hide in God…curl up in the safety of His presence.
2. When you’re exhausted.
After God uses Elijah to miraculously defeat the prophets of Baal, Jezebel is still after him and he runs away, exhausted.
1 Kings 19:3-9
Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.
All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night.
Note that the first thing God does is meet Elijah’s physical needs. Have you ever noticed how fatigue affects your perspective? John Ortberg writes, “Sometimes the most spiritual thing we can do is take a nap.” Maybe you need both physical rest and the spiritual rest from striving that God can provide.
3. When you need to grieve a death.
Jesus allows Lazarus to die in order that He can show His power to bring life out of death.
Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said.
Maybe you’ve experienced the death of a dream and you need God to show you where He is going to bring new life. Maybe you’re waiting for Him to roll away a stone that has been a stumbling block for you. Maybe you need time in your cave to pour out your heart in grief.
After all, it was in a burial cave that Jesus overcame death and made a way for us to live forever with Him, right?
In caves we may have silence and solitude pressed upon us, but it’s a time to cling to Jesus. Maybe we can draw encouragement from what David wrote when he was in a cave. Psalm 142:1-3
I cry aloud to the Lord;
I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy.
I pour out before him my complaint;
before him I tell my trouble.
When my spirit grows faint within me,
it is you who watch over my way.