What drove an astonishingly successful, battle-hardened warrior who had earned the respect of his people into the darkness of a cave? How had he come to be laid so low that he would declare, ‘Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need’? David’s cry seems to echo off the walls of the cave into the darkness that surrounded him.
Deep in the cave, there is no warmth, no light, no comfort in the despair of utter self-consuming loneliness that denies hope and leaves you numb to the touch. 1 Samuel tells us that the location of David’s cave was near the town of Adullam, but the reality is that our cave can be anywhere. I don’t need to go to a mountainside, I can be sitting among a crowd, busy at work, busy winning people, but the cave is ever present, and I’m sitting in it.
‘Set me free from my prison,’ cries David, but that takes breath, life and energy when the cave is an exhausting place to be. Perhaps that was the most shocking aspect; fear is exhausting. Fear exhausts us mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.
It is too easy to reduce the Christian life to being either afraid or not afraid, as though you can be one or the other but not both. It is possible to be scared and excited at the same time, it is possible to experience hope and despair at the same time, it is possible to cry out to the heavens ‘Why have you abandoned me?’ and at the same time proclaim ‘Yet you are God and I will praise you’.
Change only comes when we are able to acknowledge the fear of what awaits us outside: the presence of friends or friends who might show us love, the bright shining glorious presence of a hope that never fails, never ends, never gives up on us even when we have given up on ourselves.
I firmly believe that God is with us in the cave. Knowing Jesus means that the Spirit of God is deposited in our hearts as a promise of all that is to come. He is there with us – we cannot flee from his presence. We cannot escape him; David knew it was impossible to escape the presence of the God who loves us so much that he gave up his Son for us to rescue us from all that separates us from him.