How many of us have ever been inside a cave? There are many sizes and styles of caves; they can be beautiful, scary, breath-taking, and awe-inspiring. If you do a little bit of research, you will discover that people use caves for any number of things: for protection, for shelter, for warmth, and for exploration to name a few.
I am going suggest to you that there are other uses for a cave. Caves can be used for Retreat, Restoration, and Re-engagement. Our model for this comes from the Biblical account of David. You may remember the account. David was at a very low point in his life. Saul was in hot pursuit, and David was running for his life. He was lost, frightened, and not sure of Godâ€™s plans for him. He had no food and no weapon and was by himself. He begged bread from Ahimelech the priestâ€”and not just any bread, this was Holy Breadâ€”and he took the sword that had belonged to Goliath, which happened to be in the temple. He fled to Gath, and only escaped there with his life by pretending to be crazy. Pretty low timeâ€¦ So, where did David go? You can read the account in 1 Samuel 22. He fled to a cave; this was his retreat. Not only him but, in verse 2, we see he was joined by about 400 men. So, get this picture in your imagination: 400 men, with an unknown number of animals, now throw in body odors and human and animal waste in cramped underground quarters. They must have really wanted to be with David!
There are times in our lives when we need to retreat. One thing I can promise youâ€”in this life you will have that experience at least once. Our cave will not likely be a literal one, but metaphoric. It will be a place or set of circumstances where we withdraw temporarily for a specific reason. Maybe itâ€™s your prayer closet. Maybe itâ€™s extended time in solitude and meditation. Maybe itâ€™s private time with a trusted friend. It may even be a state of mind. No matter its specific location, its purpose will be for us to temporarily disconnect from our situation, reconnect with God, understand what we need to do to become refreshed and strengthened, and then to take that action. Maybe we are facing personal crises that are pretty overwhelming. We might be burnt out, feeling depressed, or nursing a perceived insult from someone. Maybe itâ€™s our â€œDark night of the soul.â€ Maybe we feel a need to grow more intimate with God. There can be any number of reasons we need to retreat.
I love what Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:7,8: â€œI have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. There is reserved for me in the future the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me, but to all those who have loved His appearing.â€
How I so want to be able to say that someday. But sometimes itâ€™s hard. When that time comes, when we must flee to our cave, do we retreat by ourselves, or are we joined by others? It dependsâ€”David retreated by himself but was soon joined by 400 other â€œdown and outers.â€ They then supported each other in getting through the dark time. Jesus retreated by himself for 40 days into the wilderness to prepare for his adult ministry. The most important thing to remember is that we are not meant to stay in our cave forever. The purpose is that we regroup, perhaps gain some clarity, and be restored, so that we can re-engage.
How do we become restored? Well, we focus on that without distraction. When we enter our cave, it must be with the desire to ultimately be able to re-engage. Thatâ€™s another thing a cave does for us; it serves as a protective barrier to keep distractions out while we seek our restoration. The four steps we can always take to accomplish our restoration are prayer, Bible study, meditation, and mutual encouragement.
Prayer: See Philippians 4:6,7. First we pray. Our sincere, earnest prayers will calm us and give us a sense of peace, which will allow steps two, three, and four to be effective. Way too often we use prayer as a last resort. Letâ€™s get good at making it the first resort.
Bible Study: See 1Timothy 1:18,19. Timothy was to recall the prophecies. How could he recall them unless he had studied them, committed them to memory? Back to the Bible conducted a major survey trying to find keys in what distinguished growing Christians vs those who werenâ€™t. The one single thread was time spent engaging with scripture. Believers who engaged with the Bible at least four times per week had lives that differed markedly from those who did not. These folks are 228% more likely to share their faith, they are 407% more likely to memorize scripture, they are 59% less likely to view pornography, and they are 30% less likely to struggle with loneliness. This week, would you make it a point to read your Bible at least four days?
Meditation: See Psalm 119:97-99. Reading our Bibles and praying are vital, but to get them deep into our soul we need to meditate on them. Some quiet time of reflectionâ€”what does that verse say to me? How, by Godâ€™s grace, can I apply it in my life? How has God spoken to me during this time? One suggestion I can make on this topic is please donâ€™t measure your quiet time with a stopwatch. You have prayed and read; now allow God to speak to you.
Encouragement: See Romans 1:11,12. We should never withdraw from our Christian relationships. All of us need that, and we need it regularly. Paul was perhaps the most mature Christian in the first century church. But when he wrote to the church in Rome, he expressed the desire to be mutually encouraged along with them.
For our restoration to be complete, we must pay attention to all four. Neglecting any one of these will weaken us when we emerge to re-engage with our world.
And finally, we emerge from our cave to re-engage with our world. I am always fascinated that 400 pitiful, destitute misfits entered the cave with David, but do you remember what we called them when they emerged? We called them Davidâ€™s mighty men; they were totally transformed. So it is with us. If our time in the cave has been well-spent, we will emerge strengthened spiritually, physically, and mentally. We will reclaim our position in Godâ€™s army.
â€œTo be used of God. Is there anything more encouraging, more fulfilling? Perhaps not, but there is something more basic: to meet with God. To linger in His presence, to shut out the noise of the city and, in quietness, give Him the praise He deserves. Before we engage ourselves in His work, let’s meet Him in His Word… in prayer… in worship.â€ Author Chuck Swindoll reminds us that we sometimes need to spend time in our cave.
So, retreat when you must, into your cave. But while you are there, give yourself to prayer, Bible study, meditation, and encouragement. If you do, you will find yourself restored and you can re-engage with your world!
And letâ€™s all reach that place where we welcome the struggle, because that is where our character is forged and things of value reside. All of the heroic Bible men and women became so by engaging and overcoming some great struggle. It is part of life. So we may as well get good at it, letâ€™s expect it, and have our game plan ready. We may have to retreat into our cave for a time, but we can emerge strong and eager to re-engage our world. I am reminded of Joshua, of Gideon, and Nehemiah, and David, and Peter, and Paul, of Martin Luther, and Martin Luther King. We remember their boldness. May your Christian life be a bold and magnificent adventure!!