My favorite Batman movie is The Dark Knight Rises. And not just because it has Christian Bale, and not Ben Affleck, playing Batman. I love this film because it resonates with my soul. Batman’s back is broken in a battle against the evil Bane, and the Dark Knight is left for dead in a dark, inescapable pit. Bruce Wayne, our strong hero, is broken, hopeless, confused, and trapped in a deep cave.
Caves are dark, musty, disorienting, and lonely. And sooner or later, we all end up in one.
Not literally, of course. But in the course of life, our souls stumble into caves of brokenness, pain, hurt, grieving, and suffering. We feel like David fleeing his family, friends, throne, land—everything—because his son Absalom betrayed him. This is the cave.
LIFE IN THE CAVE IMPACTS EVERYTHING
Loss brings us to the cave. Loss of friendship, loss of dreams, loss of family, loss of hope. Often, loss is accompanied by even more loss, as friends, fans, and supporters who were around distance themselves.
The cave feels like rock bottom. The damp, cold, walls are all you have to cling to.
Life in the cave impacts everything.
Your finances, marriage, and career can be great, but it doesn’t matter—you’re in the cave. What brought you here hurt so deeply that the pain bleeds into every part of life.
If part of you is in the cave, all of you is in the cave.
WHAT DARKNESS BRINGS TO LIGHT
In the cave we are stripped of every hope other than Jesus. Hobbies, entertainment, food, and iPhones—none of these can help. They can distract from the pain, but some caves are just too dark to find comfort in distractions.
In the cave our pride is crushed. We become more aware than ever that Jesus—only Jesus—will never leave or forsake us. We are stripped of all the idols that are so prevalent outside.
In the cave we find out how much we really love Jesus, and how much we really trust him.
Caves are lonely, but you’re never alone in the cave. We have a God who does some of his best work in the cave. This makes even the darkest of caves beautiful.
The God of the Bible is a good God. He uses our pain and suffering, our brokenness, to bring about something beautiful. He uses all things for the good for those who love him (Rom. 8:28). He woos us in the cave.
CAVES REVEAL US
Spelunking is the exploration of caves. Spelunkers grope around in the dark with headlamps lighting their way. They never know what they might find, but in the end, the adventure reveals something about themselves.
I wouldn’t wish time in the cave on anyone, yet I wouldn’t trade my time there for anything. I’ve been in it more than once, and I would rather not enter it again.
Yet I know I would not know Jesus the same way I do today without times in the cave. Just as a miner delves deeper into the mountain to uncover flecks of shimmering gold, there is beauty in the depths of our cave because God is committed to mining our hearts and revealing the stone encasing them.
Caves reveal our hearts, and they reveal our closest friends. Jonathans reveal themselves to Davids in the cave. No friend can live there with you. Only you and Jesus can dwell there, but true friends can and will visit you in the cave. They will enter your pain, listen, pray, comfort, point you to Jesus and help in any way they can. It is these friends that help you see the dim, distant light that is the way out. These friends are priceless. They have seen the way out, and even though they don’t dwell in the cave, they can offer tremendous hope.
Jesus uses friends and family to help us take our first wobbly steps out of the cave. He uses them as a due north, a compass in the midst of a confusing, lost and dark time. That doesn’t mean everyone who abandons you is not a true friend. Certainly, some are inch-deep friends, but many just do not have the courage, maturity or time to visit you in the cave.
Some are in a cave of their own, and some are in such a time of joyful frolicking outside they don’t even recognize others are in caves. Don’t hold on to bitterness. While it reveals your truest and deepest friends, the cave also grows our compassion for those in caves and those who have no idea what this pain is like. We bear with one another and we grow in learning how to share one another’s burdens.
PURIFIED FOR COMMUNITY
While the cave is a very lonely place, the Lord never intends to use it for isolation, but as a furnace to melt away the impurities of superficial, self-centered community, purifying us for community with him and a newfound compassion for others.
Time in the cave deepens our longing for authentic Jesus-centered community, marked by dependence, brokenness, vulnerability, confession, and love. He reveals true friends, but also makes us into true friends, the kinds of friends that would visit others in the cave.
Jesus and Peter are restored after Jesus enters his cave, but Judas and Jesus were not. Finding the way out doesn’t mean every relationship is restored, but that every person is forgiven and Jesus is fully trusted to be the just judge. Confess all that you can confess, own all that you can own, and leave God to judge the rest. This helps us get off the floor of the cave.
Look to Jesus. Trust Jesus. Some things will reveal themselves over time as you wait upon the Lord. Sometimes the Absaloms show themselves to be Absalom, and the Jonathans show themselves to be Jonathan. Other times we never know. Either way, trust in Jesus. He is trustworthy.
THE ULTIMATE CAVE IS EMPTY
How do we know he is worthy of our trust? Because he willingly entered into the ultimate cave in order to keep us out of an eternal one.
Jesus left a heavenly paradise willingly to enter a cave on Earth. He was respected, followed, sought after and had a ministry that impacted villages, cities, towns and drew audiences from royalty to peasants and the sick. He walked with close friends, had moments of validation and appreciation both from people and from the Father. He knew life on Earth outside the cave.
He also knew ministry in the caves. He was a man of sorrows. He wept. He knew betrayal, abuse, false accusations, and abandonment. He knew physical, spiritual and relational pain and torment.
On the cross, he took on the sins of the world. He took every man, woman and child’s personal cave, all the sin they committed to get there, and all the sin committed against them that sent them there.
Jesus entered a very real cave. He was beaten, mocked, abused, abandoned and buried in a dark, cold, musty cave and left breathless, lifeless, dead. The king of heaven was crucified on a cross and buried in a cave. He didn’t have to do this. But he chose to out of love for us!
The Dark Knight Rises ends with Batman learning from his past and coming out of the cave stronger than ever. He defeats Bane, saves Gotham, and marries Catwoman.
Jesus is better. He defeated the ultimate cave. The stone was rolled away, the cave is empty, and Jesus is alive!
Jesus heals, restores, saves and resurrects. We have hope new life will come bursting forth from our deep, dark caves because Jesus Christ burst forth from his.
We get to ask for help, prayer, and friendship and be honest about our condition. And even in the darkest cave, we can have hope, knowing no cave is permanent for those who have trusted in Jesus.
And one day he will make all things new, even us. He will shine brighter than the sun, wipe away every tear, and turn every dark cave into a life-giving meadow! All creation will join together in worshipping and praising our King Jesus! And we will frolic for all of eternity, together in community, with him.
In the meantime, let us fix our eyes on Jesus, in both the meadows and the caves. Let us rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn. Living like a true friend to those around us who are in the meadow or in the cave, always pointing to the one who truly will never leave them or forsake them, always pointing to Jesus!
Jake Chambers is the husband to his beautiful bride Lindsey, and a daddy to Ezra, Roseanna, Jaya and Gwen. Jake is passionate about Jesus and helping others meet and follow Jesus. He helped plant Red Door Church in San Diego and enjoys serving the local and global church through preaching, teaching, listening and praying.