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‘The cave’ – Andrew Hulley

A number of years ago, a good friend and fellow ‘outdoorsy’ type invited my family to do some caving in the peak district. 

As a child, I visited the Blue John caverns and caves in the Peak District several times. I was captivated by these underground cathedrals. However, instead of towering roofs and wide-open spaces, my friend took us to something entirely different. To enter the cave, we had to get on our hands and knees to crawl along a passage. This narrow, confined space was fine for my wife and our children, but for me it was a snug fit! Within just a few metres of shuffling along on all fours, a flood of feelings and thoughts started swirling around inside me. My heart started to race, my breathing changed and it felt as if the already-narrow walls were somehow closing in on me. What if I got trapped? How would I get out? 

After what seemed like an eternity of these thoughts and awkwardly making my way through the cave, I told the others to carry on. Somehow, I managed to scoot backwards into fresh air and, more importantly, open space.

Not long after this experience, I read about David in 1 Samuel 22. David takes refuge in a cave to escape from Saul who is trying to kill him. Recently, triggered by various life experiences, I was reminded of this passage and I decided to study caves in the Bible.

Very quickly, I found the coupling of caves and wildernesses throughout scripture. Often, caves are places people flee to when running from people and situations. This escaping is often accompanied by fear, anxiety and hopelessness. Caves become something of a refuge – hiding places. On the flip side, they can become places of isolation, desperation, and despair. Hidden in the cave, people are shut off from others and, despite somehow feeling safe within the rocky walls, the person is alone – left only with their thoughts and feelings to accompany them.

During David’s time in the cave of Adullam, others came and joined him in that rocky refuge. These were people in distress, in debt or who were discontented with life. Yet somehow, in that dark, hidden place, a bunch of bandits became a mighty army, passionate about the King and his kingdom.

When I have found myself in particularly tough situations, I have on occasions retreated and withdrawn internally to a ‘cave.’

David wrote Psalm 57 and Psalm 142 in the Cave of Adullam. These are both instructional passages, revealing David’s ability to be completely realistic about the circumstances he finds himself in – struggling with emotions, yet not getting so lost in them that he loses sight of God. In fact, we see David lifting his heart and mind up from himself and fixing them onto God who is his real refuge and place of confidence.

Caves can be places of transformation, of coming to the end of ourselves and beginning a new time or season.

During my study of caves, I found my heart drawn to the men, women and children whose daily experience in a prison cell is much like the desperate, isolated and, more often than not, seemingly hopeless scenario of those in a cave.

This has fuelled my prayers as I cry out to God for these precious people living in prison. I express to Jesus not only my hope and desire that they would experience transformation in the dark place they find themselves in, but also that, in the loneliness and uncertainty about the future, they would somehow experience Jesus’ love and know God as their refuge, their safe place and as the One who rescues them.

My prayer for anyone who might find themselves hiding, alone, anxious or fearful is that the words of Psalm 91:1-2 will be a lived reality:

‘Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”’

Andrew Hulley is PF’s Head of Volunteer Engagement. 

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