It was my mother’s ambition to give my two brothers and I as many opportunities to see the world as she possibly could. Though we were dirt poor, mom saved every year so we could go on vacation in the summer. One of these summer excursions led us into Mammoth Cave of western Kentucky. As a small child I was amazed that a hole in the ground could stretch so far, nearly 400 miles. I fantasized about being the one to explore parts of the cave where no man had yet been.
This summer I provided my eight year old son, Kameron, with the Mammoth Cave experience. He trembled with excitement as he took each of 300 steps downward into the cave. He enjoyed the coolness of the cave as it held its temperature steady at 54 degrees. He loved the stalagmites and the stalactites. “A stalactite holds tight to the ceiling and a stalagmite stands mighty on the ground,” his mother taught him to distinguish between the two.
Half-way through the tour our guide gave us opportunities to ask questions. My son immediately raised his hand as if he were sitting in Ms. Merritt’s second grade class room. I quickly pulled his arm down, fearful that he was going to ask where the nearest bathroom might be. I asked him, “What were you going to ask?” He replied, “Oh, I was just going to ask him to turn out the lights.” A few minutes later Kam got his wish. They turned out all the lights for only a brief moment. It was Kam’s favorite part of the adventure.
The darkness of a cave is like no other darkness you have ever experienced. It is a total blackness that can generate panic in your breast. It is a darkness that seems to have weight, an oppressive darkness. Something you wouldn’t want to experience alone. This kind of utter darkness, the kind that prevents you from seeing your hand in front of your face, can be very disorienting.
In 1914, British explorer Ernest Shackleton set out to explore Antarctica with a crew of adventurous men. Shackleton’s plan was to land his ship, the Endurance, and walk across the South Pole. His mission had to be aborted because the Endurance was unable to endure the polar ice. Shackleton’s crew was stranded for months. Later, the survivors were asked to reveal the most horrendous difficulty they experienced in Antarctica. They answered that it was not starvation. It was not the bitter cold or the pain of frost bite. The most horrible difficulty they faced was the darkness. The sun doesn’t rise from mid-May to late June at the South Pole making total darkness an unwelcome companion.
This deep darkness causes one to lose their sense of direction. You can’t see where you are going nor can you see where you have been. It removes the natural time piece that helps us to measure our days. It will steal away one’s rhythm of life. It can bring about depression and loneliness and cause one to lose their sense of who they are. It has been known to cause some men to go mad.
The sun is the source of all biological life. Without its rays of light we would all perish. The Bible often compares God to the sun. “For the Lord God is a sun…” (Psalm 84:11) Just as the sun is the source of all biological life, God is the source of all spiritual life. As long as the earth stays in its orbit around the sun there will be life. As long as our lives orbit around God we will have spiritual life. He dispels the darkness that seeks to invade our workspace, our marriages, our families, our finances. When God is centered in our lives we experience order and understanding. When God is no longer the center of our lives we get disoriented in the darkness that pervades. Order is replaced by chaos and peace is replaced by turmoil.
We practice idolatry when we try to replace God as the true source of light in our lives. We may feel a temporary satisfaction even though we ignore God in our pursuit of a career, or in our thirst for acceptance and popularity. Forbidden love and unbridled lust will certainly bring a temporary satisfaction but eventually we will discover that those things are not big enough to fill the God-shaped hole in our hearts.
Spiritual darkness can cause us to lose a proper perspective of who we are. You can’t see yourself when the light is turned off. You find yourself doing things you never dreamed you would do when you dwell in the dark. The darkness provides a false sense of security. Under the cover of darkness you tend to believe that no one sees and no one knows and no one cares. Loneliness becomes a companion to darkness as you become more and more isolated. Prolonged isolation will lead to depression and finally to disintegration.
A cave-like, polar darkness descended upon Israel the day Christ died. But the darkness was finally lifted and Christ was resurrected. His resurrection demonstrates to us his power to save. He is the Light who chases away spiritual darkness in the souls of men. He brings order out of chaos, he brings peace out of turmoil, he brings satisfaction out of frustration, clear direction out of disorientation, love out of hatred and hope out of despair.
The hope of every Christian is rooted in His resurrection. His resurrection rends the veil in two so we may enter the holy of holies. His resurrection brings assurance to the Christian that death is only temporary and eternal life awaits those who call upon the name of the Lord. His resurrection clears a path for us to find our way to heaven where we will no longer need the light of the sun. Instead, we will bask eternally in the light of his glory.
Kevin Probst - Teaches New Testament, Apologetics and Epistles at Lafayette Christian School in LaGrange, Georgia.