Last week I was reading a blog post by a friend, in which she said that she was feeling that rock bottom has a basement. The definition of rock bottom is the “lowest of the low.” Yet my friend felt that life had managed to go even lower than the lowest possible place.
In Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, Christian and his friend Hopeful are caught by Giant Despair and put in his dark dungeon. There they lay for three days, terrified and without hope. They were also in the basement of rock bottom.
In Psalm 88, the Psalmist is also in that place beyond the lowest low:
You have put me in the depths of the pit,
in the regions dark and deep.
Your wrath lies heavy upon me,
and you overwhelm me with all your waves. vv. 6-7
In fact, unlike the other Psalms that start in despair and end up on a positive note, Psalm 88 ends:
You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me;
my companions have become darkness. v. 18
The alternative meaning in Hebrew is darkness has become my only companion. The Psalmist has no hope left. There is nothing for him. He is in the black dungeon of Giant Despair. He’s with my friend in the basement of rock bottom.
If we left him (and Christian and my friend and us) there in that dungeon, then what would be the reason to go on? Where is there hope for the Psalmist or for any of us?
This man feels that God is against him, that there is nothing in life that’s good, that his soul is full of trouble, that he has no strength, that he has been forgotten by God, that his friends have all abandoned him and view him as a horror, that the only companion, the only friend he has is darkness, and that the only place lower is death.
However (praise the Lord, there is a however), despite all of these feelings and circumstances of darkness and feeling forgotten by God, the Psalmist still cries out to God, he still has the small kernel of faith that looks to God in the darkness and believes that He hears and that He cares.
Jesus says, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. (Matthew 17:20)
In our dark places, the tiny seed of faith that the Lord has given us strengthens us to turn to Him, the Light of the World, and cry out, pleading with Him for light, for hope, for salvation. When we are in the dark, we need only to remember to look for the light.
Despite the seeming hopelessness in this Psalm and in our lives, there are glimmers of light if we look closely enough. The glimmers of God’s promises:
- He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5)
- Even if a mother could forget her nursing child, God will never forget us (Isaiah 49:15)
- We are inscribed on the palms of His hands (Isaiah 49:16)
- He will with us in the waters and walk with us in the fire (Isaiah 43: 2)
- He has loved us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3)
- He rejoices over us with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)
As we focus on these promises, even if the circumstances are still hard and our road seems endlessly black, we begin to see the glory of our Father’s face shine out in the gloom, the fingers of sun gleaming through the cracks of the dungeon walls, and to believe again in His love poured out for us in Christ. We start to grasp that if God is for us, which He is in Christ, who could be against us. We take shelter in His love and in His protection. And we take hold of the glorious truth that Christ is sufficient and will always be sufficient for all our needs, no matter what is occurring in this world. If we have Christ, then we have eternity and glory and unfailing love from our God.
Charitie Lees Bancroft wrote:
When Satan tempts me to despair
and tells me of the guilt within,
upward I look and see him there,
who made an end to all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died,
my sinful soul is counted free;
for God, the just, is satisfied
to look on him and pardon me,
to look on him and pardon me.
Christ has become wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption for us. (I Corinthians 1:30) If He has done all this, how will He not also give us all things. (Romans 8:31)
As Christian lay in the dungeon, he prayed and the Lord reminded him of the promises of God, and these promises were the key that allowed Christian and Hopeful to escape into the sunshine. My friend, too, acknowledged that God’s light still shines even when it is clouded over by life’s circumstances and she can’t see it at that moment.
What about you, friend? Are you in the darkness of the basement of rock bottom? Do you feel abandoned, forgotten, and alone in your hard times? Can you see no hope and no light and no escape?
Go to Jesus. He loved you enough to die for you, He stands at the throne of God and pleads your case, He will give you all that you need to walk with Him in this life, and He will come and take you home to be with Him, basking in the sunshine of His love for eternity.
5 thoughts on “The Darkness of the Dungeon”
Thank you, Joy. A wonderful, beautifully written essay to inspire & give hope to people of all religious faiths, as well as to those still searching…
I am so happy it inspired and gave you hope. That was my intent. I hope others who read it feel the same. Things are hard for many people right now.
Yes Joy, you’re so right, as if many people weren’t already grappling with hard enough problems before the pandemic. God bless you & yours Joy, & thank you again for such hopeful & inspiring words.
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This was beautiful and encouraging!
I’m glad you are encouraged. Sometimes when we are walking through dark times, big or small, it helps when fellow pilgrims shine a light for us.