For those of you who know me, you know that I enjoy a good retro gaming experience. I love breaking out some of the old systems, or at least the ones I still have, and playing through some pixelated magic. If the truth were to be told, however, I would say that those experiences only last so long. Gaming hardware back in the 80s and 90s was not incredibly robust, so one could probably get a maximum of one week’s worth of good gameplay out of a single game. In today’s age of overpriced retro cartridges and old game CDs, it really does matter that a game has some depth to it. And by depth, I mean hours upon hours of playable content.

Yes, I like to go deep into my games. Interestingly enough, this became both a figurative and literal saying after I recently picked up a game called Subnautica. Large and sprawling sandbox-style games are not something I usually play, however, this game caught my attention from the very beginning. It recently came out on the Nintendo Switch, even though it has been on the market for a few years. This indie survival/exploration game combines two of my favorite pastimes: swimming and science fiction.

It is a beautiful but deadly world

In the game, you are a lone survivor of a spaceship that crash lands on an oceanic planet. It is your mission to make it home in one piece, simple enough. The problem is that there is ancient alien technology resting on that planet that stops any vessel from coming safely into it’s orbit. Basically, a giant laser blows anything approaching the planet to dust. As the survivor of the Aurora space shuttle, it is left to you to discover the mystery of the alien’s defense system and deactivate it so that you make it off the planet safely.

Sounds pretty easy, right? There is just one itty bitty little problem, all of that alien technology is on the bottom of an alien ocean teeming with giant predatory fish. Even though you are equipped with the ability to fabricate various types of equipment as well as habitats and seafaring vessels, you still have to go down there into the dark and grimy depths. This is where Subnautica gets interesting.

I am not going to lie, this is the most terrifying game I have ever played in my life, and I have played a lot of horror games. As you move to deeper parts of the ocean, everything gets darker. The ambient music fades away as you can hear sloshing and movement all around you. You go deeper and deeper, a little light shooting in front of your vessel is the only thing guiding you to the mysteries of the deep. You can’t help but lean in a little bit closer into the screen, squinting to see what may be in the haze. And then…

Subnautica’s apex predator and the face of fear!

WHAM! It happens! A monstrous Leviathan-class fish the size of a school bus grabs your tiny vessel and all you can see is its ghostly face. These things are called Reapers, and they are the single most terrifying creature in this game…they actually hunt you.

Playing through this game, I have taken a pretty good inventory of my emotional well-being. Never before have I been stunted from moving further into a game because of abject fear, and yet here we are. I would go to places where I knew a Reaper was swimming around, and I would just turn back and swim to the safety of my habitat. The first time I hear that ghastly roar, I turn away and just head home. I refuse to go deeper into the game because I am afraid of the Reaper.

I’m chuckling to myself right now just thinking about this, but fear can be absolutely paralyzing, can’t it? When we have an irrational fear about something, that thought has the tendency to bury itself deep into our hearts. Even when we don’t think we are responding to fear, it still manipulates our actions. Every conversation and new experience becomes a test of strength as we fight back the crushing weight of anxiety. It is as if a Reaper is just looming in the unknown, and we will do everything we can not to encounter it.

Within the Scriptures, we find many individuals who came face-to-face with Reapers in their lives. These are the giants, those massive obstacles that loom in front of us all, and only the strongest seem to make it through. There is a flaw in that thinking, however. Nobody is ever strong enough to take down a giant by themselves. Think about the instance of David when he stepped up against the massive Goliath. This was a small shepherd boy who was equipped with nothing but a sling and five smooth stones. With all the courage and confidence of a great warrior, he stepped up to fight a man who was probably nine feet tall and wore a few hundred pounds of armor. By any measurement, this was not a fair fight, and yet David tells of the secret of his victory over the giant even before it happens.

36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”- 1Samuel 17:36-37

Good thing this one is dead!

You see, David knew that he was not strong enough. He wasn’t strong enough when he had to fight off the bear and the Lion, and he knew that he was not strong enough with Goliath, and yet God was. He moved deeper into the will of God by standing up against the giant because he knew that God would be victorious first. All of the anxiety and fear that could have come from the giant dissipated because David knew who to place his strength on.

Whatever Reaper or giant you are currently facing, know what the scriptures say: we do not live with a spirit of fear,  but with a spirit of power, love, and discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). By placing our hope on Christ first, we strengthen our resolve to go deeper into his will. It’s not going to be easy, no one ever said it was, but the end result is worth it!

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