The anglerfish, aka Lophiiformes, are an order of bony fish that dwell in the deep, empty reaches of the ocean. Both prey and others of their own kind are few and far between.
Female Lophiiformes are characterized by their unique method of predation, in which a fleshy growth from the anglerfish’s head, called an esca, acts as a lure. The luminescence of the esca, which draws its prey from the dark and turbulent depths, comes from a bacteria that dwells in and around the esca and exists in a symbiotic relationship with the anglerfish. In addition to luring prey, the glow of the esca also serves to attract the attention of males during mating season.
Some deep-sea anglerfish also employ a unique (and slightly disturbing) method of reproduction. It was discovered when scientists first began capturing anglerfish of the ceratioid variety, and they found that all the specimens they received were female. They also noticed that almost all of them had what appeared to be smaller parasites attached to them. These “parasites” turned out to be the male anglerfish.
Ceratioids rely on parabiotic reproduction, meaning that free-living males never fully mature until they parasitize a female. Some species even experience stunted growth of certain glands, which prevents feeding, meaning that if they are slow to find a mate, they are quick to die.
The depths of the ocean are a battleground for these species, a constant struggle for survival. In the turbulent waters, life is rare, sustenance is hard to find, and the darkness is overwhelming.
Sounds like someplace else I know.
Psalm 82:5 says, “They wander about in darkness, while the whole world is shaken to the core.” Proverbs 2:13 says, “These men turn from the right way to walk down dark paths.” Finally, Ephesians 6:12 tells us, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Our world is like the depths of the ocean–full of darkness with no way to see, a spiritual battleground, a struggle for survival, turbulent and chaotic.
But, that is not the end of the story. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world; whoever knows me will never walk in darkness.” 2 Corinthians 10:4 says, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” John 1:5 says more simply, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.”
More than that, “because of God’s tender mercies, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death (Luke 1:78-79).” He gives this light to us, so that we are “more than conquerors” through Christ. Like the anglerfish, the light we hold is not our own. It comes from God. And like the anglerfish, others are drawn to this light. But this light is not one that leads to destruction, but to life.
Like the anglerfish, we may feel alone, adrift in a massive, impenetrable sea. But like the anglerfish, we, indeed, are not alone. “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world (I John 4:4).” Much as the male anglerfish depends upon its mate for survival, we depend on God. John 15:5 says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” It is from God that we receive our light and our life; apart from him, we can do nothing.
One of my favorite moments of Jesus interacting with his disciples occurs shortly after Jesus feeds the five thousand. There were huge crowds following him after that event, hungry for more, but as time passes, they begin to disperse. They heard more of Jesus’ teaching, and realized that this teaching wasn’t a philosophy that just gave out free food, this was something much bigger. Much harder. And they begin to fall away. Even the disciples said, “This is a hard teaching; who can listen to it?” Eventually, the Twelve are the only ones left. And then Jesus says, “Do you want to go away as well?” And Peter–always the first to speak–asks the simple question: “Lord, to whom shall we go?” There is no one, nowhere else that provides what Christ provides: life.
If you get discouraged by the darkness around you, remember the anglerfish. She isn’t pretty (the image above is a cartoon representation, safe for children. This is the real deal) but she reminds us that we have a light that is not our own. Let it draw you in, deeper and deeper, into dependence on him.