The now-famous photo was taken by French photographer Jean Guichard. The lighthouse still stands, off the coast of Brittany, France. The section of coastline has a history with sailors who know the heavily-trafficked sea lane as rugged and dangerous. Many ships have wrecked there over the centuries, so in 1904 lighthouse construction began. Because of the sea’s ever-changing conditions the tower was not completed until 1911.
Fast forward to 1989, when a violent storm had rocked the lighthouse all night long, smashing its windows, flooding the interior and washing away everything including furniture and the refrigerator. Gale force winds produced waves up to 90 feet high. The lighthouse keeper is Théodore Malgorne, who in the photograph has exited the lighthouse for a brief moment thinking the rescue helicopter he called for has arrived. A moment later, he jumps back inside and slams the door shut, saving his own life. The helicopter he heard instead had been chartered by photographer Guichard. Despite the dangerous flying conditions, he insisted on hovering for a few minutes. He snapped a series of photos as a monster wave assaulted the tower.
The photo, which has the name Phares dans la Tempete, la Jument (Lighthouse in a Storm, at la Jument), has become synonymous with standing strong in a storm. Is this symbolic of Christ-followers in our nation today? When you think about the massive waves of moral decline, the strong current away from Christ and the church, the deluge of political correctness that engulf our country, the call to arms for the people of God is to stand strong in the storm. Indeed Scripture too echoes this mandate:
Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. Philippians 4:1
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 1 Peter 5:8-9
What does it mean, then, to stand firm in your faith, specifically as it relates to cultural decline? In practical terms, we invest our time, energy and resources in the very things that matter to God. We build up and support the church, the family of God. We readily and expectantly share the Gospel of God. We trust the Spirit of God, we read and live out the Word of God, and we encourage fellow Christ-followers to do the same. And as Peter instructed, we are sober-minded, keeping our focus on the mission of God and avoiding the endless distractions of the world around us.
The Christian standing firm might remind us of the lighthouse. We keep a strong spiritual foundation. And the waves that crash against us will not destroy us. But is that enough? After all, standing firm doesn’t do anything to stop the storm. And over time, the lighthouse will weaken from the constant pounding. If we simply stand, will we eventually be engulfed by the very culture we have been resisting? There’s another instruction we should hold to.
We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. Colossians 1:28
Our work is not just to resist, but to replicate. As important as working against the rising tide of the world is to raise up the next generation of Christ-followers through the active and faithful sharing of the Word of God with everyone around us. Do not forget the lesson of the lighthouse. The strength of its construction allows it to withstand the battery of the storm. But resistance is not its ultimate reason for being. The lighthouse is there to guide ships safely to the shore. So too is our purpose, not merely to stand against that with which we disagree, but to bring others to a knowledge of the Truth of God by teaching the wisdom of God.
If we ourselves resist moral decline, then we merely break up the waves of each passing storm until eventually we are engulfed by the culture. But if we shine the light of Jesus in our families, our marriages, our workplaces, the marketplace and beyond—we will grow a new generation out of this culture and into one with Christ at its center. The goal is not to limit society’s decline, but to seed its spiritual rebirth.
Between 1888 and 1904, more than 30 ships wrecked at Brittany, including the SS Drummond Castle in 1896, which resulted in the deaths of more than 250 people. Many ships have been guided safely to shore since then. The lighthouse, now automated and unmanned, save lives every day. The waves continue to crash into her stone tower during the storms. But more importantly, the light still shines.