This blog originally was a meditation on Psalm 142 prepared for patients in a psychiatric evaluation hospital ward. I suggest you read Psalm 142 in a modern translation to get the full meaning of the meditation. I used the Good News Translation.
Several years ago, I visited a small village in Spain where every family lived in its own cave! They had all the conveniences of a house, but it was still a cave. At another time I visited a cave in France that had been used as a French prison. They turned off all lighting so we could experience absolute darkness. I didn’t know darkness could be so dark.
Caves are interesting places to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live in one. I enjoy a cave if there are lights and safe paths to guide you, but if they shut off the lights, it would be just plain spooky to spend a night in a cave
David wrote this Psalm while hiding in a cave in fear of King Saul. Twice David has had to flee to a cave for fear his life. David had been favored by Saul, but now things have changed. Instead of acceptance, there is rejection and animosity. Instead of having the king’s favor, David is hated and hunted.
Few, if any of us, has had to take refuge in a cave. But most of us have been in David’s metaphorical cave of loneliness and despair. When he uses words like “complaints” and “troubles” [verse 2], we know how he feels.
He is ready “to give up” and his enemies have “hidden a trap” for him [verse 3]. He has no on to help him or protect him. David looks around and feels there is “no one to help me, no one to protect me” [verse 4]. He cries out, “No one cares for me” [verse 4]. David is “sunk in despair” [verse 6]. In verse 7 he asks God to free him from his “distress.” That word could also be translated as “prison,” so he is saying, “Free me from prison. . . .”
You may feel that you are in the cave of loneliness and despair. You may feel that there is no one to help you. You may feel you are in prison and no one cares for you. You may feel friends and family don’t understand what you are feeling, and they deny you your feelings.
Throughout the psalm, David uses first person singular: “I call to the Lord,” “I bring him my complaints.” This continues through the psalm. This teaches me that faith in God must be personal. The faith of your parents will not do when you find yourself in a cave of depression and despair. The faith of a wife or husband may be sufficient for them, but their faith will not get you through the dark. You must know God personally through Jesus Christ, and if you are to call on God, you must know him personally.
Your faith must be strong enough that you can stand alone when you leave hospital. It is wonderful when you have friends and family who support you and pray for you, but that may not always be the case. You may still feel rejected, alone, and unloved.
I don’t know whether David was in the cave by himself or that there were others with him. He may have been surrounded by his own fighting men and still felt the way he did. Sometimes you and I can be in the midst of a crowd of people and feel as if we are the only person there.
You don’t have to be in the same circumstances as David to have his same feelings. You may feel trapped and alone in a cave of guilt. Sometimes you know you have done something wrong and feel guilty. You feel isolated from friends and family. You feel isolated from God – that is healthy and can lead to healing when we confess our wrong doing.
However, many times we can feel guilty without having done anything wrong. This can paralyze us because we cannot think of any reason why we should have these feelings. Our sense of guilt continues to grow and we feel trapped in our cave.
There is a way out of your cave. David said, “he knows what I should do” [verse 3]. Be honest in your talk with God; tell him exactly how you feel. Admit your own insufficiency and God’s all-sufficiency. Prayer is a way to recognize and verbalize your needs and to become prepared to receive from God what you ask for.
Let your loneliness, gloom, and despair make you cry out to God to bring your soul out of prison, so you will be able to give thanks to God’s name. The Lord knows where you are. Ask him to save you, spiritually for eternity, and from the cave you are living in right now.