“I cry out loudly to God,
loudly I plead with God for mercy.
I spill out my complaints before him,
and spell out my troubles in detail...”
~Psalm 142:1-2 (Msg).
There is a thing that separates Christianity from all other religions barring Judaism, and of course it’s not grace. Grace is unheard of apart from Christianity. The Old Testament is marvellous in that it takes us acceptably to the pit-depth of human emotion—it displays a theology of God that knows all too well what the people are up to... pain, calamity, tears and desperation—many times.
The thing that the Old Testament has that no other religion has is the God-purged, imprecatory lament. God’s never absent in our anguished lament.
And this is but a theology we can only fall in love with when we’re there; in the breadth of torment. In our dungeon of the soul, God’s there!—and God accepts all our prayers.
David in the Cave
The superscription of this psalm helps us picture just where David’s at: “When he was in the cave.” Possibly we’ve been there too, metaphorically.
There’s something deliciously terrifying about the thought of the loneliness David was feeling in his persecuted terror. There’s truly little hope right there. Most of the lament psalms do finish with a regaling tirade of praise and thanks for the experienced deliverance of the Lord God, but not this one.
David completes his psalm committing to speak of God’s praiseworthy name in the company of the righteous (verse 7), and he prays simplistically and passionately here:
“I cry to you, O Lord;
I say, ‘You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living.’”
~Psalm 142:5 (NIV).
And perhaps David’s troubled soul is most clearly laden with the strongest of faith, for hopelessness abounds and yet he’s still not giving up. Then again, when we’ve been there, we’ve clung to God with all we had—because God was our only hope.
This is a good place to be.
This psalm is a God-send for our loneliness as it proves even King David felt like we have. I know of nights and entire weeks, even months, where my soul was forlorn; nights where the tears would never seem to end. We’ve just about all had them.
For those Christians that are forever preaching a gospel of actual deliverance and against the case of actuality for pain, anxiety, depression and loneliness are clearly not preaching the Gospel of God because this gospel—the Old Testament—clearly includes the starkest of laments, and plenty of them!
“Look to my right and see;
no one is concerned for me.
I have no refuge;
no one cares for my life.”
~Psalm 142:4 (NIV).
It is a gross theological understatement to say God knows our struggles, but we’ve all felt utterly alone, as if absolutely no one (not even God) cared.
In our loneliness we can rest in an assurance to know that whatever we’re feeling right now is okay; that God is there and the Spirit is moving about and in us even in our loneliest lows.
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.