A Cry from the Cave
Ps 142:4 – No refuge remains to me; no one cares for my soul.
It’s not often we’re told where a Psalm was written. Sometimes we know the general occasion for a Psalm, but not usually its physical location.
Psalm 142 is different: it was written by David, the title says, “when he was in the cave.” He was in some hollowed-out place in the rock, where it was probably dark and uncomfortable. David and his men found refuge in caves more than once when they were on the run from King Saul.
But there must have been other times too, when David suffered in a cave all by himself. For in the Psalm 142 cave, he isn’t accompanied by his loyal band of warriors. Rather, for David this cave is terribly lonely, no better than a prison. He is despairing, feeling the sharp pain of being abandoned. On his right hand, where a helper and defender would normally stand, there’s no one (v. 4). He’s been disowned and deserted by friends. In this prayer, David complains to the Lord: “No refuge remains to me; no one cares for my soul.”
Even if we don’t know when exactly David experienced such lonely despair, it’s something that more than a few believers can relate to. This cry from the cave can express the longing of anyone who feels forsaken, or wrongfully treated. You can be harassed by your enemies, by the devil and his temptations, or by the world and its ridicule, or even by your own flesh and its weakness. Making these struggles worse is the sense sometimes that no one understands your trouble, or that no one cares to help you through it.
Yet even as David cries from a dark place, he keeps the faith. For he’s still praying, bringing his worries to God, and concluding the Psalm with confidence in the Lord. That’s always our hope, even in the loneliest prison. There is no cave so deep or dark that we cannot pray out of it.
For we may pray to the Father in Jesus’ name—in the name of him who was deserted by his closest friends, even rejected by his God. By his death and resurrection He redeemed us from all our enemies. Now ascended to heaven, he remains our constant advocate and helper.
Seek him from your darkest cave, and seek him from your brightest hilltop! For God has promised to be your everlasting refuge.
[excerpt from Christ's Psalms, Our Psalms: Daily Meditations]