Psalm 142: A Psalm of Loneliness

Do me a favor and please read Psalm 142.

The superscription (those words just under the psalm heading) attribute this text to David and give reference that he penned this prayer while he was in the cave. Which cave? Where was he? Why was he in the cave? Scripture gives us a time when David was in the cave of Adullam (1 Sam 22:1-2) and Psalm 57 gives us a reflective psalm of that time too (you can find my thoughts on that psalm here). All of that is suffice to say that David was in need of God to protect him for the situation he found himself in. We read three different times that he cries out to God (vs 1, 5, 6). And why? His spirit was devastated, his situation was bad, he needed rescuing, and numerous people were after him.

I don’t know why but verses 3 and 4 have rocked me. We know from the 1 Samuel text that there WERE people who were concerned for him. That they showed up, surrounded him, and were helpful in his ability to move past that point. And yet here David STILL feels abandoned and alone. There is so much in David’s cries that need to be unpacked. There’s so much truth to be felt and understood in David’s emotions and yet the space I’ve given to do that doesn’t warrant it. So I’ll speak to where I’m completely drawn: Loneliness.

David, even when surrounded by friends, feels alone…and this is a real thing for many people. Simply because we are surrounded by people doesn’t mean we cannot feel abandoned or alone. The reality of David’s situation is that he WAS alone for much of that cave time and even when people did show up, while their presence is felt, there is still this feeling of being “alone” because nobody has been there the WHOLE TIME. There is a feeling of nobody is at his right hand (vs 4) because nobody truly has been there with, and for, him. But his pain runs deeper than that because not only is it loneliness but it’s a genuine feeling of abandonment and the lack of care and concern from other people. Scratch that – from ALL people. Friends, family, staff, supporters, all of them. David needed someone to just be there with him… in the cave…during his suffering – and nobody was.

To me this is just another reminder of the needs we have of each other. The fact is that God created us as communal beings who need community. We need to be around people who love and care for us. We need to be there for each other no matter what the circumstance. And if you need me to come alongside you, for however long that is, I should be there, in stride, or sitting in the darkness where you tremble. That’s what friends are to do. That’s what a brother/sister is supposed to do. That’s what a community who is dependent upon each other should do as well.

David isn’t looking to have someone there to give him council, speak words of encouragement, or even entertain him during the long boring days. He just wants someone there because presence speaks volumes. Now don’t get me wrong, one of the strong understandings in this text is the fact that God is not only the only one who will never abandon, not only is God the only one who can save, but God is the only one who can deliver. So we do not want to miss those words from David. And when we understand those words from David we can then easily begin to see that God, throughout Scripture, revealed that very truth to his people and that’s the truth that you and I live into today. From the Garden to the promised second coming, the Bible is about the story of God’s love, as given and seen through Jesus Christ who saves, redeems, delivers, and restores the soul and life of his people. So everything David was needing, all the pain he was feeling, all those are not lost upon God because those are the very things that God does. But, once more, I’m drawn to the failure of David’s community.

I’m struck wondering how often I have failed in community too when people needed me.

How often have I spent time with people then left because I have “other” things to do? How often have I come along side and tried to “fix” the situation when the only action they needed was for me to sit and listen?

Psalm 142 is a beautiful prayer for those that feel lost, abandoned, forsaken, and lonely. It’s a challenging prayer that should encourage those of us in those situations to feel OK lifting up our worries to God, calling on him to save us, and finding peace and comfort in the fact that he does. But for those of us NOT in those situations this psalm should challenge us to put the needs of our loved ones who are in that cave ahead of our own.

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