Winter finally came to Port Perry, here in Ontario,Canada. Cold has set in. I struggle with the grey skies, the biting wind and soaked feet in boots just purchased. Winter is not my favourite season. Yet when I bundle up, I am always surprised by the glory I discover in crisp blue skies, fresh white crunched snow and trees bedazzling in sheaths of ice.
Perspective always shifts when I engage in the pursuit of glory, of seeing life through God’s eyes, of truly seeing what He wants me to see.
In Psalm 142, David writes a song of worship from a dark dingy cave, a famous fugitive hiding from his father-in-law, King Saul. In cold jealous fury, Saul had branded David a national rebel and launched a manhunt with king-sized resources. Saul commissioned his army to apprehend David, dead or alive, and preferably, dead. David’s displacement was painful long, forcing David and his band of discontents into caves for years at a time, into enemy territory, often in places of great danger, always hiding, never seen.
It was a season of great injustice.
Though a great warrior, David didn’t war, rage or quit his nation.
Instead, David ran to the only One strong enough to save him, wailing in prayer, “ I cry out to the Lord with my voice; With my voice to the Lord I make my supplication.I pour out my complaint before Him; I declare before Him my trouble” (142:1-2 NKJV).
David didn’t bottle his emotions or hide his sorrow for his current circumstance. In deep need for God, David cried out loudly, honest and fierce, as he expressed his trouble to God, “When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then You knew my path in the way in which I walk” (142:3).
When trauma strikes our lives, our spirit can literally faint from disaster. Crushed, we struggle, reaching for God until the shift comes, where emotions stop shouting and we can live fully convinced that God knows our path. The long journey between the head and the heart must be traversed in trial, as we choose to believe that He powerfully cares about us and is positioned right by our side, regardless to whether the crisis abates or eases.
God knows our address whether it is a palace or a cave. The test of the heart is finding God in any circumstance, not Him finding us. He never leaves nor forsakes. That is God’s eternal promise to all His children.
Life in a cave was just wrong for a champion of Israel and David knew it. For David, the deep hurt lay that no one stood up to defend David to Saul with any effect. Prince Jonathan had tried and ducked spears for the exercise. Now alone, David pens, “They have secretly set a snare for me. Look on my right hand and see, for there is no one who acknowledges me; Refuge has failed me; No one cares for my soul”(142:4).
Like David, the difficulty of undergoing stressful trials is often found in the loneliness which accompanies our crisis. Only God can understand the pain of our heart, the complexity of the situation, the wounds that are magnified in the current trial. Tenderly, He attends our cry. Great intimacy is built in the sacred place of suffering before our all powerful, all loving God. Still, our humanity craves understanding, empathy, comfort.
David lived in the barren land between design and destiny, yet depending on a God who understood his pain, his disappointment, his confusion. Even in the darkness of the cave, David clearly saw God’s light of revelation. David steadied his heart in the mess of his circumstances, “I cried out to You, O Lord: I said, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living” (142:5).
In utter displacement, David found his place in God. He strengthened himself in the Lord by declaring the truth of God over the situation, that God was his portion, his safe house. From this place of dependence, David then supplicated God to intervene, “Attend to my cry, for I am brought very low; deliver me from my persecutors, for they are stronger than I”(142:6)
David recognized the crux of the matter, to worship God, even in a damp dark cave, to stay heart connected. David petitioned God to free his heart, to shift David’s perspective to trust and worship God, “Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise Your name” (142:7a). As God released hope to the darkened places of despair in David’s heart, David lined up with what God had promised, that “the righteous shall surround me, for You shall deal bountifully with me” (142:7b).
Psalm 142 outlines steps to breakthrough in seven large verses of David’s personal agony and faith journey with Almighty God.
David emerged from the caves of Judah to then raze enemy villages with a company of six hundred men even as the Philistines warred against Israel. After more than a decade of life on the run, David was finally established as king of God’s chosen nation, Israel.
David established corporate national worship of Almighty God as his foremost priority for Israel, implementing a national shift forward in Israel’s connect with God which believers enjoy and God delights in even to this day. Not bad for a shepherd boy without resource, favor or friend back in those long hard cold cave days.
Consider: From this place of growth through crisis, who will you emerge to be? How will revelation of God through the battle affect your faith capacity and impact to advance the Kingdom of God?
As believers, all of us will endure caves of injustice, loss and hardship. David worshiped in fields, in palaces, in caves, in enemy territory and in the crowded streets of Jerusalem before the ark of the living God. By God’s grace, he never lost sight of His amazing God whom he served and loved and sought all the days of his life. May we all live this same grace.
Ten Steps to Shift Forward in God in Tough Times:
1. Honestly speak to God about the problem. Get out of your head and speak to God. Ask God to shine His light and hold it steady until you see what He wants you to see.
2. Openly confess how these trials are impacting your trust and walk with God.
3. Recognize the reality of the problem. Don’t minimize the pain or enlarge it. Just acknowledge to God what is happening.
4. Ask God for help to keep worship and delight in God steady in your life.
5. Look to God for His perspective on the crisis.
6. When you hear what God is saying, line up with His words and prophesy them, looking with expectation for God to do what He says. Truth rewrites your current circumstance with God perspective. Reality becomes what God is saying about what you are experiencing, not your own thoughts and worries about managing the crisis.(142:5)
7. With expectation for help from God laid at His feet, wait and watch for God to intervene in His own perfection of ways and timing. Worship Him before, during and after the shift of circumstance.
8. Ask Holy Spirit what has God revealed about Himself through this battle, trial or crisis? How has this deepened my worship and strengthened my relationship with the Lord God Almighty?
9. Share the testimony with others, as David did. Psalm 119:111 states “Your testimonies I have taken as a heritage forever, For they are the rejoicing of my heart.” Rejoice in what God has done in the community whom God has given you.
10. Worship God for whom He has revealed Himself and how He has intervened in your life and circumstance. Build your relationship with God from the place of revelation which directly came from this place of crisis.
Let’s Pray: Lord Jesus, teach us to bring our pain to You, when we find ourselves alone in a cave we didn’t expect or want. Holy Spirit, teach us how to stay in the room, to keep reaching for God when our spirits are crushed by disappointment and loss. Lord God Almighty, Holy Father, help us hear You, that our mouths may prophesy what You are saying and be strengthened in You. Father, keep us faithful. By Your Grace, keep us worshiping, whether in wide open spaces or dark tight caves, because of Your perfection and beauty and mercy and love. Lord God, You do not change. You are holy and wonderful, powerful and kind and worthy of all our praise. Help us each draw near to You with the same stark honesty David teaches in this wonderful psalm. We love you, Almighty God! Amen.
This Week’s Reading: Psalms 121-150
Next Week’s Reading: Proverbs 1-10
1. Reread the ten steps. How does Psalm 142 help you move forward in your life in God?
2. Take a problem you are working through. Can you practically apply Psalm 142 to this problem?
3. Which of these steps have you applied to crisis in the past? What worked? What didn’t work? Do you know why?
4. For every effect, there is a cause. Look at the crisis in your life. Can you see a pattern? Is it based on time? On seasons? On specific land? With specific people? As the Lord to shine His light and hold it steady until you see what He wants you to see about any patterns of crisis in your life. For more information on patterns of crisis and how to end those cycles, head to Sapphire Leadership Canada.
5. We all need companions in this faith journey. Consider whom God has given to you. Thank Him for the treasure of the friends who stand with you in trial. If you are alone, ask God to bring you the people you need to keep moving forward.