On Lament, Psalm 142, and this Current Crisis

How are you feeling these days? This crisis is bringing up many difficult emotions for all of us. It certainly is for me. Throughout the day, I find myself hop-scotching from worry to loneliness to frustration to boredom to discontentment. Some days are better than others, especially when I don’t allow myself to consider the unknown future.

I am sad for all that my children are missing. I am disappointed by cancelled plans. I am lonely and miss friends and family. I am worried about our health. I grieve the losses many have experienced and will experience in the weeks to come.

The question is: what do I do with all these difficult emotions?

All I know to do is to lament. To lament is to cry out to God, to bring our emotions before him, and seek his help. It’s to be raw and honest with the Lord. It’s to verbalize our fears, sorrows, and cares in his presence. It’s to voice our longings, hopes, cares, and dreams. It's to seek his justice, salvation, and provision. It’s to dwell on who he is and what he has done. And it’s to trust and wait and hope for his deliverance.

Psalm 142 is a lament, one written by David while he was on the run from his enemies—likely King Saul. While hiding and fearful for his life, he cried out in prayer to the Lord. It is a prayer that was later turned into a psalm used in Israel’s worship, sung as we do our hymns and praise songs on Sunday morning. This lament is apropos for our time. You might say David was in quarantine, sheltered away not at home, but in a dark and desolate cave.

With my voice I cry out to the LORD;
with my voice I plead for mercy to the LORD.
I pour out my complaint before him;
I tell my trouble before him. (Psalm 142:1–2)

David brought his emotions and cares to the LORD. He used God’s covenant name, Yahweh, the Great I AM. This is the name God gave Moses at the burning bush; refers to God’s aseity, his eternal self-existence, his sovereignty, and his covenant-keeping presence with his people. David cried out to the God who rules over all things.

When my spirit faints within me,
you know my way!
In the path where I walk
they have hidden a trap for me.
Look to the right and see:
there is none who takes notice of me;
no refuge remains to me;
no one cares for my soul. (Psalm 142:3–4)

David was weary and worn. His enemies were relentless. It felt like no one could help him; there was no one who even cared. He was abandoned, alone, and afraid. He voiced these troubles in his prayer. He was honest with God. After all, God already knew how David felt and what thoughts were going through his mind. God knew he was stuck in the cave, far from home and from his loved ones. God knew everything that was happening in David’s life. As C.H. Spurgeon commented, “Observe his comfort: he looked away from his own condition to the ever observant, all knowing God: and solaced himself with the fact that all was known to his heavenly Friend. Truly it is well for us to know that God knows what we do not know. We lose our heads, but God never closes his eyes: our judgments lose their balance, but the eternal mind is always clear.”[1]

I cry to you, O LORD;
I say, “You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living.”
Attend to my cry,
for I am brought very low!
Deliver me from my persecutors,
for they are too strong for me! (Psalm 142:5–6)

David sought God’s help. He asked God to hear his cry and respond. He asked for rescue and deliverance. He asked God to intervene in his life. As he did, David looked to who God is: his refuge and his portion. He humbled himself before the Almighty, the Great I AM, seeking his help and strength.

Bring me out of prison,
that I may give thanks to your name!
The righteous will surround me,
for you will deal bountifully with me. (Psalm 142:7)

David ended his lament with hope and trust. He hadn’t yet experienced God’s rescue, but he expected God to intervene and help him. He looked forward to rejoining God’s people. He anticipated giving thanks to God for his goodness to him. This is a response of faith. The process of lamenting, of crying out to God, reshaped David’s emotions. In the face of the Great I AM, his lesser fears weakened. He knew God was his refuge and trusted that he would deliver him.

I don’t know about you, but I can relate to David’s emotions. I too am weary and worn. I feel overwhelmed by our current circumstances. Like David, I don’t know how long I’ll be stuck in my home. Like David’s enemies, this illness is also strong and relentless. But as this psalm reminds me, God is greater. He is the Great I AM. Therefore, this crisis will not have the final say.

So, I will do as David did and what God’s people have done for centuries. I will cry out to God in lament. I will pour out my soul before him. I will ask for his help and rescue. And I will trust in who he is: my refuge in times of trouble. “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence” (2 Samuel 22:2–3).

Originally posted here.

Notes

  1. ^ Charles H. Spurgeon Treasury of David
Photo of Christina Fox

Christina Fox

Christina Fox is a counselor, writer, retreat speaker, and author of several books including A Heart Set Free: A Journey to Hope Through the Psalms of Lament and Idols of a Mother's Heart. She writes for various ministries and publications including TGC, Ligonier Ministries, and Revive Our Hearts. She serves on the PCA's national women's ministry team and is the editor of their ministry blog, enCourage. You can find her at www.christinafox.com. 

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