At the end of last week’s posting, we left David hiding in the cave of Adullam. (I Samuel 22:1) How things have changed since that day that Samuel the prophet showed up at his home and anointed him the next king of Israel! Little did he expect what a nightmare awaited him. Now, alone in a cave some 20 miles southwest of Jerusalem, David had not only left his childhood home but was presently separated from his new wife and from his best friend, Jonathan. We sometimes speak of ‘life’s unexpected turns’ but this one was massive.
The Judean hills are dotted with caves to this day. Archeologists tell us that through the centuries, right up to the time of the Romans, many caves were used as hiding places for Jews fleeing persecution. We can only imagine the fear, the anger, the sense of abandonment, the confusion that David experienced, trying to make sense of what was happening as he leaned back against the hard wall of that cave. Actually we don’t have to imagine for David wrote one of his psalms while alone in that dark place.
I cry aloud to the Lord, I left up my voice to the LORD for mercy.
I pour out my complaints before Him, I tell Him all my troubles.
When I am overwhelmed, You alone know the way I should turn.
Wherever I go, my enemies have set traps for me;
I look for someone to come and help me but no one gives me a passing thought.
No one will help me; no one cares a bit what happens to me.
Then I pray to You, O LORD. I say, ‘You are my place of refuge; You are all I want in life.
Hear my cry, for I am very low; rescue me from my persecutors; they are too strong for me.
Bring me out of prison so I can thank you
The godly will crowd around me for You are good to me’. Psalm 142
You and I may never have fled to a literal cave in times of distress but we certainly have felt the same emotions David experienced in that cave. How have we handled such stress?
David prayed. He turned to the only ONE who could save him. We get a glimpse into a critically important principle. Remember that as a youth, he spent hours alone with God and his father’s sheep. He learned to seek God early in life and reaching this devastating moment in the cave, his heart turned to the One he knew.
No one navigates difficult times successfully without the foundation of a personal relationship with God before the hard times hit. Being faithful to prayer when ‘life is good’ prepares the soul to come through hardship and tragedy with courage and the inner peace that only God can give. David had learned that and it served him well in the cave.
Secondly, David had a good cry! There is nothing shameful about a man – or woman – having a good cry when it’s needed. It is far more preferable than denying and/or suppressing one’s emotions which is damaging to one’s emotional, mental and even physical health. David ‘cried aloud’ to the LORD and God listened. He always does. Learn to ‘pour out your heart’ to the LORD, David teaches us. Tell Him your troubles, your fears, your desires. In fact, David wrote in another psalm: Trust in Him at all times, O you people; pour out your hearts to Him for God is our refuge. Psalm 62:8
But David didn’t wallow in his misery. Having poured out his anguish to the LORD, he then immediately reminds himself of the faithfulness of God! When I am overwhelmed, You alone know the way I should turn. (vs. 3) Remember that in past years David had killed a lion, a bear and a giant, but this was different. It was his first experience facing a personal enemy breathing murder against him – the most unsettling and painful ‘enemy’ to face. Therefore his prayer is very specific and personal. Sometimes we tell a friend more about what we are going through than we tell God. It should be the other way around!
We don’t know exactly how many days David was alone in the cave. What we do know is that it wasn’t very long for we read in I Sam. 22:2 All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him and he became their leader. Oh my goodness! Can you imagine being the leader of a group of distressed, indebted and discontented folks, particularly when you are running for your life? This was a crash course in leadership, orchestrated by God Himself, but a course few of us would sign up for!
We know that good days are ahead for David but he didn’t know that then. All he knew to do was face each day, seeking the LORD on how to lead this motley crew that gathered around him while holding on to the declaration of the prophet that one day he would be king. He reminds me of Joseph, betrayed by his brothers, imprisoned on a false charge, separated from his family for 17 years but who never let go of the godly dreams of his youth and ultimately saw those dreams come true. I often wonder whether David thought of Joseph as he sat in that cave, surrounded by malcontents.
Application: Over recent months I have heard from many people who are distressed over issues and situations in nations across the world today. I hear the fears, the concerns, sometimes the anger. Our primary response – like David’s – must be prayer. It is a critical season that we are in, my friends. Our deepest need is to turn, like David, to the only One who has the ultimate answers. ‘I turn to You, O Lord; You are my place of refuge..’ and to recognize that in truth, ‘You are all I want in life.’ For if you have Him, everything else will fall into place for your ultimate and eternal good. That doesn’t mean that everything will go smoothly or that you’ll never have to face challenges. What it does mean is that whatever comes, your faith and your relationship with Him will be your strength and your peace.