“I feel trapped, it’s hopeless. Everywhere I look there are problems, there’s no way out. Everything just keeps going wrong.”
Have you ever felt this way?
Sometimes, it all happens at once. A problem at school, the washing machine and car break down in the same week, finances are tight, an important work deadline, exhaustion kicks in and a dear friend needs support.
Small things and big things combine. We feel overwhelmed, vulnerable and there is no obvious way out.
At times like this our tendency can be to become self-sufficient. We feel anxious so try to control our circumstances to protect ourselves from further uncertainty. We turn away from God and look inwards towards ourselves, ruminating on the issues we face. We isolate ourselves, physically and emotionally. Life feels simpler and safer when we remove ourselves from the needs and unpredictability of others. When people offer counsel, we reject their wisdom believing no-one really understands. Often we become tetchy and short-fused towards anyone who interferes with our attempt to control the situation around us.
But there is a better way.
In Psalm 142 and Psalm 57, we find David hiding in a cave of Adullam. He has fallen from King Saul’s favour as Saul is increasingly consumed with jealousy and fear over David’s military conquests and growing popularity. With his life at stake, David flees, leaving his wife and best friend behind. Many obstacles follow: his location is discovered by Doeg, one of Saul’s servants. He has to feign insanity to King Achish at Gath. Saul angrily pursues him, killing those who have assisted him (1 Samuel 18). Humanly, David’s predicament seems hopeless as he hides in the cave which feels more like ‘a prison’ to him (142:7). But in the midst of this pain he shows us another way – he turns to The Way.
He cries out to our mighty, yet intimate God
David turns away from himself and cries out to the Lord (142:1-2). He calls on the mighty Creator of the world and Sustainer of our every breath, knowing that the cave isn’t his refuge. God is (142:5).
He is raw about his circumstances
He pours out his anguish to God. His ‘spirit is faint’ and his enemies ‘lay snares’ (142:3). He believes he has no-one to help or care (142:4). He is in need, his circumstances are ‘too strong for him’ (142:6). He has lost his home, his wife and his best friend and he knows that the cave provides no lasting safety (142:4).
He has confidence in the midst of desperate times
Despite the desperate situation, David knows God hears his cry for help (142:6) and he knows that God will rescue him from both his enemies (142:6) and his prison (142:7). David is still able to praise God in the midst of his struggle because he remembers His faithfulness and goodness to him.
What about us?
Struggles tend to reveal the huge void that often exists between our confessional beliefs (what we say we believe about God) and our functional beliefs (what we actually live out daily). Who or what we are truly living for (worshipping) is revealed by our words, our actions and our emotions and it comes from where our hearts are orientated.
But our struggles are also ‘Christian-crunch-time’. We need to decide where we’re going to turn: to our own self-sufficiency and control for refuge, or to the living God? The God whom Psalm 57 is shown to be the protecting God, who shelters us in the ‘refuge of the shadow of His wings’ (57:1); the hearing God, who listens to our plea and ‘vindicates His children’ (57:2); the faithful and loving God, who, ‘will send forth from heaven, mighty to save’ (57:3); and the exalted ‘God above the heavens’ (57:2) who is more powerful than any situation we face.
When, like David, we choose to turn to the Lord,
- we cry out about the struggles we face,
- we repent, confessing that whilst we say He is our refuge, we live in the refuge of our making,
- we see more clearly who God is in the midst of our struggle,
- we step-out in active faith, trusting the promises of our merciful God, in the midst of overwhelming times
And as we do those things, we grow in our knowledge of Him. We enjoy, love, trust and obey Him more. We glorify Him and are changed to be more like Him. And even in the midst of our trials, we find ourselves no longer trapped but free – no longer hopeless but able, confidently, to persevere.