A Psalm for Those Sheltering in Place

Shellter in Place


A Psalm for Those Sheltering in Place

Being shut indoors because of potential danger, as we currently are, can be challenging. We feel stuck. We feel alone. We are uncertain of what the future holds. In times like this, Psalm 142 can be a helpful guide for turning our thoughts toward God and directing our prayers.

The scribal note connected with Psalm 142 tells us that David wrote this song as a prayer while he was “in the cave.” We are not sure exactly which moment in David’s life this refers to. David was forced to hide in caves as a young man while running from King Saul. He may also have hidden in a cave as an older man while fleeing Absalom. There may have been other moments in David’s life of warfare when he was forced to take shelter in a hole in the ground. But whenever this psalm was written, it was composed by a believer who was trapped, cut off from others, and wrestling with fear – much as we are.

As you meditate on Psalm 142, here are a few things you might notice:

Notice the importance of prayer: It seems that the main activity that occupied David’s time “in the cave” was prayer. At least six times he tells us that he is praying, using terms such as: “I cry aloud to the LORD”, “I lift my voice to the LORD”, “I tell [God] my troubles”, “I pour out  before him my complaint”. This suggests that times of sheltering can be fruitful times of prayer. There are so many places we cannot go right now. We can’t go to church, to the movies, to most stores, to school. But we can still go directly to the throne of God. How wonderful!

Notice how honest we can be with God: David seems completely unhindered by concerns that he has to impress God with his faith or resilience. He expresses his true feelings to the Lord without fear, disclosing his weakness without shame. David reports: “my spirit grows faint within me”; “I have no refuge”; “I am in desperate need”; “no one cares for my life”. As God’s children through Christ we can be open and honest with our Father about whatever is in our hearts.

Notice the confidence in God: Though David is in trouble, he does not yield to despair. Throughout his song we see glimpses of his confidence in the faithfulness of God. “When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who watch over my way” (v. 3). “I say, ‘You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living’” (v. 5). “[T]he righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me” (v. 7). David was in a cave, but he knew God would not leave him there. We can have the same confidence in the goodness of God.