I pray to you, Lord.
I beg for mercy.
I tell you all my worries
and my troubles,
and whenever I feel low,
you are there to guide me.
A trap has been hidden
along my pathway.
Even if you look,
you won’t see anyone
who cares enough
to walk beside me.
There is no place to hide,
and no one who really cares.
I pray to you, Lord!
You are my place of safety,
and you are my choice
in the land of the living.
Please answer my prayer.
I am completely helpless.
Help! They are chasing me,
and they are too strong.
Rescue me from this prison,
so I can praise your name.
And when your people notice
your wonderful kindness to me,
they will rush to my side. (Contemporary English Version)
The modern holiday of Halloween is kitschy with a funny sort of scary. But there’s nothing funny about being truly frightened and feeling helpless. Its anything but a holiday.
The psalmist, David, was in both a literal and a metaphorical cave. Before he ever became king of Israel and Judah, David was on the run from King Saul. He hid in a cave. He had more suspense and was on the edge of his seat much more than any horror slasher film could portray.
David was hiding and just trying to stay alive. There was nothing in his life which deserved such maltreatment. It was sheer jealousy on Saul’s end of things that caused him to give his soul over to oppressive pride. And David was the brunt of that oppression.
As biblical readers, we know the end of the story. Saul is eventually killed in battle and David is exalted as the new king. Yet, here, in today’s psalm, we have the genuine cry of a desperate man who longed for the justice of God – not knowing what the end of it all would be.
One of the reasons David was a person after God’s own heart is that he was humble and remained connected to God without succumbing to the bitterness of his situation. I strongly suggest that David was able to keep his life free from pride because he regularly liberated his spirit through real and raw expressions of his emotions and experiences to God.
Spiritual confidence cannot be ginned-up through pretending that all is well, and everything is okay. Rather, spiritual courage is forged in the most awful of circumstances through loud cries of emotional pain to the God who truly hears it all.
Anyone who tells you different is flimsily trying to maintain their puny sense of delusional power. God sees you in the dark place and he hears your cry for mercy. He knows your dark cave better than you know it yourself.
One of the reasons I love the psalms so dearly is that they know the human condition. There is no pretense with the psalmist, David. He opens his mind and heart. He lets the genuine feelings of his life pour out in an offering to the God who pays attention to the humble and contrite.
The proud and arrogant will forever be flummoxed by the psalms, not understanding why they are even in the canon of Holy Scripture.
Yet, here they are, for all to examine and experience. Whereas the piously insincere are continually putting up a false front of godliness and keeping up appearances of superior spirituality, here we have authentic religion smack in front of our faces.
For me, the psalms liberate us from the shackles of trying to be someone I am not and enable us to connect with a God who encourages us in our strange wonderings, our emotional pain, and our sometimes horrific situations.
The Lord is perfectly at home with hearing loud cries, agonizing shouts, and desperate prayers directed to heaven.
Those who oppress others, I believe, are easy to spot because they:
- Ask rhetorical questions to make a point.
- Assume their thoughts and ways are always best.
- Accuse without evidence based on their faulty assumptions.
- Seek to harm and destroy.
- Enjoy chaos and thrive on taking advantage of others’ misfortune.
- Refuse to listen and learn from others.
- Suppress all competing voices contrary to their own.
Autocrats are too smug and too far into their delusions of power, authority, and self-righteousness to be able to hear any voice other than their own.
A self-absorbed despot in power feels like being in a dingy dank prison cave with no ability to leverage a release.
A self-abnegated deliverer in authority feels like being in a wide open field with freedom to help others in bondage.
God hears when others don’t. The Lord advocates on behalf of those caught in the crosshairs of tyrannical injustice and maltreatment. Divine benevolence is always on the lookout for those being oppressed.
The Almighty uses power to listen and respond when distressed persons are scared silly with maltreatment. Voices raised to heaven shall never go unheard.
Since God listens to those in need of mercy, this is precisely the disposition we are to adopt, as well.
The proud, convinced of their superiority, either cannot or will not see those languishing underneath unjust power structures. There is no space within arrogant hearts to accommodate the cries for justice from people beneath them.
Therefore, recourse for the oppressed comes from God – because God acts with equity, integrity, and justice.
It is not the oppressed who need our pity; it is the ungodly, because they don’t know anything about pity, or empathy, or mercy. Oppressors have no stomach for any of that. So, they keep people locked in systems of oppression. They maintain relational distance and turn a blind eye to the genuine frightened screams of those under their boot.
The weak, the distressed, and the spiritually tired in this corrupt world, however, have the chance for appeal. They can call out to the God who knows them and their situations.
Although cries for deliverance may not happen immediately, we can be assured that divine help is forthcoming. And that is scary good stuff.
Lord Jesus Christ, by your patience in suffering you made my earthly pain sacred and gave me the example of humility. Be near to me in my time of weakness and pain; sustain me by your grace so that my strength and courage may not fail. Heal me according to your will. Loving Jesus, as you cried out on the cross, I cry out to you in my desperation. Do not forsake me. Grant me relief and preserve me in your perfect peace. Amen.