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Psalm 142
Comfort in My Refuge

1 I cried unto the Lord with my voice; with my voice unto the Lord did I make my supplication.
2 I poured out my complaint before him; I shewed before him my trouble.
3 When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path. In the way wherein I walked have they privily laid a snare for me.
4 I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.
5 I cried unto thee, O Lord: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living.
6 Attend unto my cry: for I am brought very low: deliver my from my persecutors; for they are stronger than I.
7 Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name: the righteous shall compass me about; for thou shalt deal bountifully with me.

Although the titles that appear prior to many of the Psalms are not inspired, they do provide insight into the view of some regarding the various settings. The title of Psalm 142 suggests that it was penned by David when he was in a cave. The cross reference is to I Samuel 22:1. “David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave Adullam: and when his brethren and all his father’s house heard it, they went down thither to him.” This cave was one of the places in which David found himself after he fled from murder-minded King Saul. Psalm 57 carries a similar title.

The Psalm doesn’t require the title in order for it to be a meaningful source of comfort. If the title is appropriate, then it shows a man who, though having sought refuge in a cave, actually found there little more than a hiding place from one who was seeking his life. It did not provide him a hiding place from the sorrow that burdened his soul. Regardless of the exact setting of the Psalm, it emanated from a troubled heart.

The key aspect of this Psalm as a source of comfort is in the contrast presented in verses three and four. The writer looked to his fellow man for help but found none. He just wanted someone on whom he could rely. One who would be on another’s right hand would typically be his most trustworthy friend, his most dependable confidant. This confidant would provide the place of refuge or escape from the enemy. If this was indeed David writing this as he was on the run from Saul, then we can understand his anguish as just prior to entering the cave he had parted company with his best friend, Jonathan and would never see him alive again (I Samuel 20:41-42). There was no longer anyone on earth to whom he could go to escape from the troubles he was facing.

On the other hand, God was there to give him the shelter from danger that he so intensely desired. There was no real help in man. If he wanted to escape his troubles and find refuge, he would find it only in God.

When we face difficulties, we too need a refuge. Sometimes we just need to get away. We need a break from all of the burdens that are mounting up. We need an escape. God is that escape. He is the source of strength, of constant spiritual energy. We need time with Him. We need time alone with Him. 

Jesus knew the value of this time alone with God. Matthew 14:23 says, “And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.” Luke tells us, “And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.” (Luke 6:12). With the agony of the cross and all that surrounded it looming before Him, Jesus went alone into the Garden of Gethsemane and poured out His heart to the Father (John 17).

The irony of this need to escape to our refuge and spend time with Him alone in prayer and meditation of His Word is that well-meaning friends and family sometimes don’t want to allow sufferers this time. More than likely they are just concerned about the one who is troubled. Maybe they’re afraid that the sufferer will harm himself or herself if left alone. Maybe they’re concerned that the burden will be too great for the person to handle alone. Those dangers could indeed exist in some cases, but many times, those moments alone with God are the most significant in the comfort and even the spiritual growth of the one who is troubled.

A sufferer can be surrounded by family and friends and suddenly feel the need to get away for some quiet time. This is not a reflection on those who are trying to help. In fact, as odd as it may seem, the sufferer may already be alone in his or her thoughts, even in a crowded room. Those who have experienced grief and sorrow know all about this. How strange it is to feel isolated in a roomful of people, to hear voices but not words, to see shapes but not faces.

The one who is suffering should feel no shame in needing to get away. He or she should not feel the need to apologize for needing to get away, nor should anyone apologize for that person. The one who is suffering just needs refuge. Yes, even in the midst of the closest of friends and family, the sufferer may need to break away and spend time with the only one who truly understands the intensity of the pain and who alone can provide the depth of comfort required.

God is the refuge for the troubled soul. Other Psalms echo this fact. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1). “In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah.” (Psalm 62:7,8). “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.” (Psalm 91:2). “But the Lord is my defence; and my God is the rock of my refuge.” (Psalm 94:22).

Of course, one need not be alone to run to God for refuge. Prayer can be offered any time and anywhere. Study of the Bible can take place any time and anywhere. Times of worship with fellow Christians afford additional opportunities to go to God. Beyond this, however, the simple fact is that those who face challenges need time alone with God to be able to express their innermost feelings and deepest pain. Maybe there’s even a special place to which one can go to have this time with God. A quiet room in the house, a special place that brings happy memories, or any number of locations could provide the place to which one can go when he or she needs that time alone in communion with the Lord.

God is the place of shelter for the troubled soul. He is the One to whom we can run to escape the burdens of life’s difficulties and gain the strength we need to go back out and face them. “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55:22).

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