How David’s Prayer in Psalm 142 Touches Our Lives in 2020
As we end this year still battling the COVID-19 virus, hearing news of brothers and sisters becoming infected with hopelessness, loneliness, and fatigue, Dr. Lilia Salazar shared with MEANS volunteers hope and encouragement from the Psalms. Dr. Salazar had recently researched, summarized, and published stories from a broad distribution of ethnic and age groups in Set Me Free: Women of Hope Coping with a Pandemic of Despair, and it is clear through her writing and her speaking that she is deeply in tune with the most painful aches in our souls.
She took us through Psalm 142:1-7, with the apt theme “Pray and Persevere”. To begin, Dr. Salazar set the scene of David’s psalm for us: he was stuck inside Adullam, a fortress-like cave, with 400-600 of his mighty men—those who were in distress, in debt, or discontented when they joined this great leader who would be king one day. For the time being, however, they were hiding together from the current King Saul, who wanted David killed. It was in this state of being and in this place that David wrote Psalm 142, a maskil, which means “to make wise, or prudent, or to have success or a skill”. So, we studied the psalm to learn how to be wise and skillful in prayer.
More than half of David’s maskil—verses 1-4 in a seven-verse psalm—is lament, which brings our pain and grief before God, and communicates to God, “I still trust you” in the middle of the storm. David was desperate, and he prayed. He was afraid for his life: disoriented, deserted, depressed, and defeated. He was surrounded by malcontented men who looked to him for provision and protection. In Adullam, he was trapped and lonely with no one to care for his soul.
David was overwhelmed, and he prayed. His spirit was “muffled”, wrapped up in doom and gloom. In this mindset, David’s powers of judgment were gone, as ours often are when we feel totally abandoned, rejected, and isolated. Can’t we relate with David, chimed Dr. Salazar; maybe the tone of our prayers this year was similar: “Father God, you know how we’re doing badly, you know how we’re struggling financially, you know the state of our divided politics and leadership in society.”
David, in his desperate need, prayed and saw God as his refuge. Haven’t we also experienced “desperate need” this year as well, experiencing danger, poverty, or want, on physical, emotional, spiritual levels? He was up against stronger enemies, who were better armed and more capable than he was. This was a man who knew that only God could deliver him and his men. In such a moment, he laid his petition before God in verses 5-6, openly and shamelessly for the LORD of heaven and earth, where his help comes from. In the New Living Translation, verse 6 reads, “You are all I really want in this life.” Dr. Salazar challenged us to reflect on a moving question that came to her as fires ravaged California, where she resides, earlier this year: “if God burned my house and everything in it, could I still say to him, ‘God you are all I want and need’?”
In relation to the individual and collective trials we are experiencing this year, Dr. Salazar taught us several “cave principles” to help keep us sober and centered (2 Timothy 4:5). Firstly, caves reveal our true need, and God’s care. Some questions to ask as we begin reflecting enable us to name our hardships with the Holy Spirit’s guidance: What are my caves? Perhaps my anxiety, helplessness, loneliness? Is it hope deferred making my heart sick (Proverbs 13:12)? Is it physical or material downfall (James 5:2)? Maybe a consuming fear of the future (James 4:14)? Caves also enable God’s purposes to be seen more clearly, and to help us understand how, Dr. Salazar encouraged us to ask ourselves, “What was the worst version of myself I saw this year? On the other hand, what was the best version of myself I’ve seen? What has God enabled me to do or be during this time?” God’s got our attention to seek him during this time. We’ve leveraged technology in new, creative, empowering ways during this time. In that light, caves make visible God’s provision, God’s protection, and God’s presence. Looking back, we can identify new situations this year where we felt alone, but realized that we were never truly alone. This past witness of God’s faithfulness is the bedrock of trust in God’s present and future faithfulness.
In Psalm 142:7, David offers praise to God for God’s attentive answer to his prayers. When David was in his cave with larger-than-life issues, he still ended his psalm thus: “Bring me out of prison, that I may give thanks to your name! The righteous will surround me, for you will deal bountifully with me.” Whatever “prison” or “cave” we may be in, now or in the future, may God give us freedom so we shall praise Him, now and forevermore!
Coping with Fear and Anxiety—from Dr. Lilia Salazar
“And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”Micah 6:8
- Emotions: Name it, claim it, and tame it.
- Name it → It’s all right to be afraid, to cry, to be sad. What is it that I am afraid of? Losing my job, my finances? Am I afraid of dying, of being infected?
- Claim it → it’s okay. Stay with it.
- Tame it → God can take it. Nothing is too big or small for God. He will take it, and I will not be shaken.
2. Reframe distorted cognitions:
|Catastrophic: only worst case scenario in mind||Ask, “how can I reframe the situation? How likely is it that my worst case scenario will happen?”|
|Polarized: yes or no, pass or fail, all or nothing thinking.||Remember, nothing is always all bad or all good, there’s always gray; ask: “where is the gray?”|
|Mental filtering: focus only on the negative aspects of a situation, “filtering” out all of the positive aspects.||Ask, “What positive aspects of this situation are just as real and valid, that I’m overlooking? What are 3 reasons I can be thankful, even now?”|
|Overgeneralize: see the negative and apply that to all the circumstances||Examine the story that I’m telling myself. “Is it true? What are the facts? Am I looking at the facts? Or at past hurts and fears?”|
- Practice self care: exercise and movement, food, and sleep.
- Focus on the things we can control, not the things we cannot control.
- I can only be responsible for the things I can control.
- Mobilize social and emotional support system.
- We are so blessed to have believers, family and friends. Turn to them, if only via technology.
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds”Psalm 147:3
Coping with Loss and Grief—from Dr. Lilia Salazar
- Stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance
- We don’t progress through the stages in a linear fashion. We may go back and forth before arriving at acceptance. When that happens…
- Go with the flow; enjoy the ride/roller coaster.
- Remember that there is no “typical” loss or response. Experience of loss and the following response are highly individual.
- Take your time. There is no timetable or deadlines to abide by.
Coping with Helplessness and Powerless—from Dr. Lilia Salazar
- Become more connected with self and with God.
- We have to be secure in our identity with the Lord. All these things will pass away but what is eternal—focus on it.
- Be aware of stress and trauma triggers.
- Some of us have had certain traumatic experiences or have specific stressors—keep an eye for deeper depression/anxiety triggered.
- Be intentional about self-talk and journal prayer/Bible reflections.
- These are powerful tools.
- Later, go back to what you have written, and review with God answered prayers in the journal.
- Use your strengths and skills.
- Those of us who are Christ-followers like to serve others. Let’s also use our strengths to take care of the self.
- Take small realistic actions when overwhelmed.
- Healthy, and that we can work on.
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Contributor: Faith Cheng
Editors: Lina Padilla, Carmena Cruz, Jeremiah Rocha