In fact, I used to think this was the saddest proclamation in the entire Bible. That is, until I dug a little deeper into Psalm 142. It's one thing to read the Bible, but it's quite another thing to study the Bible. While simply reading the Bible, I had missed the impact of verse 4 which reads, 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.
The writing of Psalm 142 took place when David was in the cave of Adullam after escaping from Saul. Even though David was hiding out, it wasn't long before others joined him. I Samuel 22 tells us, 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. And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them: and there were with him about four hundred men. In a sense, these men elected David as ruler over them.
But David didn't feel much like being a leader right then, especially to such a gang of misfits. David had problems of his own. How was he supposed to help them? And didn't anybody care about his needs? His distress over the entire situation is evident by the beginning verses of Psalm 142:
I cried unto the Lord with my voice; with my voice unto the Lord did I make my supplication. I poured out my complaint before him; I shewed before him my trouble. 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. 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.
Cried unto the Lord? Been there, done that.
Poured out my complaint? Been there, done that.
My spirit was overwhelmed? Been there, done that.
Not only do I sympathize with David, but I can empathize with him as well. I've been in a few caves of my own, and I'm not talking about physical caves, but rather places where I go to try to get away from it all. To figure things out. To decipher where I went wrong. But unlike David, I was truly alone in my cave.
Yet despite the company of 400+, David uttered the words, "I've looked around and there's nobody here. Nobody cares about me." Isn't that just about the saddest thing you've ever heard? If nothing else, it serves as proof that you don't have to be alone to be lonely. But the helplessness doesn't stop there. To really see the depth of David's despair, we'll need to look at one of his other psalms.
Psalm 16:8 says, I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Immediately, it's obvious that David was in a much better state of mind when he wrote Psalm 16 than he was when he wrote Psalm 142, and I think the reason for that better state of mind is made clear in the first part of the verse: I have set the Lord always before me. David had his eyes on the Lord. He was seeing clearly. He was not allowing his circumstances or emotions to overshadow God's promises. He was "thinking on these things" as Paul instructs us in Philippians 4. And with that clarity, he stated, Because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. God was at his right hand, which signifies power and strength.
Now, look back with me at verse 4 of Psalm 142: 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. Do you see it? In the midst of his depression, not only did David despair that all men had forsaken him, but he also feared that God had. In Psalm 16, he boldly stated that God was at his right hand, but in Psalm 142, he says, "I looked to my right hand, and there was no one there." He continues by saying, "My refuge has failed me" which leads us into verse 5 of Psalm 142 where David says, "I cried unto thee, O LORD: I said, Thou art my refuge. . ."
Are you beginning to see why this verse is so heartbreaking? Perhaps you understand all too well how David feels because you've been there yourself. In the midst of difficult times, sometimes it's hard to see God. Sometimes it's easy to think that He has failed us. After all, if He's really in control of all things, why do bad things still happen? That doesn't make sense, does it? Perhaps not to us. But it certainly does to Him.
Would you like to know how David got out of this slump? Would you be interested in discovering his secret to climbing out of the pit of despair and finding secure footing on the solid Rock? Actually, it's no secret at all. It's quite obvious and simple once you think about it. But that's not to say that it's easy.
When David was at his lowest, to the point where He was doubting God's presence, protection and provision, David went back to what he knew. He, once again, set the Lord before Him. He changed his focus. He began to act on what he knew rather than what he felt. He thought back to God's promises. He remembered God's faithfulness. He turned his pity in praise, and before he knew it, the sun was shining again. . . even in the dark cave.
I wish I could tell you that life will always be easy and that living in Christ will always bring happiness and good times. But the truth is, life is hard. Trials abound. Friends will let you down. Families will disagree. Jobs will be tough. Dreams will be dashed. And some days, you'll feel like no one cares. In those times, do what David did. Set the Lord before you. Stop looking at the bad, and look instead at the good. Focus on God's promises not on your emotions. Turn your pity into praise.
Then pull out your sunglasses. You're going to need them!