Poured out complaint, Psalm 142

While David was hiding in a cave, he poured out his heart in this lament to God. Most of us become uncomfortable when praying aloud, but David emphasizes that this prayer is vocalized.

With my voice I cry out to the LORD;
   with my voice I plead for mercy to the LORD.
I pour out my complaint before him;
   I tell my trouble before him (Psalm 142:1-2, ESV).

God hears both our audible and internal prayers, but when we speak them aloud they become more meaningful to us. We add two sensory dimensions to the prayers, speech and hearing, which makes more of an impression on us.

David pours out his complaint before the Lord, telling him all his trouble. Ryken and Ryken write, “When he adds that his complaint is poured out, we catch the essential nature of the lament psalms—poems about a distressing situation uttered without inhibition” (The Literary Study Bible ESV, p. 908). What a great description of a lament psalm!

The writer of a lament psalm bares the naked emotions of his soul. He is not afraid to tell God how he really feels. Those who disparage even Christian counseling that incorporates general and special revelation ought to read the psalms. God created humans with emotions, which need to be worked through during times of distress.

Those distressing times often make us feel totally weak and completely isolated.

When my spirit faints within me,
   you know my way!
In the path where I walk
   they have hidden a trap for me.
Look to the right and see:
    there is none who takes notice of me;
no refuge remains to me;
   no one cares for my soul (3-4, ESV).

But God knows our way. He sees us and knows our way even when the devil and other people have hidden traps along our path, even when we are ignored on every side, even when we see no place of safety and no one seems to care for our souls. Even then, we can cry to God.

I cry to you, O LORD;
   I say, “You are my refuge,
   my portion in the land of the living.”
Attend to my cry,
   for I am brought very low!
Deliver me from my persecutors,
    for they are too strong for me!
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 (5-7, ESV).

God is our refuge and our portion not only for the future, but now as we live among people. He hears our cries when we are brought down to the dust. He will deliver us from persecutors who are too strong for us. He will bring us out of literal or figurative prisons. And when he delivers us, we must give thanks to his name. Then the righteous will surround us and God will deal bountifully with us.

No one loves to live through trials. Nothing makes us long so much for Christ’s return as a difficult and chronic struggle. God will deliver us from all our trouble when he takes us home to glory or when Christ returns in glory. But in this psalm David confesses, under inspiration of the Spirit, that God is our refuge while we live. He is our place of safety.

Every person, not matter how close we are to them or how godly they seem, will disappoint us and hurt us. We can’t completely depend on another person or place our hope in someone else. Our hope must be only in God. Through our struggles, God continually teaches us to become more and more dependent upon him, not another person or our own abilities—only God.

May God deliver you from your persecutors, may he bring you out of prison, and may the righteous surround you with God’s love. Then you will be able to see and feel and say, “The Lord has dealt bountifully with me!”


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