When have you felt most alone in life? What difference does it make to know that God is always with you, no matter what?
A maskil of David. When he was in the cave. A prayer.
1 I cry aloud to the Lord;
I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy.
2 I pour out before him my complaint;
before him I tell my trouble.
3 When my spirit grows faint within me,
it is you who watch over my way.
In the path where I walk
people have hidden a snare for me.
4 Look and see, there is no one at my right hand;
no one is concerned for me.
I have no refuge;
no one cares for my life.
5 I cry to you, Lord;
I say, ‘You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living.’
6 Listen to my cry,
for I am in desperate need;
rescue me from those who pursue me,
for they are too strong for me.
7 Set me free from my prison,
that I may praise your name.
Then the righteous will gather about me
because of your goodness to me.
When David was on the run from Saul, he was never more alone than in the events described in 1 Samuel 21. The next chapter begins with him hiding in the cave of Adullam, then being joined by some of his family and gathering an army around him (1 Samuel 22:1,2). In the depths of his loneliness, he wrote this psalm. He begins by describing how he cried out to God, pleading for mercy (vs 1,2).
Then he addresses God, describing both the extreme loneliness and challenge of his circumstances, as well as his confidence in God’s good care of him (vs 3–5). He has nobody to help him, but he has God. He has no refuge, and yet God is his refuge. So, David asks God to deliver him, so that in the future his praise will be heard by others (vs 6,7).
It is a blessing to have family or friends who will stand with us in difficult times, but there may be challenges we will have to face all alone. And yet, with God as our refuge, we are never truly alone.
Talk with God about the challenges you are experiencing now, or those you anticipate may be coming in the near future. Ask God to be your refuge and thank him for being with you in every trial.
Deeper Bible study
‘Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.’1
In this psalm, David hides from his pursuers in a cave. Twice in Scripture we find David seeking refuge from King Saul in a cave – at Adullam2 and En Gedi.3 On neither occasion was he without companions, for some of his men were present, but his sense of isolation imprisons him in a dungeon of loneliness and despair. Whether or not he is truly on his own, David feels so alone that he plunges into deep depression.
To David, it seems that nobody cares about him (v 4), yet he remembers that God has not abandoned him and will answer his cry for deliverance (vs 5–7). A glimmer of hope penetrates his despondent heart like a glimmer of light shining in through the entrance to his dark cave. He knows he will be free at last and able to share his experience of God’s goodness with his fellow believers (v 7).
Unlike many parts of the developing world, where family and community ties often remain very strong, the Western world has become fractured and fragmented. Loneliness caused by the absence of social contact has serious emotional consequences for its victims, particularly the elderly. In Japan, so many old people die alone and remain undiscovered for a long time that a special term has been used there since the 1980s – kodokushi. Like David, Christians know they are never alone in this world, even though at times our perception can be somewhat different. Some of our struggles, like Abraham’s with regard to the sacrifice of Isaac,4 we must face with only God’s help, but God forbid that anything like kodokushi should ever be found in the churches, communities and neighbourhoods we belong to as believers!
Recent studies show that loneliness is a major health threat. Can you think of ways to cultivate relationships that could help alleviate your own or someone else’s sense of isolation?
Bible in a year
Read the Bible in a year: Judges 17,18; Mark 6
Pray for Scripture Union
Please pray for the schools team of Scripture Union Northern Ireland as they seek to produce online RE lessons designed to help children with their mental health. Pray that these will be well-received and well-used in the months ahead.