I cry aloud to the LORD; I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy.
I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble.
When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who know my way. In the path where I walk men have hidden a snare for me.
Look to my right and see; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life.
I cry to you, O LORD; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.”
Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me.
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. Psalm 142 (NIV)
On a trip to the Florida panhandle, we visited the Florida Caverns. I don’t know what possessed me to suggest it. I don’t see well in dim light and am sometimes claustrophobic. Some of the areas had narrow, slippery paths and low ceilings. My comfort level plunged even lower when the guide pointed out bats flying around us. After that, I was done with the cave, but we were deep inside the earth. The only way out was with our guide. I spent the rest of my time wishing for a flashlight and a hat. Despite its beauty, I had a lot of complaints about the cave. I was so glad when we exited into the fresh, bright air outside. It made me think of another cave that I visited a long time ago in Israel. I was privileged to study in that country while I was in college. One of my favorite spots was Ein Gedi, near the Dead Sea. There, I was smart enough to avoid the caves and instead enjoyed the lush, green oasis just a few miles from the salt covered desolate Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is a place where nothing grows, and no creatures live because of the high salt content of the water. There is not an outlet for the sea. All the water of the Jordan River including the pollutants it picks up flow into the sea and stagnate. The alkalinity is so strong that you cannot even sink below the water. Some people bath there because they think it is healthy, but if you go into the sea, your body is coated with an oily, dirty substance. I preferred the waters of Ein Gedi. There, waterfalls pour from the sides of the mountains and into picturesque clear pools of water. The trees grow tall, flowers bloom and it is a tropical retreat in the middle of a desert land. The caves of Ein Gedi provided shelter for David when he fled for his life from King Saul. He wrote Psalm 142 in one of its caves. The tone of the Psalm is very whiney, but, had I, like David been stuck in a cave instead of taking a swim under the beautiful waterfalls, I would have been complaining, too. I think the prison David refers to might not only be the cave, but a confinement of his own making. A jail of bad attitude. While God is always ready and willing to hear our complaints, there comes a time when enough is enough. As long as David gripes about his situation and the people out to get him, his spirit grows tired and his surroundings, darker. Once he turns his focus off himself and looks for ways to praise God, his attitude improves. What is your life like? A dim and lonely cave? A slimy, nasty sea of bitterness? Or a refreshing pool of life giving water? What makes the difference? A life of praise, no matter what your circumstances.