King David, before he came to be Israel’s king, was hemmed in within at least two caves and clearly suffered anxiety. We would too, of course. But, as is recorded in Psalms 57 and 142, David’s anxiety became manifest in two dipolar ways. Psalm 142 is more melancholy than Psalm 57. If we imagine being trapped by an enemy, and being worried about being found in our hiding, our mood is bound to dither from cowardice to courage to cowardice and back again, over and over so long as we remain in that situation.
In our ‘cave’ situations, it may not be a human enemy—though it often is. It may be a workload. It may be uncertainty regarding the future or indecision. It could be from any number of things.
But anxiety inside the cave goes from woefully bad to acceptably good to woefully bad again. The moment we get into an acceptably good moment we think we have resolved our anxiousness; but then it returns.
David’s Anxiousness In the Cave
David cried out to the Lord from the cave:
“As I sink in despair, my spirit ebbing away,
you know how I’m feeling,
Know the danger I’m in,
the traps hidden in my path.”
— Psalm 142:3 (Msg)
If we have ever been favoured over an incumbent—someone who has held the position we are about to get—we will know how David felt as he became Yahweh’s anointed in place of King Saul, who became the envious one.
Perhaps we have been the one to be replaced. We felt threatened and unjustly treated. But if we are the one coming in to a new position, we may be the target of bullying. This, in turn, will produce in us anxiety, because we don’t know where or when the attacks will be coming from, only from whom.
I’ve had times in jobs where I’ve been on both sides of the fence. One safety manager I replaced, because he had made an error apparently worthy of being fired for, was very gracious in handing over the reins to me. In this case I was very fortunate. But there was another time when someone came in over me and I felt God requiring me to be gracious in surrendering that role to this person. The fact that I lost the job role was meant not for my harm, but for my good, as I later learned.
But the envy Saul felt, which burned inside him, turned him more evil than before. We can imagine David hiding in the cave with the men on his side, quite anxious, but drawing faith from God, as he heard from Gad the prophet.
David’s daily experience ranged from courage to cowardice, as ours does.
What David’s Anxiousness Teaches Us
It’s okay to feel anxious when we are threatened. It’s normal. And in anxiousness we do vacillate from cowardice to courage to cowardice.
When we are in the cave of our circumstances—suffering anywhere from a moment of anxiety to a whole season—we do well to pray; to praise God and add to our adoration our petitions for his help.
“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
— Philippians 4:6-7 (NRSV)
Prayer may not always allay our anxiety, but it does acknowledge God as the one—the only one—who can help.
David prayed whenever he was anxious or afraid; so should we when we are anxious or afraid. We go quietly to God.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.