Read Psalm 142.
Not too far from my house is a wonderland known as McKay’s, a warehouse store filled with used books, DVDs, CDs, and vinyl records. Some people might survey the two stories of solidly-packed goodness and see a waste of space, since all that’s there can now be streamed over Wi-Fi directly to the phones in our pockets. That may be true, but at McKay’s these stories and songs exist in the real world, not merely as digital blips on a screen.
For me, McKay’s is a chance to step back in time for a bit. I trek through the aisles and examine each bin in search of lost treasure. And each time I find something I didn’t know I needed. The problem is, on most trips to McKay’s I find too many things I didn’t know I needed. I inevitably spend upwards of an hour or more weighing my choices, walking back and forth between that certain CD I need for my collection and that used book I’ve been wanting to read. My arms get tired from holding my precious finds during this ritual, and the anticipation I had when I first entered the store has descended into the seriousness of hard choices.
The experts call this phenomenon overchoice, the paralysis that comes when someone is faced with too many options. I’ve always been a bit susceptible to this disease. In school, I would struggle whenever a professor gave me an open writing assignment. I preferred to be given a topic, no matter how difficult. At least I’d be able to focus. What you’re reading right now is, in some sense, due to my struggle with choice. Rather than writing about many different things or selecting devotional ideas from across the swath of Scripture, I’m allowing the book of Psalms to decide what I write about. I don’t have to weigh options; I just need to open my Bible.
Thank God that when it comes to what matters most, there is only one option. God Himself is our only hope. He alone is the one who rescues us from sin and death. He alone brings mercy and healing. And He alone is our comfort and strength when we need those things most.
David wrote Psalm 142 from a cave, when he was on the run from King Saul, or perhaps he wrote it sometime later as a reflection on his time there. Either way, we ought to be able to pinpoint the origin of this psalm—except we can’t. You see, David was pursued by Saul for years, and the Bible records two separate periods in which David hid out in a cave (see 1 Samuel 22:1; 24:1–3).
Think about that for a moment. David’s life was so difficult that in one extended season, he was holed up in a cave, not once, but twice. It’s no wonder he writes, “I cry aloud to the LORD; I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy. I pour out before him my complaint; before him I tell my trouble” (Psalm 142:1–2).
David knows where to go with his troubles. He isn’t hemming and hawing with overchoice—not by any stretch of the imagination. There is one place he can go for relief, one Friend he can call upon. David first looks around at what can be seen with his natural eyes, and he reports, “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” (v. 4).
And then David looks up to heaven: “I cry to you, LORD; I say ‘You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living’” (v. 5).
Are you in trouble? Go to God. In over your head? Go to God. Discouraged and unable to function? Go to God. In truth, it is a mercy to be out of options. Knowing that the Lord is our only hope is a constant reminder to look to Him, no matter how the world is pressing in all around us.