Those Pesky Emotions

Psalm 142

Hardly anyone would deny people are emotional beings, some more so than others. Debate over how many basic emotions: some say 4, Aristotle 14. One psychologist identifies these 8: joy, sadness, trust, disgust, fear, anger, surprise, and anticipation. Ok, start with 8, don’t always come one at a time – frequently experience 2 or more at once, adds up to 256 different combinations! Not only emotional, are complex beings!

Expressing emotions, being influenced or governed by emotions are different things. Both at work here in our Psalm – v.1-3 & 5-7 have similar tone, v.4 stands out from the rest. Is instructive to see how David dealt with his pesky emotions that threatened to overcome him. Starts out well, temporarily sidetracked, then finishes well.

Likely setting: David on the run from Saul; had final word from Jonathan, not safe to return (1 Sam. 20:35ff). Went to King Achish for protection, was recognized, pretended madness so as to escape (1 Sam. 21:13ff). Next stop: Cave of Adullam (1 Sam. 22:1-2), Philistine territory, near where killed Goliath. Series of caves outside town, provide refuge for David. Eventually, David’s family, others dissatisfied with circumstances joined David – 400 men in total. If this indeed the time of writing, likely composed between time of David’s arrival and when joined by others.

A. serious situation v.1-3



at one point asked Jonathan: 1 Sam. 20:1 “What have I done? What is my offense? How have I sinned before your father? For he is seeking my life!”

deeply pained by what he perceived as clear injustice – continually hounded, always on the run, allowed no peace… for no good reason

that overwhelms

circumstances totally beyond his ability to control or even manage – has neither the power nor authority to change anything

various forces arrayed against him way beyond his strength – particular force here a military one, applies to other kinds

bureaucracy, regulatory bodies, media… just for starters – no way the little guy can win

surrounded by enemies

even if one enemy, maybe two could be successfully resisted or avoided, they are too many… now he’s cornered

no obvious or visible way of escape from present circumstances; only two options: give up or look up


cry to the Lord (1a)

is a cry for help – how would you do that, with little voice or big voice? in serious trouble, need serious attention… now!

first action is right one: cry out to only one who can provide real solution to need; ok to “phone a friend”, God needs to be first on the list

plead for mercy to the Lord (1b)

request for God to provide relief – perhaps implied he is approaching limit of what he can stand, almost at end of rope

pleading that God would look on him kindly, favorably, treat him gently – take his limitations, endurance into account

pour out lament before the Lord (2a)

most complaining an outlet for discontent; here, telling God about truly unjust treatment, expecting God to act in response

declare before the Lord (2b)

common coping mechanism to deal with difficulty or pressure: “vent”; problem is venting to wrong person can make problem and attitude worse

David did right thing – “vented” to one who could do something constructive: equip the one venting, remedy the injustice

things start to change in v.3 – focus has been on God, communicating with him, stays there for first half, then…

expresses confidence that God is attentive to situation, actively involved in watching over him

then, begins to succumb to emotions – how do we know that? begins looking at circumstances instead of God, feeling overwhelmed and headed toward self-pity

B. no one else notices v.4

profound sense of aloneness

the bigger his circumstances loomed in his vision, more alone and isolated he felt; might have been before fam & friends showed up

can be surrounded by people, even friendly ones, still feel alone – “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen / Nobody knows but Jesus / Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen / Glory, Hallelujah.”


even with friends nearby, can any of them make difference? change circumstances? reality of present need overshadows

anyone who could help is either absent or on other side; no one paying attention, no one advocating for change


spiral down even further – nobody can help, nobody will help, nobody cares enough to help – if no one else cares, why should I


where do you go from here? further down spiral of despair? perhaps into something really foolish? or the other option

C. God my only hope v.5-6

again… cry out to the Lord

would have been a good place for a Selah; wait a minute, think about what you’re saying – have both intellect and emotions in front seat but which sits where?

gotta make sure emotions don’t sit in driver’s seat too long; engage intellect, begin thinking again according to biblical principles

important concept: we have emotions but believer is not at their mercy; same for our thoughts/way of thinking

2 Cor. 10:5 “…we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” – in this case, cry out to him for help

when get overwhelmed by situation, lose focus, get off track… get back on track by redirecting focus toward God

hope for

refuge / shelter

couple ways God could protect us: send us / direct us to a shelter or… be our shelter himself – God often does latter

simple shelter helps but… “God our shelter” makes it personal; tremendous storm, blankets not enough, child wants shelter of mom and dad, will rest in their care

inheritance / security

again, God could supply an inheritance to each of his children; instead, God has committed himself to be our inheritance

given a choice: stuff, even perfect stuff and lots of it, or God… no contest! no matter the situation or the time (this life, the next) God is all we need

“It is something to have Jehovah for our refuge, but it is everything to have him for our portion.” CHS

deliverance / rescue

is ok to tell God how we feel: I need your help, I need you to listen because I’m really discouraged; then expect answer

make specific requests: deliver from situation / circumstances that are keeping captive, perhaps hindering proper worship

only God has sufficient power

most of the time: those who persecute us are stronger than we are; always true when we consider true nature of conflict

2 Cor. 10:4 “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.”

God alone can supply adequate weapons, effectively direct their use against spiritual opposition

D. God, the one I worship v.7

plea for deliverance has particular object – not for personal benefit, instead for freedom / opportunity to worship

that I may give thanks

emotions that were so quick to run down spiral now firmly headed up to praise – doesn’t wait for deliverance to begin

final lines of psalm expression of confidence in God, the expectation God will hear and answer his prayer

important: when thoughts and speech go in right direction, emotions will follow… if we persevere

that I and my brothers/sisters may praise

is good to give public testimony of God @ work – opportunity every Sunday, prayer requests and praises

is significant element of worship to encourage others to praise God along with us – shared joy is always best

So… when those pesky emotions make their presence known, what to do? Follow David’s example, go to God and lay out your troubles… honestly… and respectfully. Ask for his help to deal with difficulty. Express your emotions to God, both positive and negative. Ask for his help to maintain right attitude. Then do your part to focus on God, not circumstances. When focus shifts in unhelpful direction, ask for his help and re-focus. Above all, do everything in your power depending on God to do what pleases him in all things.


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