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“When I am overwhelmed, you alone know the way I should turn.” (Psalm 142:3)

As my friend mentally prepared herself to go for the MRI ordered by her physician, she couldn’t help but think of the confined tunnel-like scanning machine into which she would be placed. She understood the diagnostic advantages of having these tests performed.  She knew that the MRI machines themselves had certainly been upgraded over the years and were not nearly as unpleasant as they once were. However, that did not help the fact that she was a bit claustrophobic whenever she found herself in tight spaces. Before consenting to the test, she was told that if she felt too anxious a sedative could be administered prior to the procedure.  Hoping that this would not be necessary, she traveled to the facility on the day of the scheduled test and was taken to a waiting area where she sat alone. Then out through a door marked ‘Radiology’ came a lady much older than she. Pausing to get a drink at the water cooler, the elder looked over and said, “First time?” to which my friend acknowledged that it was. “Oh it’s not so bad, just noisy. You’ll be fine. Just think of other things. I sing hymns and say prayers,” she shared.

For whatever reason, as my friend entered the scanner – she began to think about the Chilean miners who had been trapped underground quite a few years before. She remembered that they had been down there for several months before they were rescued. She therefore rationalized if their plight had been that long, certainly she could endure the next 45 minutes.  It was October, 2010 when the world watched those 33 who emerge one by one from the earth over a period of two days, having actually been there for 69. In the aftermath of the rescue, some of those who had been trapped reflected on profound miracles and credited God for protecting them. Many of them said that “He was the 34th miner.”  Years later, one of the rescued recounted a time while trapped when one of his colleagues became ill. He attributed the prayers of the other miners for healing him stating, “The next day, he was better. . . He was doing better than all of us.” That power of prayer stayed with the miners throughout their time underground. He elaborated, “When we prayed, we didn’t pray to get rescued; we prayed for the people outside not to abandon us.” That prayer was answered as well.

While fleeing from King Saul who was searching to kill him, imagine how David felt when Saul entered the restricted space of a dark cave where he was hiding. He must have prayed for his own safety or at least for the right thing to do, as he was able to get close enough to Saul to kill him. Instead David only cut off a piece of his robe (1 Samuel 24:4) to later prove that he would bring him no harm (1 Samuel 24:10-13). As the destined king, he would not take matters into his own hands but waited patiently for the workings of God to unfold and bring judgement on the house of Saul. Scripture reveals that it was when David was in this situation that he wrote these words: “I am in the midst of lions; I am forced to dwell among ravenous beasts—men whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords” (Psalm 57:4). In the strain of being hated and hunted, David shines as example to remain steadfast and hold onto your faith. Probably the last thing we would have expected him to do in this setting would be to write a praise song, but we are blessed that he did.

Hopefully you will never have the experience of being trapped in a cave or underground in a collapsed mine.  You might not even have to find yourself in the tight space of an MRI machine. However, there will assuredly be those times when you will be faced with an overwhelming feeling of darkness and despair. As followers of Christ, we are told, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). In another cave writing, David teaches us how to pray in such times of desperation. His Psalm 142 concludes with this affirmation – “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 142:7). There is a lesson here for each of us: When you find yourself in a tight spot, trapped and alone – you can be confident that it’s time to cry out to God, believe in the power of prayer, and feel surrounded by His comfort and love.

REFLECTION: Why does God allow some of His choicest saints to spend time in dark places? What have you learned from your personal cave experiences? How does prayer provide a sense of peace and hope when you find yourself in one of these situations? What are some ways in which you might better use God to be that “ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1)?


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