David's depression most likely resulted from an unusually long period of stress. The superscript for Psalm 142, identifying David's circumstances as "in the cave," probably refers to the cave of Adullam. To appreciate the context, observe the first two verses of 1 Samuel 22:
So David departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam; and when his brothers and all his father's household heard of it, they went down there to him. Everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him; and he became captain over them. Now there were about four hundred men with him.
Talk about adding insult to injury! Here's our friend David, running for his life from madman Saul, finally finding relief and solitude in a dark cave. His relief is short-lived, however, as his solitude is invaded by a solid stream of "everyone who was in distress, and everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented . . . about four hundred men." Just imagine! Four hundred failures. Four hundred malcontents. Four hundred plus one: David.
The four hundred were an unorganized, inefficient, depressed mob without a leader, so they attached themselves to David. Picture the scene in your mind. With a little imagination you could see how depressed he must have been. Surely he sighed as he thought, What now? or Why me? In the depth of distress, having reached the end of his rope, David talked with his Lord about his desperate situation.
In the first two verses we find David at the mouth of that gloomy cave. The depth of his anguish is clearly expressed. He comes face to face with his God in prayer. Twice he calls "to the Lord" and twice he brings his complaint "before Him."
I cry aloud with my voice to the LORD;
I make supplication with my voice to the LORD.
I pour out my complaint before Him;
I declare my trouble before Him.
What is translated in the first verse as "cry aloud" literally means "I shriek." The original Hebrew term means "to sound as thunder, to bellow." From the interior of that cave, David thunders out his pitiful needs with heartrending groans. "I make supplication" could better be rendered "implore favor." His self-image had been assaulted. He felt stripped, worthless, useless, and completely depressed. So he asks for evidence of God's favor. He needs to feel needed and necessary. He no longer had honor and respect; self-esteem was, it seemed, forever removed.
When we hit the bottom, we feel this way. Our self-image is shot! In order to be effective, we must view ourselves as God views us: favorable, loved, useful, and needed. I have found that my first step toward a solution is turning "to the Lord" and going "before Him" as David did. To stay at the bottom, lick my wounds, and roll in misery leads only to deeper despair. Call upon Him—shriek if you must—but don't sit for days in the isolation and silence of depression! God longs to hear your words. Your honest and forthright declaration is precisely what prayer is all about. It is a discipline that ignites incredible results.
From Living the Psalms by Charles R. Swindoll, copyright © 2012. Reprinted by permission of Worthy Inspired, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.
Listen to today's broadcast of Insight for Living with Chuck Swindoll at OnePlace.com.
Visit the Bible-teaching ministry of Chuck Swindoll at www.insight.org.
Featuring books mentioned on recent broadcasts: Marriage: From Surviving to Thriving by Charles Swindoll, If by Amy Carmichael, Parenting: From Surviving to Thriving by Charles Swindoll, and more.