Common Causes for Cave Times
We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair.
-2 Corinthians 4:8, emphasis added
As a pastor, biblical counselor, and a follower of Christ for over forty years, I am convinced that feelings of abandonment are very common among believers, no matter how mature they might be in the Lord. Both the apostles John and David knew what it was like to feel alone and in desperate need of Christ's presence. Look at David's opening words in Psalm 13:1-2: How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily? How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
David experienced many such cave times, and it is likely that we will also. What are some common causes of cave times-those periods in life when we feel utterly abandoned by others as well as God?
Cave times may start through a protracted illness that seems to never end, when strength never comes, when future plans fade, and so does hope. If hope is lost, uncontrolled emotions can wreak havoc not only in the ill person's life but also in the lives of his or her family.
Another common cause for feeling abandoned is a sudden loss of income, when financial needs become difficult, and eventually seem overwhelming. This type of trial can place a great deal of stress on a marriage and family. So can a demanding and unreasonable boss, a grueling and unending schedule, or a jealous, spiteful, and injurious coworker. Wayward children also cause immeasurable pain to believing parents, as does an alcoholic or abusive spouse, or unsaved family members.
Usually, times like these make us feel that no one really cares about us. So more and more we start to feel rejected by others, which then starts the downward spiral into thinking that God has abandoned us as well. David experienced such a depth of feeling abandoned that in Psalm 13 he cried out to God as if he could no longer hang on.
Amazingly, there is little said or written in Christian literature about helping believers who feel abandoned by God. Even D. Martin Lloyd-Jones didn't cover this topic in his classic work entitled Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cures.
Why do you suppose this is? I think it is because we have been taught that Christians are not to experience such things, that we are only to have "life more abundantly" or to "live victoriously." . . . The dying French atheist Voltaire . . . said, "I am abandoned by God and man."
We are not surprised to hear an unbeliever say that. But if any of us should admit to such feelings, many of our friends would look askance [disapprovingly] at us, shake their heads, and wonder whether we are Christians. Isn't that true? Isn't that the chief reason why you do not talk to other Christians about this or about many other problems?"
Aren't you glad that a spiritual giant like David did not hide his negative feelings? He did not mind being thought of as weak, failing, or troubled; he just unashamedly cried out to God for help.
This David-the psalmist, the king God chose, the man God said was after His own heart-was not embarrassed to bare his dark struggles of the soul for all to see! In fact, he wrote more psalms during his cave times than at any other period in his life (Psalms 4, Psalms 13, Psalms 40, Psalms 57, Psalms 70, Psalms 141, Psalms 142). All were lessons on how to overcome feelings of loneliness and abandonment when far from help or away from home.
If you feel unable to go on, like David did in Psalm 13, I encourage you to read through his cave-time psalms. Meditate on how he responded to God in his difficult times! If you do, you'll not only be blessed but also better understand what made David "a man after God's own heart."
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