The cave system at Adullam in Israel is a natural, fortified location sitting high in the hills overlooking the Valley of Elam, the place where a famous young shepherd boy took down a mighty giant with just five smooth stones. From a crouched position, we can enter the caves through a small, unassuming tunnel. The rocky sides of the tunnel don’t give us much maneuvering room. But they lead us inexorably forward until the pressing tunnels open into huge cavernous spaces. Spaces where David and his mighty men hunkered down and sheltered in a time of distress (1 Samuel 22-24).
Following his astonishing victory over Goliath in the Valley of Elam just a few years prior, David suddenly finds himself hiding out from Saul’s jealous, relentless rage in these dark caves of Adullam. From the entrance to the cave, David could actually look down on the very place of his “gigantic” victory! Can you imagine David’s spiritual and emotional whiplash? From experiencing the empowering hand of God in his life as he took down Goliath, he now finds himself on the run. Feeling abandoned. And arriving at the rocky caves with dried drool crusting his beard, having just pretended to be a crazy man to get away from another potentially life-threatening situation. What in the world?
One of the most difficult losses we face in the midst of the unexpected and traumatic is a loss of assumptive belief. Our assumptions—the things we believe about God, the world, ourselves, and others—provide a stable footing for us. A way of orienting ourselves to the world around us. Our assumptive beliefs create security and meaning. Until something comes into our life that shatters what we believe and assume. And we find ourselves feeling shaky, upended, and wondering, “Where is God?”
It’s safe to say, David didn’t see his cave-time coming. He didn’t expect that God’s anointing and favor might at some point feel removed. As if God Himself was removed. Shattered assumptions. Despairing of life. Feeling all alone. Traumatized and disoriented, huddled over a small fire in the cave of Adullam, David pours out his pain and confusion in Psalm 142. A desperate, raw prayer for refuge and connection.
We didn’t see this raging COVID-19 coming. We certainly didn’t expect to be hiding out in “caves” against a relentless enemy we cannot even see. And perhaps, we made assumptions about God and our world that have been shattered. We didn’t see that coming either.
ACTION: As you shelter-in-place, take a moment to consider: what assumptions do I have about God that have been shaken, perhaps even shattered, during this COVID time? Write them down, and then notice without judgment what emotions you feel. Then read Psalm 142. Where does your heart resonate with David’s? What are you longing for today? What prayer might you write to God today from your own cave-place?