What Do You Do When You’re In the Pit?

Remembering gives hope and builds faith; imploring puts words to our needs and welcomes God’s timely grace

Maybe you feel stuck in life right now.  Maybe you feel trapped and unable to make progress with Jesus.  As if your feet trudge through thick, sticky mud and you can’t get to where you need to be.  Or you’ve fallen into a pit and you’ve tried to claw yourself out.  But it’s just not possible.  We’ve all been there.  It might be the pit of debilitating depression, that sort of nagging, endless sense that we can’t go on.  It might be the muddy bog of bitterness from a painful relationship.  It might be lingering disappointment over dashed dreams.  Maybe we’ve fallen, yet again, into the pit of our besetting sin, a pit we have created for ourselves.  We wonder, will God help me even now?

 

The first time I heard the words to Psalm 40 was not in a sermon or a Bible study.  It was from the lips of U2’s Bono.  U2 put the first three verses of this psalm to a song in “40” on their album War.  I learned it in church before I was a Christian in fact.

Since then Psalm 40 has become a favorite of mine. It highlights what David does when he needs divine help.  David remembers God’s past mercies (40:1-10) while imploring God for more mercy in his present time of need (40:11-17).  This two-step dynamic is crucial as Christians learn to walk with Christ during trials: remembering gives hope and builds faith; imploring puts words to our needs and welcomes God’s timely grace.

Let’s consider the first three verses…

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord.

These verses present a beautiful picture of God’s deliverance.  David lies in a pit which will destroy him if left alone.  It’s like a miry bog – a muddy, sticky place.  In other words, David is stuck!  His movements are limited and he can’t get out.  And he desperately needs help.  There is no indication that this was a particular historical situation for David.  Of course, we can recall many times when David was stuck and hurt and needed God’s rescue, whether that’s when King Saul hunted him or years later when his son Absalom tried to kill him.

Maybe you feel stuck in life right now.  Maybe you feel trapped and unable to make progress with Jesus.  As if your feet trudge through thick, sticky mud and you can’t get to where you need to be.  Or you’ve fallen into a pit and you’ve tried to claw yourself out.  But it’s just not possible.  We’ve all been there.  It might be the pit of debilitating depression, that sort of nagging, endless sense that we can’t go on.  It might be the muddy bog of bitterness from a painful relationship.  It might be lingering disappointment over dashed dreams.  Maybe we’ve fallen, yet again, into the pit of our besetting sin, a pit we have created for ourselves.  We wonder, will God help me even now?

What do you do when you’re in the pit?  And what will God do for us when we’re in the pit?  Let me point out 3 things we can do.  In a future article, I will reflect on 4 things God does for us.

Three Practices for Pit-Dwellers

1) Remember.  Notice that all of the verbs in these verses are past tense (I waited…he inclined…he drew me out…). David remembers a season when God pulled him out of the pit.  Remembrance is a powerful practice.  David doesn’t just remember vaguely, he remembers specifically.  He remembers the painful experience of pit life, the crying out, and the waiting.  And he remembers specifically the movements of God’s grace – inclining, hearing, drawing out, setting upon, giving a song.

If you’re in the pit, can I suggest to you this particular practice?  Remember specifically a season when God cared for you.  Journal about it.  Thank God for it.  Talk to a friend or spouse about it.  Write a song to convey it.  Set aside unhurried time to linger in God’s presence as you consider his past faithfulness.  Don’t rush this.  Learn to remember, because, without it, you may sink further into the mud.

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