Pit Principles

By Denise M. Kohlmeyer

Judgmental rooster is judgmental.

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Pits happen. Every day. To everyone. Even to God's cherished children. Our lives' landscapes are pock-marked with pits, of varying shapes, sizes and depths. I know! I'm a survivor of multiple pits myself. Mine came in the form of emotional abuse from a drug-addicted sibling, from flunking out of college, from being down-sized from a job I loved, from suffering a miscarriage, from being disinherited by my own father, from marital and parenting struggles, and from experiencing bouts of crippling fear and anxiety.

Boy can I relate to the beloved Biblical character Joseph, who found himself in several pits, one literal and two figurative.

Literal pits and figurative pits (what Scripture calls trials and tribulations) interestingly share very similar characteristics. They are deep, dark, confining, lonely, down-right scary places. And when I've found myself in one, my thoughts can run just as deep and dark: I don't see any way out of this! I feel trapped! No one knows what I'm going through! Does anyone care? And, yes, Does God even care? Yes, pits happen! And my all-too-human inclination is to get out of them. ASAP! In the past, I've tried to climb and claw my way out on my own, only to rain down dirt and debris upon myself, making the journey that much messier. But after studying Joseph's life and his time in the pits, I've learned that I can — not only survive while in a pit — but actually thrive while I'm there. I've learned to remain in them without struggling (for the most part). But truly, it's in these dark, rocky places that I've learned the greatest lessons, lessons about myself, lessons about God. And it's in the pits where I'm held captive long enough to quiet my mind, my heart, my soul, so that I'm ready — willing — to draw closer to God, lean into Him, hear the gentle whisper of His voice. It's in the pits where I can wholly commune and find fellowship with my Abba Daddy, without distraction.

Joseph's times in the pits reveal eight biblical principles that I have found invaluable and which have helped me to thrive in my own pits without losing my mind, my spirit, or my way.

Principle #1: LOOK UP

Literal pits don't have escape hatches, as Joseph found out. As he twisted and turned, he saw no way out. And when the darkness engulfed him, fear, anxiety, desperation, despair, even hopelessness likely set in. But instead of giving up, he looked up. Up through the one opening at the top. Up to where his help lay and his rescue would eventually come.

It's the same with figurative pits. There are no escape hatches. No shortcuts either. We are held captive by our circumstances. But rather than becoming overwhelmed and giving up, we too must look up. "I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?" (Psalm 121:1, ESV). We look up to our loving Father who sits enthroned above. It is only from above that our help comes and our hope rests.

Principle #2: CRY OUT

There is no shame in crying out for help. But we don't cry out to just anyone, as Joseph sadly learned. His piteous pleas fell on the deaf ears of his callous-hearted half-brothers as they sat eating their lunch (Genesis 42:21). Instead, we are to cry out to God alone, to the One who does hear our cries and will sustain us in our times of trouble, and deliver us from them.

And we're not alone. There were many in Scripture who called upon God in their distress: Moses, Joshua, kings David and Asa, Hannah, Samuel, the Israelites, Peter. Even Jesus did, in Gethsemane, the night before His crucifixion, and again as He hung on the cross, wondering why His Father had forsaken Him in His greatest hour of need.

Yes, God hears! He invites us to pour out our problems, our sorrows and our needs to Him (see Jeremiah 33:3, Psalm 50:15, Psalm 34:17). His ears are always attentive to our cries.

Principle #3: WAIT

This is likely the hardest principle of all. At least for me. It's hard to accept that God would hold me in a pit for a time. But He does. He has. And He did with Joseph. The troubled teen remained in the literal pit for an undisclosed amount of time. He served eleven years as a slave, two years as a prisoner. He went from pit to pit to pit, for thirteen consecutive years!

And here's the good news: All the while that Joseph was in his pits, the Lord was with him (Genesis 39:2-3, 21, 23). God never once left the perpetual pit-dweller. As Joseph waited in his pits, God waited with him! And we have this blessed assurance too. "'I will never leave you nor forsake you'...So we can confidently say, 'The Lord is my Helper; I will not fear...'" (Hebrews 13:5b- 6). We can thrive in our pits knowing that we're not alone, that in our waiting, He's waiting with us too.

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Published on 5-9-16