Chapter OneLife in the Pit
You don't have to stay there. Even if you've been there your
whole life, you can call it a day. Even if you deserve the pit
you live in, you're still not stuck there. Maybe you're the noble
type trying to make the best of your pit. You keep wondering
why you can't get satisfied there. Why you aren't mature
enough to be content where you are. After all, didn't the
apostle Paul tell us that we should learn to be content in any
Has it occurred to you that maybe a pit is one place where
you're not supposed to be content? Maybe you should thank
God you're not. Some things weren't meant to be accepted. A
pit is one of them. Quit trying to make the best of it. It's time
to get out. When Christ said, "Come, follow me," inherent in
His invitation to come was the equivalent invitation to leave.
The laws of physics tell you that if you try to go one place
without leaving another, you're in for a pretty severe stretch.
And you can only do the splits so long.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not talking about picking up and
leaving a physical place-although that may ultimately prove
necessary. And if you're married, Lord help me, I'm certainly
not talking about leaving your spouse. I'm talking about leaving
a dwelling far more intimate than the place where you get
your mail-I'm talking about a shadowy home of the heart,
mind, and soul so close and personal that, like mud on the set
of tires, we drag it along wherever our physical circumstances
No matter where we go, a pit can always fit. On any path
we can spin our wheels and throw mud until we dig a ditch
right into the middle of an otherwise decent job or relationship.
Soon our hearts sink with the dismal realization that we're no
better off in our new situation. The scenery around us may
have changed, but we're still living in that same old pit. We
start scrambling to figure out how we're going to dump an
unpleasant person or position when the real solution may be
to dump that pit we dragged in. The problem is the pit can be
so close we can't see it.
My man, our two dogs, and I just got home from a seven-teen-hundred-mile
road trip sewing five states together like
a patchwork quilt. It's something we do several times a year.
For hours on end Beanie sniffs the air conditioner in search
of game birds (Beanie is one of the dogs, not the man) and
Sunny never quits smiling unless she needs to scratch. The
glee rolls on and the miles roll by until someone gets a little
cranky. I'll not name names, but God forgives the lapses and
has even extended many a tender mercy by providing a timely
respite from the open road. He shows us all sorts of favor, like
causing espresso bars to pop up in places so remote I end up
wondering later if they were really there at all. I figure they
were mirages we'd never find again in a million years. But as
long as the refreshment hits the spot, I don't care if it's all in
my mind. I've had the best medium-dry cappuccinos in the
world in places so far out that an extra shot is what you take
when you missed the deer the first time.
Unfortunately, our traveling snobbery only goes as far as
our coffee. When you insist on traveling cross-country with
two sizable canines, you get to save your cash on motel rooms.
We mostly stay in lodgings that have numbers in the names. No
matter what the chain, all discount rooms are nearly identical,
with angular double beds covered by the same navy-blue spreads
ordered from a catalog back in '72. The stitching has long since
come undone, and when you turn over in the bed your little toes
get tangled in the loose threads. I sleep between Keith (that's
my man) and Beanie and, from the sound of things, each has
a deviated septum. I respond by turning up the air conditioning
unit which, in turn, responds by freezing up and shutting
A traveler at heart, I still wake up happy and start my
abbreviated morning routine. The shampoo comes in a small
single-serving pouch I have to open with my teeth. I spit out
what gets in my mouth and quickly lather the rest of it on my
head. I have a mass of hair so, understandably, I can't spare a
drop. Keith ends up having to use the generic white bar soap
on his hair. It tends to leave a film, but it's a small price for him
to pay for my hair. Particularly small compared to what he
pays for me to maintain my highlights. He can wear a baseball
Folks who know how much we travel sometimes ask me
why we don't get an RV. The answer, in a word: the bathroom.
(Or is that two words?) The small space and lack of fresh air
in an RV makes the presence of a bathroom so . well .
inescapable. They say you get used to it, but do I really want
to? What does it mean when we no longer notice that smell?
Nope, the way I see it, we were not meant to get used to some
Like living in a pit.
But unfortunately, we do. We can grow so accustomed to
the surroundings of our pit that we wouldn't think of moving
on without it.
Let's say for years you've been living in an old RV so small
you can't stretch your legs or stand up straight. Visualize the
clutter of too much baggage in too small a space. Imagine the
unavoidable odor of that cramped lavatory. Your clothes even
start to smell like it. Or is it your hair?
Now, imagine that you've been offered a brand-new home.
A real one on a solid foundation with big closets and wide-open
spaces. You can hardly wait to move in. Filled with anticipation,
you rev up the motor of the old RV and plow it right
into the new living room, taking out a wall or two on the way.
Ah, finally! A new place to call home! You settle back in your
RV seat, take a deep breath and poise yourself to feel something
fresh. Something different.
Then it hits you: that deep breath tasted a lot like that old
lavatory. You'd hoped for a change, but your soul sinks with
the realization that, though you're somewhere new, everything
feels and smells hauntingly familiar.
As disheartening as this realization may be, it could turn
out to be the best news you've heard all year. If it wakes you up
to the possibility that every situation you're in feels like a pit
because you're taking your pit with you, you've just learned
something you really need to know: you could quit driving
that stinking RV around. This is a glorious exception to the "If
the shoe fits, wear it" rule. Even if the steering wheel fits, you
don't have to keep gripping it.
If you figure out you're the one driving that old RV,
please understand right now that the last thing I want to do is
shame you. The only reason I recognize a mobile pit dweller is
because it takes one to know one. I just may have stumbled on
the one thing I'm an expert on: life in the pit. When it comes
to pits, I guess I've lived in every conceivable kind. I've done
the tour, trading in one model for another from childhood
well into adulthood. A pit was my ever present hell in times
of trouble. And the only reason I've got the audacity to write
this book is because I'm not there anymore. I got out because
something-Someone-worked for me. Trust me when I tell
you this: if I can get out, anybody can.
I might have kept this pit stop to myself except for something
a number of people recently told me. Several months
ago God threw me into His Word to perform a sort of analysis
of what a pit is exactly. I plopped open my trusty concordance,
looked up every occasion where the term was used, and
went to work. There in the pages of Scripture God showed me
three ways we can get into a pit and a couple of ways we can
get out. The message fell so fresh on me that in the months
that followed I delivered some form of it at three very different
gatherings. The first was a group of four thousand women
of all ages in California. The second was also a group of thousands,
but this event was comprised entirely of college girls.
The third was a very polished studio audience at a taping for
Toward the end of each message I asked the same questions.
The first: "After all you've learned biblically about a pit,
how many of you would say you've been in one?" In all three
groups, every single hand in sight shot up into the air. Not
surprising. The second question: "How many of you have
gotten into various pits all three ways I spoke about?" Almost
every single hand came up, mine included. I asked them to
close their eyes for the last question: "How many of you would
say you are in a pit right now?" To my surprise, a stunning
majority of timid hands inched up-only shoulder high, just
in case their neighbors were peeking.
So, what's the big surprise? If I were a betting woman, I'd
have wagered all three groups contained the cream of the crop
of God-seeking, Jesus-following women. Many of them have
been in Bible studies for years. Scads of them are considered
successful by their peers. Others look to them as the examples.
As for the college girls, significant numbers of them sense
God's call on their lives. Plenty are spiritual . and miserable.
I've come to the conclusion that vastly more people are
miserable than not. Far more feel defeated than victorious. If
pressed, tens of thousands would confess that "it" doesn't work
as well as they'd hoped. Masses of believers are totally bewildered-if
not in outright despair. Yep, poker faces aside, they're
in a pit. Not without cause, but absolutely, across the board,
unnecessarily. I've also come to the conclusion that some pits
are just decorated to look prettier than others. Don't let any-
body kid you, though. A pit is a pit.
That's the trouble. Too often we don't recognize a pit
when we're in one. So why would we think we need to get
out? One reason some of you nicer folks are in a pit without
realizing it is because you mistakenly characterize pits only in
terms of sin. In our Christian subculture, we think a pit of sin
is the only kind there is. But as we perform a biblical analysis
of a pit, we're going to have to think much broader than that.
We need a way to identify pits and know when we're in them.
So here goes: you can know you're in a pit when .
You feel stuck. Isaiah 42:22 says that a pit is a place where
you feel trapped. You tend to feel your only options are to
misbehave (i.e., have a kicking and screaming fit, hoping your
flailing can help you escape) or submit (i.e., consider you made
your own bed and decide to die in it). Psalm 40 adds to
the characteristics of a pit words like "slimy," "muddy," "miry."
Together these words tell us one critical thing about a pit: you
can't get yourself out.
Been there in more ways than one. Keith waited only a few
months into our marriage before trying to turn his animal-rights
wife into a hunter. He thought it wisest to start with
creatures that were furless. Feathers, he reasoned, would make
the hunt seem less personal. He dressed me for my first and
only goose hunt in the last pair of rubber boots under a size
12 at the army surplus. He realized at the checkout that they
were both right feet, but since they were a bit large he thought
they'd work just fine. Smiling ear to ear like he'd bagged a ten-point
buck, Keith plopped those black monsters right in front
of me. I looked down at the tips of two boots making the same
turn then stared at him for the longest. I told him that wherever
we were going, I hoped it was to the right.
Dawn was unmerciful. I found myself trudging behind
him way too early on a cold morning in a flooded rice field
outside of Houston. Every third step I took, one of my right
feet got stuck in the mud until finally one of them stuck so
deeply that, for the life of me, I couldn't get myself out.
"Pull, Baby! Pull!" Keith cheered.
"I'm trying!" I yelled. "They won't come up!"
Every second I stood there, I sunk another inch. When
the oozing mud began toppling into my boots, I finally did
what any self-respecting woman would do: I bawled. Exasperated,
Keith turned around and started back for me. He was
muttering something under his breath that I couldn't exactly
make out, but I was pretty sure somebody needed to wash his
mouth out. I was also pretty sure he was in no mood for it to
be me. He tugged and tugged until he pulled my stocking feet
right out of my boots. We hiked back to the car early that day,
birdless, bootless, and with me on his back. It wasn't the last
Sinking inch by inch. That's what happens in a pit. Jeremiah
knew the feeling and, mind you, he hadn't even sinned
his way into it. Jeremiah 38:6 describes his pit as a place of
sinking down. Imagine how much worse it was with sandals.
No matter what's on your feet, you can take this fact to the
spiritual bank: a pit only gets deeper. Low ground always
sinks. There's no living at maintenance level in a pit.
You'd think enough has already been said about the irony
of Christians and substandard living . even from my own
loud mouth and scrawling pen. I don't know why, but it drives
me nuts that people stay in bad places when they don't have to.
That's a big part of what makes a pit a pit. Feeling stuck.
I guess it drives me nuts to see them living in those pits
because I've been there. I was stuck quite a while myself before
I realized I didn't have to stay there. And now that I'm no
longer stuck, I want everybody else out of that trap.
You can't stand up. In Psalm 69:2, David cried out, "I sink in
deep mire, where there is no standing" (NKJV). If you're not
already convinced, it's time you accepted the biblical fact that
your soul has a very real enemy, and he is not flesh and blood.
We can't keep on ignoring someone who is systematically
trying to destroy our lives. The passivity has got to go. Ephesians
6:11 implores us, "Take your stand against the devil's
schemes." Your stand. No one can stand indefinitely for you.
If you and I are going to be victorious people, we've got to
stand with our own two feet on solid ground. Ephesians 6:13
exhorts, "Stand your ground, and after you have done everything,
One way you can know you're in a pit is that you feel ineffective
and utterly powerless against attack. You can't stand up
to assaults, trials, or temptations because your feet are in the
mud and mire. You experience what the psalmist experienced
and what I certainly experienced-you're in a place "where
there is no standing." That's why the testimony of the person
rescued from the pit paints this vivid picture of an all-new
venue: "He set my feet upon a rock and gave me a firm place to
stand" (Psalm 40:2b).
I beg you to see that your enemy has a tremendous investment
not only in digging and camouflaging a pit in your path-way
but also, should you tumble down, in convincing you to
stay there after you fall in. He knows that in his pit you will
feel powerless to stand up against him. There you are vulnerable
to him and out of his way.
To the ancient Hebrew, a pit was a literal or figurative
reference to the grave-to its threat-or to an abyss so deep
the dweller within it felt like the living dead. Been there? Me
too. Drawing from the figurative application, we'll define pit
this way: a pit is an early grave that Satan digs for you in hopes
he can bury you alive. Should you fall into it, make no mistake;
he cannot make you stay. Ironically, neither will God make
you leave. Like it or not, some things are simply up to us.
You've lost vision. Unlike that rank old RV, pit shave no windows.
Scripture paints them as places of darkness. I'm not talking
about demonic darkness, although if we go deep enough and
stay long enough, we will certainly encounter the darkness of
utter evil. I'm talking about something more basic than that.
I'm referring to the kind of darkness that simply impairs our
vision. A pit is so poorly lit we can no longer see things that
may have once been obvious to us. That's another reason we
often stay in a pit. Without windows we're convinced we have
nowhere else to go. Yes, we can always look up-goodness
knows that's the only opening we have-but we're often too
focused on our sinking feet to crane our necks to the blinding
sky. We become what the Bible calls stiff necked. The close
confinement of a pit exhausts us with the endless echo of self-absorption.
Visibility extends no further than six inches from
our noses. We can't see out, so we turn our sights in. After
a while, nearsightedness breeds hopelessness. We feel too
buried in our present state to feel passionate about a promised
Created in the image of God, we are meant to brim over
with creativity. Yes, that means you. Don't tell me you're not
the creative type. I'm not talking right-brain-versus left-brain
drivel. I'm not talking about accountant types versus actor
types. All image-bearers of God were intended to overflow
with effervescent life, stirring and spilling with God-given
vision. That's partly what the apostle Paul was talking about
when he prayed that the eyes of our hearts would be enlightened
in order that we might know the hope to which Christ
has called us (see Ephesians 1:18). The Amplified Bible calls it
"having the eyes of your heart flooded with light." That's what
you miss in the pit.