Pain often comes without prelude.
This is certainly true for most of us suffering from the effects of COVID-19. This pandemic is the greatest “pit” many have ever experienced, and it comes with great losses – loss of a loved one, loss of a job, loss of freedom or loss of security.
But this won’t be the last pit of life we face. Right now, COVID-19 is our collective pit, but pits come in all shapes and sizes – divorce, abuse, addiction, self-violence, depression, bankruptcy, death, poverty and more.
Jesus assured us that we will have trouble in this world. I know that I feel like I’ve had my fair share, and I realize that my trials are a breeze in comparison to some. But still, if we are to have trouble, I find it more freeing to know as much as we can about those pits before we fall into them. Just as God instructed us to be ever watchful for Satan’s evil tactics, I think it is prudent to learn about life’s pits.
There are four distinct reasons we land in a pit:
1. Sometimes, we land in a pit because of our poor choices.
We are the sum of the collective decisions we make each day. Even though it’s common in today’s society to transfer personal responsibility and find another place or person to assign blame, God says we will reap what we sow.
It’s unfair for us to blame God for the poor decisions we have made. A person who has spent 25 years as an alcoholic has no right to blame God for liver failure any more than a person who commits robbery has the right to blame God for being incarcerated. While we are busy asking God why He allows so much suffering in the world, it just might be that He would ask us the exact same question.
2. Sometimes, we land in a pit because of the choices of others.
Unfortunately, there are times when we are the collateral damage inflicted by the wicked decisions of others. This is one of the most difficult pits to endure and of which to make sense.
It may be a spouse’s affair, a mother’s neglect, a father’s abuse or a friend’s betrayal. Even more perplexing may be a senseless murder, a loved one killed by a drunk driver, someone sexually assaulted, genocide or terrorism.
At all times, but especially when in these particular pits, we must remember that God has chosen to give man a free will, which enables him to choose between right and wrong, good and evil, himself or Satan.
God’s design of free will is the consummate example of true love and provides us the opportunity to reject or receive Him, to do good to others or to do them harm.
3. Sometimes, we land in a pit because of Satan’s attacks.
The Bible tells us that Satan is both the master of murder and the lord of lies who is incapable of speaking even a syllable of truth. Satan never sleeps and constantly works to counteract every good plan and intention of God. He is repulsed by true believers and as their stand for Christ increases, so does his vile schemes to destroy them or put them on the shelf. When he brings an assault, God will use Satan’s attacks against Satan himself.
Scripture tells us that Satan prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. The implication is that he may devour some, but not at all. Perhaps this is why Jesus told us to not even give the Devil a foothold; when we allow ourselves to succumb to temptation, when we don’t resist self-pity and look to ourselves instead of the Lord, we make a way for Satan who may devour us.
When the Devil’s fiery darts continually attack us, it can wear us down, and draw us into a deep pit, but only if we allow it. The Lord is our ever-present help in times of trouble. Therefore, we do not have to be fully dragged down, but in the dark moments can let God lift us up as on eagle’s wings.
4. Sometimes, we land in a pit because God placed us there.
God allowed His Son to be placed in several different pits, including one in the shape of a cross. This pit was a painful act of obedience on the part of our Savior, but it was a necessary step in the redemption arc.
Sometimes, God places us in a pit as a form of discipline. But at other times, pits train, equip or prepare us, making a way for something better just as Jesus’ death on the cross did. I always think of these kinds of pits when I read the story of Joseph. At the start of his journey, he was thrown into a literal pit by his jealous older brothers. While he worked as an Egyptian slave for the next several years, I’m sure he felt as if his pain would never end. But our faithful God used that pit to prepare Joseph for the greater path He had for Him, which was to serve as an authority in the land of Egypt, and eventually help facilitate redemption among his family.
Still, when we find ourselves in a pit, we often run away from God because we are hurt, angry or letdown that He didn’t live up to our improper expectations. Pits are an inescapable part of life, and often God’s way of getting our attention. They will either push you into God or away from Him. That is our choice.
Perhaps COVID-19 has left you with questions: Is God disengaged in heaven’s bleachers, oblivious to our fear and danger? Does God have a plan? Will He give answers, provide deliverance or is tragedy void of meaning and purpose?
I don’t know the reason for this present pandemic pit, but I know one thing is certain: The Lord is true to his promise that He never leaves nor forsake us, and He is our ever-present help in times of trouble.
It is often through misery that we draw closest to Christ and come to know and understand Him in depths otherwise not possible. But as weary humans, we want strength without struggle and a crown without a crucifixion.
In the midst of the pit, in the middle of the pandemic, in the center of the storm, God is not finished with us:
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:19, NIV).
Jay Lowder is an evangelist and founder of Jay Lowder Harvest Ministries. He is also the producer of “The Darkest Hour” television program and author of “Midnight in Aisle 7.”