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What to Do When You Are in the Pit

Psalm 40

These are very difficult and challenging times, but this should not come as a surprise to those who believe in Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour. In fact, Jesus told His disciples to expect trials. He begins John 16 by stating (John 16:1, 2), “All this I have told you so that you will not go astray. They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a sacrifice to God.” He ends that chapter in a similar vein (16:33), “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

But despite these words and many other similar Scriptures (John 15:18; Acts 14:22; 1 Thess. 3:3-4; 2 Tim. 3:12), many who profess to know Christ stumble and fall away when they get hit with various trials. If you’re going to persevere with Christ, you must know in advance that you will face times when you are in the pit, and you must know what to do when you’re there. Rather than turning away from the Lord, you must learn to turn to Him to rescue you from life’s pits.

Psalm 40 is a song about the pits. It falls into two sections. In the first half (40:1-10), David tells how God got him out of one pit and he sings God’s praise for doing so. But he did not then live happily ever after. Rather, it is evident from the second half of the psalm (40:11-17) that he is in another pit, crying out to the Lord to deliver him from this one. Because David waited patiently on the Lord to rescue him from the first pit, he knew how to wait on the Lord to get him out of the second pit. So, it’s a psalm about what to do when you’re in the pit.


Before we look at David’s plan for getting out of a pit and his example of what to do when the Lord rescues you, we want to consider what we mean by “the Pit.” The literal meaning of “pit” is “a large hole in the ground.” In the Bible, pits were used to catch wild animals (Ezek. 19:1-8) or to collect water for drinking (“cisterns,” Deut. 6:11). Sometimes they were used as dungeons or prisons (Gen. 37:24; Exod. 12:29; Jer. 38:6). Very often, however, “pit” is used figuratively. This is the sense in which it is used in Psalm 40 since there is no record of David ever being put in a literal pit.

When looked at in this way, One, the pit could be any of a number of life’s trials. David does not specify exactly what the trials of the first pit entailed. The second pit clearly involved the consequences of David’s sins (40:12) and many enemies that were trying to destroy him (40:14-15). But he doesn’t exactly say what the first pit was, except to describe it as a “pit of destruction” and “the miry clay” (40:2). Some think that it was David’s enemies, while others think that it could have been physical illness or some deep emotional distress. Perhaps as with Paul’s “thorn in the flesh,” we are not told so that we can relate all of our trials to David’s situation.

If you have not yet cried out to God to save you from judgment and eternal punishment for your sins, then you are in a deep pit with no human way out. You may not feel like you’re in that pit. You may feel as if life is going reasonably well. But Paul describes your future this way (2 Thess. 1:7b-9), “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with His powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of His power.” It’s the worst of all pits to be in! Your pit could be poor health, the loss of your job, economic hardship, former friends that turned against you, an unfaithful spouse, rebellious children, or any other overwhelming problem. You may be responsible for being in your pit, or you may be a victim of the sins of others. David’s situation in the second pit seems to have been a combination of both. He acknowledges his many sins, which have overtaken him like a fog, so that he can’t see his way clear (40:12). But, he also mentions wicked people who were wrongly intent on destroying him (40:14).

Two, when you’re in the pit, you’ll be tempted to seek help from the proud or false gods in order to get out of the pit. In verse 4, David writes, “Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not look to the proud, to those who turn aside to false gods.” When you’re in a pit, it’s very easy to grab onto any seeming way of escape, even if it means compromising your faith. You may be tempted to put your trust in those who depend on their own ingenuity and effort to get out of any crisis. Or, you may be tempted to look to false gods like money, sex, and power to get you out of the pit.


King Asa was a classic example of a good man who fell into this trap. He was a good king who instituted many reforms in Judah. When a million-man Ethiopian army invaded Judah, Asa called out to God and affirmed his trust in God alone to deliver them (2 Chron. 14:2-12). But many years later, after a long reign that God had blessed when the king of Israel came up against him, Asa sent tribute to the king of Syria and enlisted his help against the enemy. Interestingly, his ploy worked. The king of Israel had to abandon his invasion of Judah to defend his northern flank. But, Hanani the prophet rebuked Asa for relying on the king of Syria instead of relying on the Lord (2 Chron. 16:7-9). In his final days, Asa was afflicted with a disease in his feet. But 2 Chronicles 16:12 reports, “even in his illness he did not seek help from the LORD, but only from the physicians.” It’s not that it’s wrong to go to doctors, but it is wrong to trust in doctors if your primary trust is not in the Lord.

The lesson is that it is always wrong to trust in anything or anyone other than the Lord to get out of your pit, even if it works. What, then, is David’s plan for getting out of the pit? When you’re in the pit, wait patiently on the Lord. David says (Ps. 40:1), “I waited patiently for the Lord; and He turned to me and heard my cry.” Waiting on the Lord is a common theme in Scripture. For example, Psalm 37:7: “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways when they carry out their wicked schemes.” Again, Psalm 37:9: “For evildoers will be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord, they will inherit the land.” And again, Psalm 37:34: “Wait for the Lord and keep His way, He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are cut off, you will see it.”

But what does it mean to “wait” on the Lord? Our psalm gives us at least seven clues: One, waiting on the LORD is intently active, not passive (40:1). It’s not a passive kind of waiting, like you do at the doctor’s office when you watch the TV in the reception area to pass the time. Rather, your situation in the pit tunes your heart to the Lord and you wait expectantly as you hope for God’s promises to be fulfilled on your behalf. Two, waiting on the LORD means to cry out to him for deliverance (40:1, 13, 17). When you’re in a pit, you feel a sense of urgency to get out and this makes you to cry out to God. In verse 1, David mentions his cry, which may have been as simple as, “Help, Lord!” In verse 13, he directly cries out, “Be pleased, O LORD, to save me; O LORD, come quickly to help me.” In verse 17, he repeats, “You are my help and my deliverer; O my God, do not delay.” One reason we often do not cry out to God for deliverance is that we do not see ourselves as afflicted and needy. This is especially true in the case of those who do not see their own need for salvation from God’s judgment.

Three, waiting on the LORD means trusting Him alone (40:3, 4, 11). Waiting on the Lord means making the LORD your only hope for deliverance. In verse 3, David expresses his hope that because of his testimony of waiting on the Lord, others will also come to trust in Him. In verse 4, he mentions how blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust.


Four, waiting on the LORD means recounting His many wonders and His providential care (40:5). When you are waiting on the Lord, you have to direct your mind to think about the right things. If you think, “Oh no, God has abandoned me! I’m doomed!” you will either panic or turn to the world for help. But if you think about God’s many wonders and how He has worked in the past to deliver His people, you will wait with expectant hope in Him. As David waits on the Lord, he thinks about who God is and what He has done. He says (v. 5), “Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders You have done. The things You have planned for us no one can recount to You; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare.” Maybe David was thinking about the wonders of creation (see Ps. 104). God established the earth so that it is hospitable for us to live here. David also was probably thinking about God’s many wonderful acts of delivering His people from trouble. He brought them out of Egypt; He preserved them in the wilderness; and He enabled them to conquer the powerful Canaanite nations and occupy the Promised Land. On a personal level, David had seen God deliver him from the bear and the lion, not to mention from Goliath and from Saul’s repeated attempts to kill him. If you have known the Lord for any length of time, you can think back to many times when you were brought low, and the Lord delivered you. So, as you wait on Him now in whatever pit you may be in, recount His many wonders and His kind thoughts toward you. Truly, there is none to compare with Him!

Five, waiting on the LORD means obeying Him (40:6-8). “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but my ears You have pierced; burnt offerings and sin offerings You did not require. Then I said, ‘Here I am, I have come— it is written about Me in the scroll. I desire to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart.’” In these three verses, David is affirming what Samuel told the disobedient King Saul (1 Sam. 15:22), “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.” The author of Hebrews also applies these verses to Jesus (Heb. 10:5-7). But the idea here is that God opened the ear of His servant so that he would be obedient to His Word, which was in David’s heart. Applied to Jesus, that obedience was unto the cross (see Isa. 50:5-7). The application for us is that when we’re in a pit, we must focus on continuing to obey the Lord, even if He does not deliver us quickly. The devil will tempt us to give up trusting in the Lord and to seek fulfilment in other ways. He will whisper, “God isn’t meeting your needs. If you want to get a wife/husband, why keep waiting on the Lord? Look at all these nice, available non-Christians who could meet your needs!” Don’t listen to him. Keep obeying God’s Word as you wait.

Six, waiting on the LORD means seeking Him (40:16). “But may all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You; may those who love Your salvation always say, “The LORD be exalted!” In this context, seeking the Lord is a synonym for crying out to Him in expectant prayer. If you’re seeking the Lord and not just deliverance from your pit, you won’t forget about God after He delivers you. Sadly, many only want to “use” God to get what they want. But David’s reason for waiting on the LORD and seeking Him is so that He will be magnified or glorified.

Seven, waiting on the LORD means rejoicing in Him (40:16). No doubt, David was rejoicing and glad about his deliverance when it came, but he makes the point here that his joy is not just in the deliverance, but in the Lord who delivers. It means finding God as our eternal treasure so that we rejoice in all that He is, as well as in all that He does for us. So, when you’re in the pit, wait patiently on the Lord. Don’t turn to the world for answers. Turn to the Lord. Waiting on Him means crying out to Him; trusting Him; recounting His many wonders; obeying Him; seeking Him; and rejoicing in Him.


Next, what are you to do when the Lord rescues you from the pit? David says that you are to proclaim His goodness. David emphasizes this theme throughout this psalm. In verse 3 he says, “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD.” In verse 5, he extols God for His many wonders and His thoughts towards us. In verses 9 and 10, he again affirms, “I have proclaimed glad tidings of righteousness in the great congregation; behold, I will not restrain my lips, O Lord, you know. I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart; I have spoken of Your faithfulness and Your salvation; I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth from the great congregation.” David wants everyone to know that he was helpless in a pit of destruction, sinking into the slimy mud. He never could have rescued himself. All he did was cry out to God and wait expectedly for God to deliver him. And when God did rescue him, David made sure that God got all the praise. As Christians, we have cried out to the Lord to save us from the pit of destruction. We were sinking into the slimy pit of our sins with no way out. But God sent His Son to offer Himself obediently on the cross on our behalf (as Ps. 40:6-8 predicts). Since He has delivered us, we are to magnify the Lord and His great salvation to a world that shrugs Him off, while they waste their lives pursuing fame, riches, position, and power— things that will perish at their deaths. We should also wait patiently for God to rescue us from other trials so that when we tell others about how He rescued us from them, they will join us in saying continually, “The LORD be exalted!”

If you want to give your life to Jesus Christ, you may offer this prayer to God: “Dear God, I thank you for sending Jesus to die for my sins. I am sorry for my sins and repent of them all. I invite Jesus into my life right now to be my Lord and Saviour. Thank you for saving me. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen”

Your eternal salvation and spiritual well-being are our concerns. If you prayed to accept Jesus Christ into your life as your personal Lord and Saviour, please write to let us know at the address below. You may also join us to worship God in the Yoruba language at 7.30 a.m. or in the English language at 9 a.m. every Sunday.

Good New Baptist Church,
47/49, Olufemi Road,
off Ogunlana Drive,
Surulere, Lagos.

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