Sometimes, life is the pits. The Christian is not exempt from suffering and trials in this life. In fact, sometimes God’s people endure things non-Christians don’t even endure. A couple days ago, I read through Psalm 10 with my family at breakfast. Here are a couple verses:
- (v.1) “Why, O LORD, do You stand far away? Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble?”
- (v.5) “[The wicked’s] ways prosper at all times.”
I told my family that the Bible is just plain real; it’s honest about life in this fallen world. Maybe this raises other questions for you about God’s goodness or power, but we’ll tackle that some other time. (If you are really curious about, that leave a comment below letting me know.)
So, what do we do when life is the pits?
AS CHRISTIANS, WE NEED TO EMBRACE T.H.E. P.I.T.S.
T. Take Time to Read, Memorize, and Meditate on Your Bible
We need to be sure we are spending time reading, memorizing, and meditating on our Bibles. I am sure many of you have a quiet time. However, when life gets hard, it’s easy to let this special time slide. We must resist that temptation. I’d also say that we need not merely to read our Bibles. One of the psalmists wrote, “I have stored up Your Word in my heart” (Psalm 119:11). A little later he wrote, “I will meditate on Your precepts” (v. 15). Psalm 1 tells us that the person is blessed who delights “in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night” (v. 2).
If we read our Bibles in a rushed manner, while focusing mainly on our problems, this is not going to help us. When I memorize Scripture, I find I have to slow down to process what it is saying; I have to focus on the portion of the Bible I am memorizing, or I simply won’t be able to memorize it. I struggle more with memorizing the Bible when I have many things on my mind.
Of course, meditation on Scripture by definition means it is our sole focus.
H. Ensure a Healthy Diet
Whether it’s depression or a stressful situation, we need to be sure we are consuming a healthy diet. Most of us don’t appreciate how much the foods and drinks we consume impact us, especially the foods to which we most naturally turn when life is hard. When our bodies are impacted negatively, it can have a significant impact on us spiritually as well. We are psycho-somatic beings; we are body and soul, and the two impact each other.
It is natural, given the relationship between body and soul, that getting exercise is important as well. There are many benefits to regular exercise. Here’s an article by the Mayo Clinic listing seven of them. Two of the benefits they list are improved mood and better sleep. Both are critical when we are in a rough patch.
As we move on, each of the letters of “P.I.T.S.” have to do with different aspects of prayer, though they extend beyond prayer to other actions as well. This part of the acronym also roughly corresponds to the more familiar acronym “A.C.T.S.” (For those who aren’t familiar with this acronym, it stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication.)
P. Praise God
When we pray, especially when life is the pits, we need to begin by praising God. Take the time to meditate in your prayers on Who God is. Later we will thank Him for what He has done and is doing. But, for now, take time worshipping God. For example: “I praise You, Lord, for You do not change. I can always count on You. Because You do not change, Your love for me cannot change. Therefore, though it doesn’t feel like it right now, I praise You, because Your love is unchanging. As it says in the Bible: ‘Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, Who does not change like shifting shadows’ (James 1:17).” Be specific in your praise of God. If you don’t know how to describe God (His attributes, which He has given to us in the Bible), the Westminster Shorter Catechism, question and answer 4, is a good place to start. You can find it here. But, notice, I included Scripture in the sample prayer. That’s always a safe place to turn for guidance in prayer.
(Let me also say quickly, what I am writing here is not law. If you mix praise with thanksgiving at this point, it really doesn’t matter. In fact, as I began writing the first draft of the previous paragraph, I realized I had quickly moved from praise to thanksgiving. It’s easy to do. Whether you begin with praise or thanksgiving, or some mixture of the two, you are beginning your prayers by focusing on God and His goodness and love toward you. That is what matters.)
However, praising God is not something we do just in our prayer life. We do so, more foundationally, when we gather with our brothers and sisters to worship God. As much as we do not need to neglect our quiet times, the Bible commands us not to forsake the gathering together with one another (Hebrews 10:24-25). This gathering is not limited to corporate worship on Sunday, though it is critical to make that a priority. It also includes small groups, meeting a brother or sister for coffee, etc. We can also praise God in our speech with those we encounter throughout the day. When I used to ask my grandfather how he was, he always responded with “Praise God.” It was a carry-over from the typical Arabic greeting (my grandfather was a Lebanese Christian, as was my other family from the area.) This may seem small, but it is a place to begin. What other ways can you simply work praise into your speech and conversation with people?
We begin our prayers by focusing on the God Who is worthy of all our praise, Who sits enthroned in majesty in heaven. But before we move onto ourselves, we can intercede for others. Intercession is important and helpful during those rough times, because we cannot intercede on others in any specific way if we are only thinking about ourselves. We have to get to know others and care for them in order to intercede for them. Furthermore, as we do so, we are reminded that we are not alone in our struggles. Maybe as we ask others how we can pray for them, they will ask the same of us, and we can bear one another’s burdens. So, intercession means that we pray for others, and partly how we do so is to ask others how we can be praying for them, or just listening to them as they talk about what’s going on with them. We can also pray more broadly for the needs of the world and the broader church, especially the persecuted church.
There is another facet to intercession. We are also reminded that Christ is interceding for us. “Christ Jesus, Who died – more than that, Who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (Romans 8:34). Actually, all of Romans 8 is a great place to turn when life is hard. But, here I just want to remind you that Christ knows you intimately, knows every detail of what is going on with you, and is not ignoring your situation. He is constantly interceding for you, even as we confess our sins to the Father. And if the Father is going to hear anyone’s prayers, it must be the Son’s prayers.
T. Thank God
After we’ve praised God and interceded on behalf of others, we can thank God for all He has done for us, is doing for us, will do for us, and for hearing our prayers, whether for ourselves or for others in our intercession. Again, like in our praise and intercession, let’s be specific. Depending on where you are, thinking of specific things may take time. Take that necessary time. When we make the attempt to think of specific reasons to thank God, the list grows quite long. If you cannot think of anything for which to thank God in your current circumstances, then I would suggest you might be struggling with bitterness. Repent of this, and ask God to help your heart soften toward Him. He is always loving, good, kind, slow to anger, etc. toward us, and therefore the problem does not lie with Him. In His love, goodness, kindness, patience, etc., He will help you. (See Exodus 34:6-7 for these attributes, along with others, all of which God uses to describe Himself to Moses.)
S. Bring all your supplications to God
Finally, once we have praised God specifically, brought specific intercessions to Him on behalf of others, thanked Him for the specific ways He has and is demonstrating His love, goodness, kindness, etc. toward us, it’s time to bring our supplications to God.
We are not saving this part til last because the Bible frowns on us bothering God with our requests. “Cast all your anxieties on Him, since He is concerned for you” (1 Peter 5:7). All of your anxieties. There is none too small to escape His loving, compassionate gaze, and there is none too large for His wisdom, provision, and power. And, just like with our praises, intercessions, and thanksgivings, we need to be specific with our supplications. This is an act of faith.
The reason we wait until this point under normal circumstances to bring our supplications is to turn our hearts toward God and others first. By praising Him, we are reminded that He has all this under control, and He is intending it for our good (Romans 8:28). By thanking Him for specific things, we are reminded that He truly does care for us. In all of this, our circumstances should begin to shrink in comparison to His majesty, and our confidence in His willingness and ability to hear and answer us should grow.
This post is intended to give you practical steps to take when life gets hard. It is not intended to present a quasi-stoic response to the difficult things in life. It is not intended to suggest we should never grieve. Christians must grieve at the proper time, and we must remember that Christ grieves with us. We must also remember that we are not immune to medical ailments and conditions – like depression – that need medical treatment. I am not qualified to offer you medical advice, and if you think you are depressed, or suffering some other medical issue, I would encourage you to seek your doctor’s advice. Nonetheless, there is a spiritual component to our suffering, and that is what I’m addressing here – how do we re-orient our spiritual side toward praising God when we encounter hard times?
Because, sometimes life is the pits for God’s people. When it is, will you embrace and practice T.H.E. P.I.T.S.?