My Rope out of the Pit
The Word I Needed in My Worst Days
Article by Vaneetha Rendall Risner
I discovered the power of God’s word in the pit of despair.
When I was abandoned by my former spouse, I fell headlong into the pit. It was as if I had been caught up in a whirlwind — one that picked me up from my happy, secure life and threw me into a dark well. For days, I sat there, alone, wondering if I had the strength to go on — or if I even wanted to. There was no light; everything in front of me was so black I couldn’t see. I couldn’t imagine living like this forever. I gave up on the idea of ever being happy again.
“God’s word became more precious to me in suffering and has given me joy in my darkest days.”
Before my whirlwind, I’d been reading Psalm 119. I appreciated what it said, but thought it was long, boring, and awfully repetitive. My attitude changed in the pit. The words now felt like cardboard on good days, hollow promises on average days, and cruel taunts on bad ones. I had sought the Lord’s testimonies and been faithful to his word, and yet I was being put to shame (Psalm 119:2, 6). I wondered if God’s promises were true, or if they would fail me as everything else in my life had.
My Soul Clings to Dust
With nowhere else to turn, I kept reading and rereading Psalm 119, looking for hope and light. I remember when I found it.
I was sobbing, looking for relief, when I read, “My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word” (Psalm 119:25). These words suddenly took on new meaning. I prayed them, asking God to give me life through his word, because I felt wrung out beyond my strength. I wondered if anything could revive me.
I started listing all the benefits of God’s word from Psalm 119, noticing nuances that I had skimmed over before. These were promises I could cling to, assurances that God would speak through his word to teach me, comfort me, and direct me. From then on, I didn’t just read the psalm; I studied it, highlighted it, meditated on it, and memorized sections of it. I would repeat verses to God during the day, and pray them as I awoke at night.
Words I Needed
Psalm 119 assured me that everything I needed could be found in Scripture. Each morning, before I had even read a word, I prayed, “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law” (Psalm 119:18 NIV). I needed words to express my grief, and found them in David’s questions: “My eyes long for your promise; I ask, ‘When will you comfort me?’ . . . How long must your servant endure? When will you judge those who persecute me?” (Psalm 119:82, 84).
“I wondered if God’s promises were true, or if they would fail me as everything else in my life had.”
God heard my cries and assured me that his word would give me wisdom (Psalm 119:66), and then direction as it lit my path (Psalm 119:105). It gave me hope (Psalm 119:49), and it comforted me in my pain (Psalm 119:50). I felt the Lord’s steadfast love (Psalm 119:76), as he strengthened me (Psalm 119:28) and filled me with joy and peace that could withstand my grief (Psalm 119:111, 165).
Without God’s word to remind me of truth, I would have felt hopeless. But since I knew that in faithfulness God had afflicted me (Psalm 119:75), I believed that he would bring good out of my pain.
My Only Constant
Each day, God led me to exactly what I needed. I had always known Jeremiah 29:11 (“I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope”), but I hadn’t realized those words were written to a people in exile, caught in a place they didn’t want to live. The discouragement they experienced mirrored my own.
I had heard people ask God to clearly say, “This is the way, walk in it,” but I had not noticed that in Isaiah 30, affliction and adversity preceded clear direction from the Lord. The prophet says, “Though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left” (Isaiah 30:20–21).
I felt hopeless and wondered if change were even possible, and then I read that the Lord “gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist” (Romans 4:17). In my desperation, I was reading Scripture with new eyes. I now expected to find everything I really needed for the day in God’s word, and I looked until I found it. I was the persistent widow — the merchant looking for pearls.
From then on, I approached my devotional time with anticipation. God himself was going to meet me. God was going to teach me. God was going to comfort me. His word became my only constant, an immovable rock that I could stand on when most of my life felt like shifting sand.
My Rope out of the Pit
Not only did I find what I needed to survive each day; I also found bedrock truths that undergirded what I was learning. These truths illuminated the bigger picture of who God was and how he was working in my life. Slowly, I gained perspective and realized my day-to-day needs were not all God was providing for.
“God’s word became an immovable rock that I could stand on when most of my life felt like shifting sand.”
As I picked up the daily threads of Scripture that God gave me, I saw how they were interrelated and twisted together to form a sturdy rope. It was that rope that pulled me out of the pit. That rope assured me that my trials and struggles had a glorious purpose and end.
By faith I believed that all things were working together for my good, and God was completely for me. He who did not spare his own Son was graciously giving me his best in everything (Romans 8:28–32).
God’s word became more precious to me in suffering and has given me joy in my darkest days. As Jeremiah can attest, even as he laments his misfortune, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart” (Jeremiah 15:16). Even in our affliction, or perhaps especially in our affliction, God’s unchanging word will uphold and guide us so we can take comfort that “the grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:8).
Vaneetha Rendall Risner is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Desiring God, who blogs at danceintherain.com. She is married to Joel and has two daughters, Katie and Kristi. She and Joel live in Raleigh, North Carolina. Vaneetha is the author of the book The Scars That Have Shaped Me: How God Meets Us in Suffering.