What are your “wits”? Sometimes we say that a person doesn't have his “wits” about him. Or that he is a “half-wit” or a “nit-wit.” The dictionary defines “wits” as our own understanding, intelligence, or reasoning powers. If you “come to the end of your wits,” you have reached the limits of your emotional or mental capability, you have exhausted your abilities to cope or to get yourself out of your predicament. “Wits” is our own understanding, that which we are not supposed to lean on in Proverbs 3: 5 contrasted with trusting in God for wisdom.
Similar cliches are: “having your back to the wall, being at the end of your rope, painting yourself into a corner.” There is no way out, no one to help you, and you can't deliver yourself. That's the way many people feel in this present public health challenge. We are stuck in a quagmire of powerless isolation and perplexed because there seems to be nothing we can do about anything. Personal and global matters are out of our hands and out of control. Many are about to “lose their wits.”
All of us have been at WITS' END at one time or another. Did you know there's a verse in the Bible that uses that term? “They reeled and staggered like a drunken man, and were at their WITS' END.” (Psalm 107:27) Every version of the Bible I checked translated the verse in the same way.
The dramatic scene took place on shipboard in a stormy sea. The deck of the ship was “rising up to the heavens and going down to the depths.” I almost get seasick reading that as I recall ocean voyages when I experienced such a feeling in the pit of my stomach! One is at the mercy of the storm.
The Psalmist didn't leave us in suspense in describing what happened on shipboard in the storm when they were at their WITS' END. “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distresses. He caused the storm to be still, so that the waves of the sea were hushed.” Their response? “Then they were glad because they were quiet; so He guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness, and for His wonders to the sons of men!” (107:28-31)
Why do we always seem to wait so long before we call on the Lord in our WITS' END situations? We wait until we get into emergencies, exhaust our human resources, then we panic. We struggle to get ourselves out. If that doesn't work, the next thing we do is call on other people. Our first call should be to God. WITS' END is not the place God prepared for us to live.
You could say that WITS' END is a bad neighborhood! Don’t build your house there. Too much traffic—people always running back and forth down Panic Street, which is a Dead End. Some people choose to live there permanently, alarms are going off all the time in their lives. Others visit regularly and often. Don't count on your neighbors to rescue you in an emergency, if you live at WITS’ END. Other people are too engrossed in their own anxieties and fears. The friendly “Trust Police” are available 24/7 to patrol that neighborhood, but no one seems to call them.
A similar storm incident in the life of Jesus is recorded in Luke chapter eight. Jesus was sound asleep in the middle of the lake in a boat His disciples, experienced navigators, were sailing. Jesus, being both God and man, on his human side was exhausted from ministry to crowds of people. A storm suddenly arose. The disciples were at their WITS' END crying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!”
Did they really think God the Father would let His beloved Son Jesus drown and all His friends with Him? Jesus rebuked the wind to be still and rebuked the disciples for their lack of faith. Jesus didn't disappoint them when they were at their WITS' END. Here too, “They were glad because they were quiet; so He guided them to their desired haven.”
How many times in our lives have we been at our WITS' END? Perhaps we are visiting that neighborhood right now in this pandemic? We don't know which way the deadly virus will strike next.
God has always been faithful, hasn't He? He saw us through personal and national crises before. He will do the same for us today. He may not rescue us in exactly the way we think He should, but He will calm our storm. Let's trust His perfect plan. He will turn what the enemy meant for our harm into the greater good. Meanwhile, the Lord will give us peace on the inside, although the storm may continue to rage on the outside for awhile yet.
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