At My Wit’s End

Two years ago, I had the worst school year of my career.  Like I-am-ready-to-find-a-new-career kind of year. If you follow me, you probably remember hearing about it.  

The year progressed horribly for a host of reasons that probably can’t be blamed on one person or situation. I probably even carry some of the blame for its wretchedness, but just to paint the picture – I taught one too many students who could not be reasoned with and I felt totally unsupported.  I remember wondering if this year was so horrible because God wanted to prepare me to leave the profession. I would never have wanted to leave on any other terms. I thought God was burning that bridge for me, so to speak. I prayed and cried out to God for another career. I was at my wit’s end.

Then something in the water changed, maybe even something in the Spirit.  God calmed me and helped me see a little clearer. The next school year offered hope that I had not felt in awhile, and being I had not found another career, I was determined to make this past school year my best.  I spent the summer in prayer and in Bible study. I even prepared videos and scripture to help other teachers prepare for the school year. I was confident. I was ready.

(Insert foreshadowing laugh here.  Everyone on the outside looking in could probably see what was going to happen – everyone but me.)

I began the school year…okay.  And I had another prep (teacher talk for class to prepare for) added – no problem, I can handle it.  Oh, and it involves reading several novels you haven’t read in ages… okay, I can do it. And a third prep toppled onto my plate, but it was one I taught before, so yep, I am still good.  I can do this. Well, of course, that means I have half of my normal planning time, with at least two meetings a week that will take all of my planning. Still, cool, I am up for the challenge.  And by the way, my longtime co-worker has to take a leave of absence – unexpectedly. Of course I can take care of sub plans… I am called by Christ to serve. I would be happy to do it.

Oh gosh… The list just seemed to go on an on, each day bringing a new challenge.  I brought work home like I haven’t done since my first year teaching. Despite all my spiritual preparation, I found myself at my wits end AGAIN!

I remember on the way home from work one day, just crying out to the Lord.  Why, God? Why?  I thought we had this worked out? I thought this year was going to be better?  Why does teaching have to be so hard?

My questions didn’t linger in the air even a second before the Spirit piped up and laid it on my heart ever so clearly.  

It has to be hard because otherwise you think you don’t need me.  

Well then, just tell me whatcha think, why don’t ya?!?

And He did.  

And He was right.  

Fast forward six months or so, I am trucking along just fine.  I am in the middle of studying Psalm 107 through Lauren Chandler’s Steadfast Love Bible Study.  Verse 27 says, They reeled and staggered like drunkards; they were at their wits’ end, referring to the sailors caught in the storm on the sea.  

As I read that verse, I instantly flashed back to numerous occasions where I was at my wit’s end. Scary stuff, right there.  So, in the margin of my book, next to verse 27, I wrote – I never want to be there again.

But before I even put the period in its place, the Holy Spirit cleared His throat.

Okay, whatcha got for me now?

And He so graciously let me have it again. You know, you never really surrender to me until you are at your wits end.  You always try to do it on your own, sometimes even with a little Bible Study and prayer mixed in,  until you hit rock bottom. You can be as hard-headed as the bottom you have to hit.

I didn’t actually hear the Spirit say that last part, but I can imagine Him thinking it.  Probably because He is right.

I so quickly forgot Christ’s conversation earlier where He reminded me that difficult moments keep me close.  Here I am again, praying to ward off anything that troubles me. But the Spirit explained,

At our wit’s end is where He needs all of us.

See, the literal definition of being at our wit’s end, is just that.  We are at the end of our wits, at the end of our emotional and mental capabilities. When we reach the end of us, then we are ready to allow God to handle a situation.

The problem becomes the back and to.  We reach our wit’s end and turn to God.  He shows us just how He can handle the situation, things begin to calm down, and we take control right back from Him.  

Oh, I got this, God.  I don’t need your help here.  This one is a simple one.

Instead, I think He just shakes his head, thinking here we go again. Rather than taking control back from God when we think we got it, we need to daily surrender, through the easy times and through the tough times too.  There should not be a moment where we give our situation to God because we are at our wit’s end. We should realize from the beginning that all situations – big and small – are best handled through God.

See if you look back at Psalm 107, there are several examples of people who set out to do it their way, independent of God, and they all end up the same way – at their wit’s end and crying out to Him.

Some wander around lost, with nowhere to settle down.

Some find themselves imprisoned.

Some lose direction in foolish thinking.

And some are trapped in a storm.  

But all end up crying out to Him – to God.

Each time we try to accomplish something by our own capabilities, we end up in the same place, at our wit’s end and crying out to God.  

Instead, if from the beginning, we realize that our wit’s are really no match for God’s.  If you take what we know and compare it to God’s omniscience, then by comparison, we are always at our wit’s end.  We know nothing compared to God.

Now, this is not meant to be a degrading message about how dumb we are… But this message should remind us where we stand.  We stand in the hand of God. And when we recognize that we are in His hand, then we can recognize that we never have to do it our way.  

We can begin at the end.  We can begin at the end of our wits and start at the beginning of God’s omniscience. When we learn to live at our wit’s end and the beginning of God’s wisdom, then we save ourselves from the wandering, the imprisonment, the foolish ways, and the storm – at least the ones that are of our own making.

This reminds me of that quote that says, “If at first you don’t succeed, try doing it the way your mama told you to do it from the start.” It could easily say, “if at first you don’t succeed, try doing it the way God told you to do from the start.”  

So begin each day at the end, your wit’s end.  Begin each day, each situation, each decision acknowledging that you just don’t know.  It’s okay not to know. We know the one who knows it all. And if we begin by recognizing what we don’t know, then we also get to begin with the one who knows it all.  We don’t have to suffer through on our own until we are at our wit’s end.

We can choose to begin right there.

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