A Place Called Wits' End!
By David Wilkerson
April 24, 1995
that go down
to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters;
these see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the
deep. For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind,
which lifteth up the waves thereof.
"They mount up to the heaven, they
go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because
of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a
drunken man, and are at their wit's end" (Psalm
In this psalm, the place called
"wit's end" is on a ship's deck in a
storm-tossed sea. Giant waves carry the ship up to the
heavens, then drop it down to the depths. Powerful winds
toss it back and forth so that none of the sailors can
find their "sea legs." They stagger across the
deck like drunken men.
The ship's sails are tattered and ripped,
and wave after powerful wave crashes onto the deck. The
sailors have to struggle just to hold on. It looks like
it's all over for them, and they're in total despair.
They are helpless - vulnerable to the power of the
elements, unable to stop the storm, powerless to save
These sailors have come to a place called
"wit's end." It is a condition that afflicts
all Christians at one time or another. This phrase means
simply, "having lost or exhausted any possibility of
perceiving or thinking of a way out." In short, it
is the end of all human ability and resources. There is
no escape - no help, no deliverance, other than in God
Perhaps You Have Already Arrived at
Like the sailors aboard the ship, you
have simply been going about your business, moving on in
your walk with Jesus. Then one day, out of nowhere, a
storm hit - and waves of trouble came crashing down on
you from all sides!
Life's troubles seldom come one at a
time. They're like the waves in a storm - coming one
after another, fast and furious, mounting higher and
higher. It's as if the sun has gone down, the air has
turned cold and icy, and the winds of trouble have begun
beating down. Like the sailors in Psalm 107, your
"...soul is melted because of trouble..."
(verse 26). (The Hebrew word for melted here means
"fainting with fear.")
I must note: God Himself has initiated
this storm! "...For he commandeth, and raiseth the
stormy wind..." (verse 25). He's the One who brought
the sailors to this place. He's the One raising the wind,
stirring up the waves, tossing the ship. It is all His
Yet this can be a great encouragement to
our faith whenever troubles hit us from all sides. We
have the knowledge that all troubles and storms in life
have been ordained by God, for those who walk in
righteousness. They aren't caused by the devil or some
particular sin. Rather, the Lord has brought us to wit's
end - and He has a purpose in it all!
"Beloved, think it not strange
concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though
some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice,
inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings;
that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad
also with exceeding joy" (1 Peter 4:12).
God is not surprised by your ordeal. In
fact, it is happening because He wants to produce
something in your heart - to reveal His glory in you.
Yet you may feel it is absolutely the
worst storm in your life! Your trial may be a financial
struggle, business troubles, slander, family problems or
a personal tragedy. You go to bed at night with a
restlessness inside, a cloud hanging over you. When you
awaken, the dull ache is still with you. And it keeps
hanging on until one day you wake up crying, "God,
how much more do I have to endure? How long will You
allow me to go through this? When will it all end?"
When did the storm stop for the sailors
in Psalm 107? When did God bring them into their desired
safe haven? According to the psalmist, two things
- First, the sailors came to their
wits' end, giving up on all human hope or help.
They said, "There's no way we can save
ourselves. Nobody on earth can get us out of
- Second, they cried to the Lord in
the midst of their trouble - turning to Him alone
"Then they cry unto the Lord in
their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their
distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves
thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be
quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven"
If you are a true child of God - if
you're set on allowing Him to mold you into the image of
His Son - then your battle won't stop until you give up
trying to figure it all out and throw yourself completely
into God's care. Until He has accomplished His eternal
purposes in you, your troubles will only continue to
Right now, you could be keeping your
storm raging, your troubles piling up. You could be
missing the calm that God wants to bring to you. How does
It happens when you keep questioning the
Lord in the midst of your crisis; when you keep murmuring
and complaining; when you phone a friend whom you think
has the answer for you; when you turn to counselors,
psychologists, lawyers, experts; when you go to a
Christian bookstore and buy stacks of self-help books and
tapes; when you keep looking for that one secret, that
one plan, to deliver you from your trouble.
Beloved, you're only prolonging your
trial! It sounds simple, but from the very beginning, God
has been wanting our childlike trust and confidence. And
you're only keeping the storm raging and the waves piling
up when you refuse to cry out, "Lord, I'm in a mess
- and the only way out is You!"
Bringing Us to Wit's End
Until We Learn To Trust Him Completely -
No Matter How Hopeless Things Appear!
We see this happen time after time with
the children of Israel in the wilderness. Again and again
God brought them to wit's end - to test them, to see if
they would trust Him. But each time they refused!
First the Lord brought them to a place
called Pi-hahiroth, between Migdol and the sea. He had
shut them in - the sea in front, the mountains on both
sides, and Pharaoh behind. God had actually led them to a
place of human hopelessness - to wit's end!
Had the Israelites simply believed one
promise God had made to them, they could have been free
from all worry and fear. God had told them:
"...the Lord thy God bare [carried]
thee...the Lord your God...went in the way before you, to
search you out a place to pitch your tents in...to shew
you by what way ye should go..." (Deuteronomy
1:31-33). God was saying, in other words, "I
will go with you! I will carry you as a man carries his
son. I will walk before you and find places for you to
pitch your tents. Wherever the cloud I have provided for
you stops, that's where you are to stop."
It happened that the cloud stopped
between Migdol and the sea - a place of total
befuddlement, of wit's end! There was no way Israel could
figure their way through the Red Sea. And now Pharaoh's
army was fast approaching.
Are you in a hard place right now, with a
storm brewing? I ask you: How did you get there? Do you
think the devil put you there? My answer to you is this:
"The steps of a good man are ordered by the
Lord..." (Psalm 37:23). No matter what storm you're
going through, no matter how black things seem, God has
put you in that place - at wit's end!
Please understand: God is never caught by
surprise. He doesn't have to ad lib His divine direction
whenever troubles befall us. He doesn't flip some cosmic
coin to determine His actions on our behalf. No - long
before Israel left Egypt and arrived at Migdol, God's
plan for them was already set. He had already commanded
the winds to blow at a certain hour, to wall up the Red
Sea. He had known all along exactly what He was going to
Likewise today, God has a plan to bring
you out of your storm. In fact, He devised that plan long
before your trouble even started. Yet He will hold it
back to the very last moment, waiting for you to trust
Him. He wants to see if you'll put your life into His
hands and say, "Live or die, I will trust the
Israel failed this test. They became
fearful, fainting at wit's end. Yet God still did for
them what He had planned all along. He delivered Israel
with a mighty miracle. But the result was, the people
sang their song of faith on the wrong side of the Red
Sea. Had they simply believed God's promise - "I
will go before you and carry you as a man carries his
son" - they would have passed the test!
If you panic at wit's end as Israel did -
fainting, accusing God of not caring - He nevertheless
will move in at the last moment and deliver you. But,
afterward, He will take you into another wit's-end
experience - because you did not come through the last
one trusting in Him!
Indeed, just three days after their Red
Sea deliverance, Israel was back in the middle of another
big crisis. The people were hot, exhausted, overcome by
thirst. Their scouts now came back crying, "There is
water ahead at Marah, but we can't drink it. It's too
Scripture makes it very clear: It wasn't
the devil who had led Israel to this testing place. It
was the cloud that had led them here. Once more, the
people were at wit's end. And what a wailing went up from
the camp - what awful accusations against Moses and God:
"You've brought us here to die!"
Did God know these waters at Marah were
bitter? Of course He did! But He had a plan. There was a
certain living tree near that bitter pond, and He would
use it to purify the waters for Israel.
I wonder - how many years before had God
planted that tree in that spot? And how many times had
the hot sun beaten on that tree to wither it? How many
worms had tried to kill it? How many passersby had tried
to cut it down? I tell you, nobody could have touched it
- because God had a plan for it! He said, "One day
My children are going to come here, and these waters will
need to be purified. I have a plan to deliver them - and
it's going to involve this tree!"
Of course, this tree in the desert
represents the Cross. And, beloved, God has already
planted a tree of deliverance for you! He knows exactly
what to do about your problem, and the exact hour He will
do it. All He wants from you is a quiet trust. He wants
you to say, "My God is with me. He knows the way out
of my trouble!"
Wit's End Is a Place of Suffering, Pain
We see this illustrated in Israel's
experience at Rephidim:
"And all the congregation of the
children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of
Sin...according to the commandment of the Lord, and
pitched in Rephidim: and there was no water for the
people to drink....
"And...the people murmured against
Moses, and said, Wherefore is this that thou hast brought
us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our
cattle with thirst? And Moses cried unto the Lord,
saying, What shall I do unto this people? they be almost
ready to stone me" (Exodus 17:1-4).
God had led Israel to the driest place in
the whole wilderness. It was a testing place - with no
stream, no well, not even a trickle of water. Most
baffling of all, Israel was led there "...according
to the commandment of the Lord..." (verse 1).
God Himself had allowed His people to
grow thirsty: "And the people thirsted there for
water..." (verse 3). Babies were crying, children
wailing, grandparents suffering parched throats. Parents
looked at their families and thought, "In a few days
we'll all be dead." So they turned in anger to
Moses, crying, "Give us water to drink!" They
were still depending on man - on the flesh!
I want to stop here to point something
out. First, God took Israel to Migdol by the sea, to test
them - and they failed to trust Him there. Next, He took
them to Marah, where He had another plan of deliverance -
and they failed the test again. Now He brought them to
Rephidim for more testing.
Do you see the pattern? If you don't
learn to trust the Lord in simple, childlike faith when
you're being tested, He will bring you back to yet
another testing ground. You'll go from one test to
Israel was in just such a place once
again. They were hot, thirsty, angry. But God already had
a plan! He wasn't going to let them die. He had chosen
beforehand to have them walk up Mount Horeb to a
reservoir of water that He had prepared long before. And
that source would last not just a day, a week or a month
- but thirty-eight years!
Yet God was waiting for a response of
faith from Israel. He was saying, "I have taken you
through all of these things, but you've refused to learn.
Will you trust Me now? How many more problems do I have
to allow in your life before you'll trust Me?"
Many Christians are being tested and
tried right now through unemployment. They have sent out
resumes in every direction, but weeks roll by and nothing
turns up. They've used up all their savings, and now
they're surrounded by creditors. Their situation looks
totally hopeless. There is pain and suffering involved;
it is never easy.
Others have jobs but are underemployed.
They don't earn enough to make ends meet. Many working
young people have had to move back in with their parents.
And thousands of single mothers are scraping by on a tiny
Numerous business owners are barely
surviving. Many have trouble sleeping at night because
the business world is so crazy, with skyrocketing taxes,
increasing regulations, shaky profits. The competition is
growing, and they have exhausted all their ideas and
alternatives. Now they lie awake worrying about what to
These suffering, anxiety-ridden people
come to church and raise their hands in praises to the
Lord. They put on big smiles and hug each other. Yet they
are going through awful pain and insecurity. They are
troubled - completely at wit's end!
I ask you: As God's children, do we have
no option but fear - sleepless nights, endless days of
questioning God, living in utter turmoil? Consider
Israel: Was their fretting and grumbling the only
response possible? Was it simply human for them to react
as they did, out of concern for their families?
Let me answer these by asking another
question: Hasn't God always known what He was going to do
in each of these cases? Hasn't He always had a plan?
Think about it: Didn't God already plan
to have the winds open the Red Sea? Didn't He already
preserve a tree at Marah that would heal the waters?
Didn't He already choose a rock on Mount Horeb, out of
which He would supply Israel's water for decades?
Our loving, heavenly Father would never
lead His children into a dry desert only to let them die
of thirst - especially when He has a reservoir stored in
a nearby rock! God has always had a plan for His people.
And He has a plan for you right now, to deliver you from
your present trouble.
There is no problem you have that He
Let me show you why God had to bring
Israel to the brink of disaster before He miraculously
met their need:
Brought Israel to Wit's End
to Try to Induce Faith Through the Miraculous -
And It Didn't Work!
I want to talk to you about the
limitations of the miraculous. Many Christians travel
thousands of miles each year to witness supernatural
works - miracles, manifestations, signs, wonders. Yet,
ironically, these sign-seeking addicts never develop a
lasting faith - because miracles rarely produce that.
Instead, they always need a bigger, more spectacular
Nobody had ever seen as many supernatural
works as Israel. God provided miracle after miracle for
them - and yet each work left the people as faithless and
unbelieving as at the first! You'd think that the ten
plagues on Egypt would have produced faith in the
Israelites. When Egypt was afflicted with flies, there
were none to be found in Israel's camp. When Egypt fell
under total darkness, there was no darkness in Israel.
Yet none of these miraculous plagues produced faith of
Even after God opened the Red Sea,
Israel's faith lasted only three days. Scripture says:
"...they remembered not the
multitude of thy mercies; but provoked him at the sea,
even at the Red sea" (Psalm 106:7).
The psalmist is saying here: "They
even doubted God at the Red Sea - the place where He
performed His greatest miracle!"
The elders who watched Moses strike the
rock at Marah saw water come flowing out. Indeed, all of
Israel drank to the full - and yet that miracle didn't
produce any faith! Then God sent hordes of quail to
Israel. Hundreds of thousands of birds fell from the sky
into the midst of their camp, and the people cooked them
for meat. Yet still they had no faith! The next morning,
when Israel came out of their tents, the ground was
covered with manna, miraculously sent from heaven. Yet
even this didn't produce faith!
On the contrary, after all these glorious
miracles, God's children wrung their hands in despair,
crying, "...Is the Lord among us, or not?"
(Exodus 17:7). In other words: "Is God even with us?
How could He be leading us when we have so much
Israel had received forty years of
miracle food, miracle water, a miracle cloud by day,
miracle fire by night, miracle protection, miracle
clothes that never wore out. Moses told them:
"...These forty years the Lord thy
God hath been with thee; thou hast lacked nothing"
(Deuteronomy 2:7). And yet still they doubted Him. In fact,
all but two of those who had witnessed these miracles
died in the wilderness - in total unbelief!
We are so like Israel. We want God to
speak a word, grant us a miraculous deliverance, quickly
meet our needs, remove all our pain and suffering. In
fact, you may be saying right now, "If God would
just get me out of this mess - if He'd give me this one
miracle - I'd never doubt Him again!" Yet, what
about all the miracles He has performed for you already?
They haven't produced in you any faith to help you in
your present trouble!
Recently, two precious men of God from
the Zulu tribe in Africa visited Times Square Church. An
incredible revival is taking place among the 8 million
Zulus today, and God is doing miraculous things among
them. For example, more than ten cases have been
documented of the dead being raised.
Yet that is not what these men wanted to
talk about. Rather, what has impressed them most about
the revival are the "overcomer Zulus" - those
who take a stand for Christ, burning witchcraft books and
witnessing boldly even though they're being tested and
tried severely. These people were once evil, with
murderous spirits - and now they're being transformed
into the image of Jesus!
I believe the greatest sign or wonder to
the world in these last days isn't a person who's been
raised from the dead. No, what truly makes an impact on
the mind and spirit of the ungodly is the Christian who
endures all trials, storms, pain and suffering with a
confident faith. Such a believer emerges from his
troubles stronger in character, stronger in faith,
stronger in Christ.
I recently read of a foggy little town of
4,000 people in Hungary with an alarming suicide rate.
The newspaper headline read: "Suicide Stalks
Isolated Village." Residents there have committed
suicide in every conceivable manner. One man tossed
himself into an abandoned well. Another hanged himself.
Some people have overdosed. Others cut their wrists,
swallowed pesticides, jumped in front of trains. Entire
families have taken their lives, from teenagers to
The town is Asotthalom, one hundred miles
south of Budapest, and it is a desolate, lonely place. A
doctor named Ulloh runs a psychiatric clinic there, and
he told a reporter, "Some people call the road here
the 'narrow road to the cursed place.' ...It is ingrained
in the people that God doesn't very much like us."
Beloved, that is the destructive power of
unbelief! There is no worse despair than to believe God
has it in for you. This was Israel's problem, and too
often it is ours as well. We have an unspoken sense that
all our suffering and troubles are the result of God's
displeasure with us!
When You Are at Wit's End, One of Two
Things Will Happen to You.
Every Christian emerges from wit's end
either trusting in man, or trusting fully in God - that
is, either cursed or blessed. Which way will you respond
in your time of trouble?
Jeremiah writes: "Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the
man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and
whose heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like
the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good
cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the
wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited.
"Blessed is the man that trusteth in
the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be as
a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her
roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh,
but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in
the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding
fruit" (Jeremiah 17:5-8).
The first person Jeremiah talks about
here doesn't wait for God to move. He takes matters into
his own hands - making his own plans, turning to people
he thinks have clout, taking shortcuts. He is always
scheming, planning, manipulating. His philosophy is,
"It's not what you know that counts, it's who you
know." And he's forever looking for that special
"who" to solve his problems!
Scripture says a spiritual dryness sets
into this person's life: "...he shall be like the heath
,[shrub] in the desert..." (verse 6). He looks barely alive - with no fruit, no
wellspring of life. He's always on the brink of dying! "...he...shall not see when good
cometh..." (same verse).
He never partakes in the joy of being
delivered by God's hand. And everything he thinks looks
good turns into misery. He is isolated, existing only in
"...parched places..." (same verse). He keeps
withering away - sweating it out, always frantic.
But consider the one who trusts God in
the hard places, at wit's end:
"Blessed is the man that trusteth in
the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord" (verse 7).
This Christian is "planted." He
has roots, stability, a reservoir of Living Water. He is
always "spreading out," fruitful and green with
fresh life. Scripture says
"...he...shall not be careful
[fearful]in the year of drought..." (verse 8).
When things get hot and bothersome, he
won't be afraid!
This person says, "Jesus, I give up
looking to any person to bring me out of my trial. I turn
to You alone! You're my only keeper, my only hope. I look
to You to bring me out of this!" The Lord desires
this kind of faith from us in everyday matters. You may
object, "But, Brother Dave, I'm still unemployed,
still having trouble." Yet I have to believe God's
Word: "Trust Me, and you'll be blessed!"
You may answer, "But I don't know
what I'm going to do. The storm is still raging. It looks
so hopeless. I don't see any sign of help or
deliverance!" To all these things God still says,
"Trust Me, My child - and you'll be blessed!"
It doesn't matter whether your trial is
with your family, with your business, or with putting
food on the table. If you put your total trust in His
Word and His faithfulness, God has promised to bless you
- and He cannot lie! When the heat comes, you won't even
be bothered. When the wind comes, you'll stand strong -
because you will have learned to trust Him in spite of
all unnerving circumstances. You'll be a green tree
bearing the abundant fruit of confidence - and everyone
around you will be given hope and encouragement as they
behold your quiet trust.
God, help us all to surrender our wills,
our personal agendas, when we come to this place called
wit's end. May it become a place of renewed faith and
trust in our loving Father. Amen!http://www.tscpulpitseries.org/english/1990s/ts950424.html