It’s OK to be at Your Wit’s End

I sat and frowned at the computer screen and the latest email from my daughter.  For days—weeks—we had carried on a conversation that seemed to be going nowhere.  It was increasingly clear that, though we were separated by thousands of miles, my words were pushing her even farther from me.  I badly wanted to “fix” her situation, and she badly wanted to be done with my advice, instruction, and exhortations.

Feeling frustrated because I had so much more to say, I opened a new Word document, closed my eyes, and typed, “Dear God! I am at my wit’s end!”  I paused, thought about what I had just written, and continued, “….the end of my own wisdom…the end of my own understanding.  I have done all that I know how to do!” 

I smiled wryly as I had a sudden and vivid impression of God saying, “Finally!  I’ve been waiting for this moment!”  It occurred to me that there was a lot of “my” and “I” in those sentences, an accurate reflection of how I had been relying on all the human wisdom and practicality at my disposal to fix something that my daughter was not as eager to fix—or not in the way I thought she should. In any case, it wasn’t working. My wisdom fell far short of what was needed.

Eyes still closed, and now quite tearful, I continued to type, pouring my heart out to God in prayer.  I told him all my concerns and asked for a special measure of his Spirit to be at work in our daughter—HIS daughter. I asked him to give both of us his wisdom in dealing with a very difficult thing.  I asked him to help me to be quiet so that she would hear him….so that I, too, could hear HIM.

There followed a period of days and weeks and even months in which this prayer document became quite lengthy.  Whenever the “wit’s end” feeling resurfaced—sometimes a few times a day—I  would go to my computer, close my eyes, and pick up where I left off, telling God in prayer what I so wanted to tell her, but leaving it there with him.

From that very first day, this reliance on his wisdom allowed me to shut my mouth and listen when she persistently shared only a general overview of her life and activities—while I craved details and had a million questions about the things that really mattered to me.  As time passed, I felt more and more certain that, as he was guiding her, his guidance to me was simply to allow him to act.  In HIS wisdom.  Any further attempts by me would be feeble, indeed.

One Sunday during this time, a guest pastor at our church started his sermon with this question, “Who here would like to be part of a miracle?” A rhetorical question, we realized, but nearly every hand went up.  Of course!  Wouldn’t that be cool!  He discussed that for a moment—how amazing and life-changing that would be. 

Then he asked this question: “Who here wants to be part of an impossible situation?”  Smiles turned to frowns because…NO.  We don’t like impossible.  We don’t like problems that can’t be solved, that leave have no way out, no hope….

And this is when the speaker reminded us that there cannot be miracles without impossible situations, because that is what a miracle is…God takes a situation in which there is no human solution and makes the impossible possible.  He gives hope to the hopeless who are mired in situations where, humanly speaking, there is no solution…no way out…situations that leave us at our wit’s end.

Jesus’ death and resurrection are the ultimate miracle, for there is no human way out of the mire of sin. With Jesus victory over death and the Enemy of our soul, we have salvation—the ultimate solution to the impossible situation of being separated from God forever.  That eternal hope gives us confidence in God’s powerful love—and His love gives us hope for daily life, as well.

So with hope, even in what seemed an impossible situation, I looked forward to a time when our family would reunite for Christmas and I would see our daughter again. There’s a lot of guessing that goes on when you talk on the phone but don’t see one another face to face.  There’s a lot of reading between the lines in texts and emails, when you hunger for hints of change or progress toward a good outcome.  I continued to keep questions to a minimum as the months passed, and there was still so, so much that was just unknown as we went to pick her up from the airport.

From the moment we saw her come through the gate, our daughter was open, joyful, and obviously happy to see us. In the ensuing days, I would furtively watch and listen for signs that this might be just  a nice façade, but they never came. It became clear that a miraculous change had occurred. She offered no information or explanation but God had dealt with that impossible situation without my help, applying his wisdom in ways I may never know—and do not need to know.  I continue, after many years, to be simply and profoundly thankful that, while I was at my wit’s end, God’s wisdom is without bounds. He answered hours of heartfelt prayers in his way and in his time.

What I realize about myself and my human wisdom is that my goal is to “problem solve.” And isn’t this how human wisdom works?  When faced with impossible situations, our “wit” tells us to find a formula, follow a rule, apply a procedure or a process that is going to repair the damages—or in some cases maybe we simply seek to eliminate the source of our distress so we can go forward.  Outwardly, things are fixed.  But often the problem surfaces again or begets new problems…and we find ourselves at our wit’s end. 

God’s problem solving is so far beyond human rules and formulas and procedures.  To solve the problem our sin, He ruled that His own son would take our place—a perfect sacrifice. To make a right relationship with us, he applies the formula of forgiveness—adding up all the sins that separate us from him, and coming up with zero, as we place our trust in Jesus’ redeeming act of love.  HE eliminates the source of our distress in ways we could never imagine by the application of abundant grace.  

As of August 4, my daughter and her husband are the parents of a new baby boy—our first grandchild.  I am over the moon thrilled to be a grandma, but I am more excited for Katrina and Isaac to be parents and for her to fully understand the love I have for her. I am eager for her to know the incredible joy and sometimes despair that come with investing deeply in that mother love…love that often finds itself at it’s wit’s end.

A photo Katrina sent in the early morning shows the beauty and serenity of my grandson asleep in his mother’s arms, his tummy full after a nighttime feeding. I marvel at this perfect little one, and at the same time the end of her message tugs at my heartstrings…”It’s been a long night.” I recall the fatigue and seemingly endless giving of oneself that are part of the early days of parenthood…

If my daughter were to ask one bit of advice from the parenting lessons I learned along the way, I think I would simply say, “It’s OK to be at your wit’s end!” Whether she finds herself in the middle of a hard night, or in the middle of a hard season of life, I would encourage her to admit to the end of her wisdom and commit her impossible situations to God—to ask his guidance as she allows His wisdom to do its work for her and her son.

And while this is my best parenting advice for both Katrina and her husband, it is increasingly my response to all of life’s impossible situations, whether they are physical, emotional, intellectual, social, or even job related–and whether they are my own or those of people I love. At my wit’s end, I am bowed low—figuratively and often literally down on my knees before God. In this position I have my focus on Him and am out of the way as He applies His wisdom.  There are times, of course, when God’s wisdom doesn’t lead to my first desired outcome. Often it works, instead, on my heart, giving me a desire for the outcome that he provides.

Ultimately, being at my wit’s end is not an end, but the beginning of the real solution to life issues—a greater dependence on my Savior and a deeper relationship with Him. To ignore God and his wisdom in giving us a Savior does not work for my salvation.  To ignore him and his wisdom at work in daily situations does not work, either.  I know His wisdom doesn’t depend on my trusting it—but my daily and eternal peace does!

8 thoughts on “It’s OK to be at Your Wit’s End

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