Have you ever heard someone say that they are “at their wits’ end?”
It’s an expression often used when someone has reached their limit and is so frustrated with a situation that they do not know what to do next. It can be interpreted as a sign of surrender or sacrifice of pride that usually initiates a cry for help.
To get better insight on where this expression comes from, we can take look at the story of some sailors who were probably the first people to be described as “at their wits’ end.”
“Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters; they saw the deeds of the Lord, his wondrous works in the deep. For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their evil plight; they reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits’ end.” [Psalm 107:23-27 ESV]
These men had gone out to sea to do business as usual but quickly ran into some trouble. They were literally in deep waters surrounded by some of the highest waves they had ever seen. In the middle of this terrible and mighty storm, the sailors were overcome with fear, stumbling over themselves as they realized that ALL of their knowledge and skills about sailing was proving useless at the moment.
Maybe you can relate to these men—I know I can.
It was the start of the spring semester in 2015 and the deadline to pay my tuition had arrived. I did not have enough financial aid to cover everything and I owed $252. That may not seem like a lot, but at the time, that was more than I had in both of my bank accounts combined. I had absolutely no clue where this money was going to come from. I had been praying for weeks and nothing had happened yet. Nothing made sense. I was at my wits’ end.
But I serve a good and faithful God.
That same day, I checked my school account one more time. To my relief and jubilee, it read “$0.00.” Three “random” scholarships had entered into my account, covered the remaining $252, and left me with a couple hundred dollars to use for a missions trip I was saving up for. Just as my story didn’t end at my perceived hopelessness, that’s not where the sailors’ story ended either:
“…Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven.”
No matter what they had done in the past, they had faith that God would hear their cry and come through for them. If you read all of Psalm 107, there are several instances where God delivers a group of people from darkness, sin, etc., because they cry out to him.
He delivered them all. He delivered us all.
Sometimes we have to be taken to our wits’ end just to realize we cannot rely on our own strength or understanding. The frustration from lack of knowledge takes us to a pivotal moment where we can either shrink away, have a meltdown, run away, become paralyzed, OR we can decide to move forward with God’s help, strength, and perfect guidance.
It’s okay to not understand everything.
It’s okay to not know all the answers.
We are allowed to be perplexed, but not in despair (2 Corinthians 4:8). God can handle all of our pressing questions. He has all the answers. Just ask.