January 30, 2018

What’s at the Bottom of the Pit

January 30, 2018


Psalm 35:1-10

This weekend’s reading: Luke 16:19-31

In Biblical literature, Psalm 35 is what’s called a “complaint” Psalm. There is great danger all around the psalmist. There is distress and trouble and when you read the first ten verses of Psalm 35 you can rightly guess that the psalmist has reached a moment of panic.

Walter Brueggemann points out that the psalmist, in crying out to God, is trying to call attention to a problem that the psalmist believes is rightly God’s business to deal with. The psalmist doesn’t say, “there’s trouble, but I’m sure I can figure it out if I can just get another day or two” or “I know I’m in danger, but surely I’m strong enough to fight my way out of it.” No, the psalmist paints a dire picture, first with military imagery and then with jungle imagery, of a situation in which there will be no escape. The enemies have set a trap—a net over a pit—and the psalmist has fallen into it.

When we think of pits, we generally think of total doom and devastation. But here’s where the Biblical view of things can teach us something—for the psalmist, the bottom of the pit is not the end of his life; the bottom of the pit is where God is.

No one ever wants suffering to come upon their lives, but what this Psalm of despair reminds us is that even in the deepest times of despair, we are never alone. In fact, it is often in that deepest darkness that we are able to see the light that is with us.

(For more on Psalm 35 see Walter Brueggemann’s The Message of the Psalms, Augsburg Press, 1984).


  • When has God shown up at a time in which you least expected it?


  • Talk about some prayers that you might say when you feel scared or alone.
  • How can these prayers help us in times of need?

O Lord, even when we feel far away from you, you are always drawing nearer to us. Give us the strength to make it through all the turmoil of life and free us for joyful living. In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.