Waking Up Face Down in a Ditch

October 10, 2011

Last week I asked if anyone felt like Jesus needed his driver’s license revoked…

And the responses flooded in.  Tons of people felt like they had given Jesus the wheel to steer their lives, and Jesus had crashed their lives right into a ditch.  Holy crap, if Jesus even still has his driver’s license, his insurance rates must be outrageous.

Now, some people had questions that we didn’t figure out, but we did figure out one thing…

…the ditch is real.  And no one likes being in it.

And as I read all of your comments and started thinking about the ditches my own life has hit, I realized that people almost always start believing a few things, mostly lies when they’re in a ditch.

“I’m Alone In This Ditch”

I’ve talked with plenty of people who find themselves in a ditch, and I’ve been in plenty of ditches myself, and the first thing that always comes to my mind is that:




No one else can help me.  Not my wife, not my friends, not my church.  God has forsaken me.  Getting out of this ditch entirely depends on me, and I’m probably too weak and helpless and stupid to recover.

It’s actually helpful to assume that no one can help you out of your ditch.  It’s less work sending invitations to your pity party.

But it gets better.  See, a lot of us, myself included, then take that thinking to another level where we don’t actually tell anyone we’re in a ditch.  We think they should just know we’re in a ditch, and when they don’t know, we can blame them for ignoring us and not showing up to our pity party that we didn’t bother to send invitations to.

Maybe no one can help you out.  Maybe Jesus Christ himself put you in that ditch, and you are the only person who can get yourself out.  But everyone has at least one friend who you can talk to and they can say, “I’m sorry you’re stuck in that ditch.  Can I get you anything while you try to climb out?”

“No One Else is In a Ditch”

You know, even though many bloggers share a lot about their lives for everyone to read, it still goes through a filter.  Things get edited and censored and sanitized.  And it’s easy to believe that most everyone else except you has it all figured out.  Life must be perfect for everyone else!

Last Wednesday, I made my yearly pilgrimage to the Bloggers Meetup in Atlanta and met a lot of people in person whom I admire from afar.

And you know what?

They are real people, just like me.  And they have real problems.  Some of their problems aren’t as big as mine.  Some are way bigger.  It doesn’t matter how much I look up to someone, and assume that their lives must be amazing all the time, most people are climbing out of their own ditch.

“You Should Be In a Ditch Too”

I’ve said this to myself more times than I can count.  Every time Jesus drives me into a ditch (or I drive myself into a ditch and blame Jesus), I assume that no one can help me.  Then I assume that no one else is in a ditch of their own…

…Then I start picking out people who deserve to be in a ditch.

You know, those people whose lives I deem to be a bit too perfect.  The people I assume have no problems.  Those are the people I hate most when I’m face down in a ditch.  If only lightning would strike them, if only Jesus would crash their car, then at least I wouldn’t look so bad by comparison, and since I see no way out of this ditch, that is the best consolation prize I can think of.

It’s why we love to watch people who have it all crash and burn with voyeuristic obsession.  We like to see people get knocked down a peg because their “perfect” lives made us look even worse than we already feel.

It’s why we show up like Debbie Downer and try to make everyone as miserable as we are, hoping we can at least pull some friends down into the ditch with us.

And the thing is, none of these things ever actually helped anyone get out of their ditch.

Okay, talk to me.  What goes through your mind when your life hits the ditch?  Do you fall on your knees in prayer, or do you shake your fist at God for singling you out and cursing you?  Do you assume no one else is in a ditch and start wishing they were?

31 responses to Waking Up Face Down in a Ditch

  1. Hi Matt,

    This is MY Ditch!

    You people keep your distance.

    I’m not the first ditch-dweller to feel this way. Those guys on the road to Emmaus whined, “But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel”.

    We seldom experience what preachers call a “glorious resurrection”; a sneaky resurrection is more often the case.

    And it’s so sneaky that sometimes I don’t even realize that I’ve staggered out of the ditch and am standing on the brim of the road shell-shocked. Even at its best, the Christian life is one lived in post traumatic stress disorder…

    Why should we ever think otherwise?

    Who have we been listening to?

    “Then He said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself.”

    However, my very own ditch is real-ler than Jesus most of the time and, Matt, reading your blog helps me tolerate it.

    John Cowart

  2. I guess I’ve found myself wrestling with God over being in the ditch lately. Compared to others, it is probably not a particularly deep ditch. But still, life playing out like this isn’t where I want to be, nor where I thought I’d be by now. It can be very tempting to believe that God is playing a strange cruel joke on me. It is a fight sometimes to not be bitter or frustrated with God.

    One of the challenging things about being in the ditch is the times when well meaning friends who really do love you a lot try to convince you that your ditch is not a bad place to be. They tell you the benefits of not being on the road. They talk about how the road is overrated and how things can go wrong on the road. While some of their arguments make logical sense, you can see the road and the people on it speeding towards where you want to go which makes all the arguements ring a bit hollow.

    • Love how “overrated” the road is! You know all the success, happiness and personal achievement that you can’t seem to get? It’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Now failure and disappointment? That is what you want in life!

  3. Ah, yes… misery loves company. The only thing that makes us feel better about our own ditch is knowing that our mate is in a bigger one!

  4. I only have one person in my life that really knows if I am in a ditch. He and I believe that character matters, so we talk. I am not allowed to judge my circumstances (IE: “this will never work out,” “nobody cares,” “so and so is to blame.”), but I can describe them, and the feelings. I really don’t have time to talk about work, the weather, and annoying people in line at the grocery store as frustrating as those situations can be at times. I don’t get to talk about the things I wish I could do in life for which it is probably too late; it just might not be.

    Having come out of a three-and-a-half-year ditch, I finally learned a few lessons. If I focus on loving others starting with my wife, have more concern for someone else’s ditch than my own, and I listen for the Holy Spirit’s leading and respond, no matter how big my ditch is, God can make it a mountain top.

    I am going to agree with the Apostle Paul, I have had the opportunity to be in a welfare motel, and to make 6-figures; both have their advantages!

    I just figure that if I am in God’s will, my life is none of my business. My experience is that He is faithful, He cares about my eternal soul, not so much about my momentary happiness. Like Job, it will all be cool as long as I continue to love Him.

    So yeah, I pray, sometimes on my knees, I talk to my friend, but more importantly I wait to be a blessing to others.

    I had a friend that lost and arm to bone cancer, she was sick from chemo, and of course blown away by the circumstances of it all. She had been a professional horse trainer for which she needed two hands, so it was career ending. The Mississippi flooded terribly back in the 80’s and people were lined up for water and food in many cites along the route. She went out there to simply hand out water, food and few one-armed hugs. I think she would have said some ditches are just perfect.

  5. I shared my ditch on the other post but not my thoughts on being there. I feel like I have entered a tunnel and have walked for some distance all the while looking for the light at the other end only to find the tunnel was never finished. THE IS NO OTHER END. THERE IS NO LIGHT.

    That’s not true but it sure feels that way at times when life screams “Dogpile” and points your way. The crap seems to never stop stacking up. That is the strategy of combination. The enemy wishes to blind us by combining many bad things to make an insurmountable situation. It’s time for me to break it down, not in the old school hip hop fashion, but separate these problems into manageable compartments. Then systematically give them to God.

    As for the friend coming to be with you during the ditch moment, I had a friend who told his kid Jesus was there with him during a tough time. the responded “I need a Jesus with skin on.”

    I need and need to be a Jesus with skin on.

  6. “No temptation (DITCH!!!) has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful;…he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

    we all think that our ditch is unique, one of a kind, never been faced before, and no one else understands. It is Satan’s way to isolate and insulate us from the EMT’s that are ready with the jaws of life to help us get free. Why do we love the pity pot so much that we refuse the help?? I DON’T KNOW!!!

    Is it pride…that we can’t admit we are in a ditch because Christians are supposed to be happy?
    Is it arrogance… that we can’t open our lives to others lest they think bad of us??

    I wish I knew. I only know that in a ditch we tend to run from the very people who love us the most.

    I reach out to the ditch dwellers but they seem to not want my help. Do they like it in there?? I DON’T KNOW!!!

  7. I like what David said, about not being able to judgement his circumstance – he can talk about it but not complain.

    It’s hard but the ditch shows us what our core values are. Is God good? Is God always good?

    There is true and there is truth and truth is higher than the circumstance.

    My son suffers from panic attacks because he has a hypersensitivity to the spirits. It’s impossible in those moments to reason with him; the only thing I can do is tell him to focus on looking for Jesus, because he is there. In those moments, he can only tell me the good things that are happening right now – he can not focus on what is causing the panic.

    It’s easy to see the terrible circumstances but it takes practice and training to focus on where Jesus is in the circumstance.

    Hebrews 13:15 says the sacrifice of praise is the fruit of lips that confess his name. The sacrifice of praise isn’t laborious; it’s the natural outcome of lips that testify to Jesus.

    I’m not a uber-Christain but I’m in a season of worship and it makes a difference on how I handle things. My husband and I are dealing with some financial stress; a few nights ago, I went to sleep without a problem but woke up at 12:19am, feeling anxiety building. BUT at the same time, I kept singing “I Exalt Thee” (my husband said I was singing it in my sleep too). Every time I thought about the stress and what we were going to do, another part of brain would sing the song. I literally could not focus on the ditch.

  8. Life’s a ditch (sorry couldn’t resist and yes, my humor card just got revoked).

    But, didn’t Jesus warn us up front about this?

    33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

    Our peace is not in the ditch or out of the ditch, it is in Jesus.

    Even though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we have to remember that you cannot have shadows without light. The light is there because God is there. We are never alone.

    Believe me, as one who has dealt with anxiety over the years, I don’t have any answers, just small pieces of faith I hold onto like the one above.

  9. I have a million thoughts racing through my mind and I’m not sure I can adequatly articulate. That certainly won’t stop me from trying.
    I had a conversation with a friend just last night. I want a certain something to happen in my life. I have worked really hard to get sin out of my life, resisted temptations, and have chosen to be faithful to God in the little things and the big. So why isn’t this certain something happening?
    Because God doesn’t owe me anything.
    There is this LIE that comes from the pit of hell that God owes us.
    “Lord, redemption just isn’t enough, now I need _______ to really believe.”
    I have been guilty more times that I will admit.
    Speaking of lies from the pit of hell, the original one from Genisis 3 “Did God really say…” Satan has been using this lie for hundrends of thousands of years, causing us to doubt God. Several have posted scripture references of the Word of God. So choose this day whom you shall believe: the lies from the father of lies, or the Word of God, which is eternal and life giving.
    I’m preaching to myself, by the way. Cause I REALLY want that something to happen in my life.

    • I have to disagree that God doesn’t owe us; perhaps it can be said another way. He rewards us and we have to believe it, otherwise we don’t please him (Hebrews 11:6).

      There are other numerous Scriptures that support that God will reward us – most importantly the Lord’s prayer, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” There is reward in heaven, why not on earth, as he told us to pray?

      Psalm 23 is often quoted at a funeral but I think the interpretation is wrong. The passage is for life today, on earth because verse 5 says that the Lord prepares a table in the presence of enemies. There are no enemies in heaven, so this passage is for us, while we are in the ditch.

      I believe God gives good things and I’m going to hold on for the blessing, like Jacob when he wrestled with the angel.

      The message to anyone in the ditch: hold on for the blessing (can be translated, reward) because it ALWAYS comes.

      • Oh YES! God absolutely rewards us. Every good and perfect gift is from the Father above! He loves us, and gives generously.
        But He doesn’t OWE us. We don’t walk in obedience in order to get a heavenly ‘treat’. I train my puppy with treats for his obedience, but God doesn’t ‘train’ us with ‘treats’.
        I see those as completely different.

  10. Haven’t been commenting much lately (been stuck in a ditch), but I wanted to take the time and thank you for this one. Very wise and timely, Matt

  11. When I hit the ditch, it’s more like sliding back down because I can’t remember the last time I was on the road. 😉

  12. Matt, I haven’t had time to read all of the comments already here, but I will definitely come back for that.

    I have been in a ditch for over a year. Major depression, PTSD, friends dying, Mom died, kids have major troubles, etc.

    I’ve started to plant flowers in my ditch, but there has been a drought and nothing is growing. When family members and friends started showing up in my ditch, I thought it was because they missed me. No such luck. They got ditched too.

    Some of the things that put/keep me in the ditch shocked me silly. Other things didn’t. Like losing Mom. She was old and ill. It has been appointed to everyone once to die – consequences of a fallen world – and it was her turn. She loved Jesus and was ready to go. But grief still knocked me down. I assume I will go through some type of grieving process like most people do and it will lessen. I could possibly climb out of that ditch.

    The other things? Who knows… it is a fallen world we live in. I remember learning the meaning of the word “tribulations” in Sunday school. We sang that huge word in a song, of all things. “In this world you shall have tribulations, but be of good cheer, be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world”. So we get the tribulations and Jesus gets to overcome the world. What is that all about? I know that Jesus felt many of the things we have felt while He was here on earth. He understands what we have gone through. But I don’t understand everything He went through. Maybe if I knew what it felt like to hang on a cross with the wait of THE WHOLE WORLD’S SINS pressing down on me, I might understand more about why things are the way they are. By the way, I’m thankful for not having that experience, but it leaves an inequity in understanding what is going on.

    I guess that is what faith is about. Trusting Him even when I don’t understand. Since I live in a society that is obsessed with “fair”, I get caught up in thinking this is all so unfair. But that is part of the enemy’s system of lies. The enemy got us all caught up in this lie about things being fair. And now we are demanding that we be treated fairly – more than fair, really. Satan wanted to be like God. Somehow I have started wanting to be like God – in control of everything. I get so caught up in that that I don’t concentrate on how things really work in God’s world. And the pot starts demanding things of the potter.

    If you have ever seen a master potter work with clay, you know that they can mend all kinds of things that happen to a pot while it is in process. Pits, dings, tears, caving in. It is a fascinating thing to watch. I think most of us think that we are finished pots, dry and breakable. <<< lie of the enemy. God is still working on us. And He can fix the things that happen to our pots as we spin on that potting wheel.

    If only, when I am in a ditch, I could summon up the smell of fresh clay and remember that He is in control and still working on me…

    That is where I am with it now. Lest anyone think that I am too blindly trusting or haven't been in the ditch enough to understand, let me just say that there was a time in my life when the hurt was so much that I pushed past Jesus, got right up in God's face, shook my fist, and said, "fix it now or get the f**k out of my life". Sad, scary, lonely time. I don't take any credit for getting out of that. My friends literally prayed me out of it. I believe that in my very fiber. Yes, they knew I was in that ditch, and they worked feverishly to get me out. It took awhile. Countless prayers. (I had not been shy that time about letting people know I was in a ditch.)

    Anyway, that is my expounding for the moment. So glad you are having this conversation here, Matt. Thanks for that.

    • +1

      Your admission to getting up in God’s face hit home to me my friend! Hit home for sure!!! Part of my getting up in His face was in my walking away for almost 3 decades. Hmph. Joke was on me. Didn’t work at all.

      However, saying f*ck to the Father is something I’m familiar with. And so I appreciate your candor. As always.

  13. After living the prodigal life for damn near 30 years, I assumed my surrendering my life over to Jesus Christ to do what He wished would be similar to rubbing the fat belly of a genie, which is actually more like Him doing what I wished, but I digress.

    I can’t sit here and honestly tell you that my life has been in a ditch every moment since that surrender (4 years ago), but more in it than out of it. And it was only a matter of days after said surrender that my car, or my husband’s truck rather, found itself in a ditch. Or more literally totalled in an accident. I thought it was a joke. This Jesus and His God. I ran for years knowing He was mad, out to get me and only came back because I’d run out of gas, money and friends. You know, just like the kid in Luke 15. But there I go again, digressing.

    Today, as I sit and write this, still unemployed 4 1/2 years in, a credit score looking more like a good basketball game than what they tell you it should be, whoever THEY are! Having let go of much of the people, things and mindsets of the prodigal life, I can honestly say that I couldn’t have done it any better myself. Ahem, cuz I tried, DUH! He did, is and will continue to rip, sometimes painfully, from my white knuckled hands all the things I hold in place of Him. The freedom I have tasted in the ditch far exceeds the freedom I assumed on the open road.

    There’s this country music star, maybe you’ve heard of him, by the name of Trace Adkins and he sings this song with these lyrics:
    I reckon I was doing close to 80
    When I felt the tire slip out from under me
    And I never set out lookin’ for Jesus
    So I guess Jesus come lookin’ for me
    And He found me upset down in a ditch
    Smokin’ gas in my eyes
    And He said son you came here to live
    You didn’t come here to die

    For me and myself, I’d rather be in a ditch with Jesus than outside of the ditch without Him.

    That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it :)

    PEACE <3

  14. That last one is the unfortunate truth in Christianity. We (I) do way too much of wishing someone else was already in the ditch or that so-and-so should be in the ditch going through what I’m going through. The sad thing is that I don’t want those who “deserve” to be in the ditch there so I can commiserate with them…just so that I can say I’m still somehow better than they are! I suck again!

  15. I have been extremely busy as of late, so I have not had the time to check and am not sure if anyone else has said this.

    One thought I occasionally have along these lines is “Okay, Jesus, who were You protecting me from when we swerved into this ditch? What could have been worse than this ditch with my cuts and bruises?”

  16. Loved that part you included about expecting other people to know we’re in a ditch. I’ve tended to shut myself down when going through various struggles, and I basically expect loved ones to reach out to me and “know.” And yeah, I get really frustrated when they don’t. Not a healthy way to live…trying to make a more conscious effort to ask for help and love and prayer when those tough times arise.

  17. The people I am thinking about right now are those who either refuse to believe they are in a ditch or don’t want others to know they are in a ditch. I can think of several Monty Python skits that would apply here.

    All this talk about ditches also gets me thinking about what the difference is between a ditch and a pit, because pits are discussed a lot in the Bible. Sometimes, it refers to Hell, sometimes as a trap. I remember praying for a friend who was divorcing his wife after years of hiding an adulterous relationship. After reading Psalm 40, I had a picture of him digging his slimy pit deeper and putting up pictures and curtains and pretty furniture to make it look better. So can we say, “Yeah, Jesus drove me in a ditch, but at least it’s not a pit, like the one I drove into a while back.”

  18. I would like to say that I am a super duper Christian who prays first when trouble strikes, but usually I go all verbal ninja on people and God. Then after making a idiot of myself I pray about it, then I pray about the ninja thing.