A short visit to Dictionary.com defines this commonly-used expression:
“Slang. An extremely unpleasant, boring, or depressing place, condition, person, etc.; the absolute worst.”
I thought a lot about this phrase this past week while returning to the classroom and listening to Scripture reflections on my forty-five-minute drive to school. On Friday morning, on my way in, the topic of study was an Old Testament favorite, the story of Joseph in Genesis. First betrayed by his envious brothers, thrown into an actual pit, and sold off to Egypt as a slave, Joseph ~ for all he had going for him otherwise (good looks, intelligence, over-achieving tendencies) ~couldn’t seem to catch a break. Even when he seemed to catch one once the high Egyptian official Potiphar gave him charge of his entire household, he was falsely accused by the boss’s wife, slandered, and thrown into prison.
If anyone had a right to be bitter, hopeless, and defeated, it was Joseph.
Instead, he knew something that served him well. He knew that God was with him at all times.
It was clear to even Potiphar, in seeing Joseph prosper though a slave, that “the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did.” One has to think, when his wife accused Joseph of assault, that death would be his logical punishment. Potiphar, however, put Joseph in prison, as opposed to a fatal sentence, for a reason. He believed him.
At this point, to most, Joseph’s life, now likely to be spent in prison until his death, would appear to be an absolute failure. Imprisoned, no family, no spouse, no children, and, apparently, no real indication that anything would change his circumstances. Life was “the pits”.
But Joseph knew the thing that mattered:
“But while Joseph was in the prison, the Lord was with him.” (Genesis 39:20-21)
Even in the pit, Joseph knew God was with him, and, while there, used his God-given ability to interpret dreams for those around him. He refused to stop believing, stop hoping, or stop grinding, and, in one day, he was lifted from the pit to the palace of the Pharoah.
In the classroom of sports, “the pit” can be any number of things. A poor performance. A heartbreaking loss. A loss of a starting position. A season-ending defeat. A season-ending injury. If an athlete (and a coach) can learn anything from the Scriptural account of Joseph, it is to remember that God is with him or her in these times, and can bring us to the palace. The “palace” may be earning a starting position, winning a big game, coming back from behind, recovering from an injury, or becoming champions. Like Joseph, the key is to keep believing, hoping, and grinding.
When we practice all the skills of the game ~ passing, blocking, receiving, tackling ~ we become better players. When we practice recognizing that God is with us in the “pits” as athletes, we become better at seeing Him in these times through all of the losses, failures, and challenges of life. Unfortunately, they will be there, but ~ more importantly ~ so will He.
As Joseph says over ten chapters later after having been thrown into a pit:
“What was intended for harm, God intended for good.”
Never forget, whether on the field or anywhere in life, that He is with us “in the pits.”