Reaching for Hope When Life Is Too Much

When life overwhelms, it’s natural to try to get away. Escape holds a powerful allure amid hard times. In every season, a myriad of pressures, challenges, regrets, and disappointments plague our lives. These trials and tribulations often provoke us to cry, “I’ve got to get outta here!”

Even though we have many good reasons for trying to escape, as Christians we have even better reasons to depend courageously on our Savior in the ups and downs of life. In I Want to Escape: Reaching for Hope When Life Is Too Much, pastor and counselor Rush Witt helps readers learn to bravely run to Christ instead of running away.

In this interview, we talk to Rush about the different ways we try to escape, and how to run towards God instead.

Q: At one time or another, every one of us has wanted to get away from a situation, but escape isn’t always physically running away. What are some of the most common strategies we utilize to escape when we’re overwhelmed, even if we don’t realize that’s what we are doing?

When we feel overwhelmed by a situation, it’s common for us to engage in activities that help us escape from it. This can range from physical reactions to heart responses. It’s important to recognize that we may not even realize we are using these escape methods, as they often become habitual and automatic responses to stress.

Sometimes we just ignore a situation and pretend it doesn’t exist. Other times we may turn to activities that temporarily distract us, such as watching TV, scrolling through social media, playing video games, or engaging in other forms of entertainment. Those activities can seem rather harmless but can escalate from there. Some people may engage in destructive behaviors such as self-harm or believe that suicide is the only way of escape.

It’s important to recognize that while these escape methods may provide temporary relief from overwhelming situations, they are not healthy or sustainable solutions to our problems. Instead, we need to develop more effective and God-centered ways to address the root cause of our escape desires.

Q: What are the four common ways we seek to escape rather than trust God?

The four common ways that we seek to escape rather than to trust God can be broken down into denial, distraction, deflect/destroy, and death.

Denial ignoring the trouble or temptation that we are facing, hoping that it will go away on its own or pretending that it is not really a problem. We may try blocking out or rejecting reality. Examples include denying that a problem exists, downplaying its significance, or ignoring the situation altogether.

Distraction is another common method of escape, and it is easy to do because we have so many options available to us in our modern world. Distraction involves turning to activities that help us forget about the problem temporarily.  We can distract ourselves with entertainment, work, or other activities to avoid dealing with the underlying issues. We all love to enjoy good gifts like social media and other entertainment. But we should also be alert to when our enjoyment moves into the realm of escapism.

Deflect/destroy is a more destructive method of escape, where the anxieties in our hearts can boil over and burn others. It’s an attempt to alleviate the problem by addressing it in a more indirect (yet damaging) way. We lash out at those around us, seeking to deflect attention away from our own problems or to destroy those whom we perceive as being responsible for our troubles. This may also include venting our frustration to others, blaming someone else for the issue, or engaging in destructive behaviors like self-harm.

Death represents the most extreme form of escape which is unfortunately becoming increasingly common today as pressures rise and hope is lost. This includes thoughts or actions related to both self-harm or suicide. While this is a serious concern, it’s essential to remember that there is help available for anyone who is struggling with these types of feelings.

Q: Why do not we not consider how much of an internal problem escapism truly is?

Escapism is often viewed as a desirable solution to the problems we face in life. We seek to avoid the stresses and difficulties that come our way, and escapism seems to promise a way out. However, what we fail to realize is that escapism is an internal problem that can lead to more significant issues down the line.

There are two main reasons why we don’t consider how much of a problem escapism truly is. First, we tend to view it as a desirable solution that promises relief and hope. We want to get away from the problems that cause us pain and discomfort. However, this approach is often short-sighted, as it does not address the underlying issues that are causing the problem.

Second, we are often out of touch with the dynamics of our hearts, and so we fail to notice when escapism has taken root. As Proverbs 4:23 states, “Guard your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the issues of life.” We need to pay more attention to what is going on in our hearts and minds and take steps to address the root causes of our stress and anxiety.

Escapism may seem like an appealing solution to the problems we face, but it is an internal problem that can lead to more significant issues down the line. Instead, we should focus our attention on drawing near to God with courage, hoping in his loving care as our ultimate solution.

Q: What are some of the signs of escapism? If we see that a loved one is struggling and shows some of these signs, how should we approach them as to not scare them away?

Escapism is a common problem, but it can be difficult to spot in ourselves and our loved ones. If we see signs of escapism in a loved one, it’s essential to approach them with care and sensitivity.

Denial can manifest as refusing to acknowledge or take responsibility for one’s problems. Distraction can be seen in excessive screen time, social media use, and other activities that provide a temporary escape from reality. Deflection/destruction involves lashing out at others or engaging in self-destructive behaviors to avoid dealing with one’s problems. Lastly, thoughts of death or suicide can be a sign of using escapism to cope with overwhelming emotions, but the signs here can be incredibly difficult to spot. Some signs we may notice are long-term struggles with pain or terminal illness, expressing feelings of hopelessness, giving away treasured possessions, and others.

If we see these signs in a loved one, it’s crucial to approach them with empathy and understanding. We can use the “Enter, Understand, Bring” method found in Matthew 9:35–37. This involves entering their world, seeking to understand their struggles and needs, and bringing the love and compassion of Christ to their situation.

When approaching a loved one who may be struggling with escapism, it’s important to avoid being confrontational or judgmental. Instead, we can offer a listening ear and a compassionate heart. We can encourage them to seek biblical help or support groups and offer to accompany them if needed. Above all, we can pray for them and trust that God’s love and grace can bring healing and restoration to their lives.

Q: What are the three goals you have for readers of I Want to Escape?

The first goal is to help readers understand why escapism may appeal to them personally. By exploring the various ways in which we use escapism to avoid reality, the book aims to help readers identify their own tendencies and patterns of behavior.

The second goal is to help readers draw near to Jesus as the present person of help and hope. The book explores how our desire for escape can actually be a signal of our need for deeper connection with God. By offering practical tips and insights, the book aims to help readers cultivate a more vibrant and meaningful relationship with Jesus.

The third goal is to help readers develop a practical plan to shape their response to these escapist instincts. I give readers practical tools and strategies to help readers resist the urge to escape and instead face reality with God-dependent courage and grace. The book emphasizes the importance of prayer, gospel hope, and courageous dependence on God in our efforts to overcome the temptation to escape.

Overall, I Want to Escape aims to offer readers a short, practical guide to understanding and overcoming the temptation to escape. By exploring the root causes of escapism and providing practical tools and strategies for change, the book seeks to empower readers to live a more fulfilling and meaningful life in Christ.

Q: What does courageous dependence on Jesus look like? What are the three steps to cultivating that dependence?

Courageous dependence on Jesus is an essential aspect of the Christian life. It means placing our trust in God and relying on his strength, wisdom, and guidance in all aspects of our lives.

1. Pray with Humility. This means recognizing our own limitations and weaknesses and acknowledging our need for God’s help. When we pray with humility, we approach God with a spirit of surrender and trust, knowing that he alone can provide the help and support we need.

2. Believe with Gospel Hope. This means holding fast to the promises of God’s Word and trusting in his faithfulness, even in the midst of difficult circumstances. When we believe with gospel hope, we anchor our hearts in the truth of God’s love and provision, and we are empowered to face life’s challenges with confidence and courage.

3. Act with Courageous Dependence. The final step to cultivating courageous dependence on Jesus is to act with courageous dependence. This means taking bold steps of faith and obedience, even when it’s hard. When we act with courageous dependence, we step out of our comfort zones and into the realm of the place of God’s loving care for us. We trust in his goodness and faithfulness and we are willing to take risks and make sacrifices for his sake.

Overall, cultivating courageous dependence on Jesus is a lifelong journey that requires humility, faith, and action. By praying with humility, believing with gospel hope, and acting with courageous dependence, we can experience the abundant life that God has for us and make a lasting impact on the world around us.

Q: Is it always bad to have an activity that distracts us from what’s going on in our lives? When does a distraction become a crippling escape route?

When we use distractions to avoid facing reality and neglect our responsibilities, it becomes a crippling escape route. Watching TV, playing video games, or scrolling through social media are not inherently bad hobbies, but when we use them to avoid dealing with our issues, they become a problem.

If we use distractions to numb our pain or avoid facing our problems, we are not addressing the root issues that need to be resolved. In such cases, distractions become a way to escape from reality instead of helping us deal with it. We must be aware of the potential danger of using distractions as a way to cope and strive to replace them with a renewed focus on trusting in God to help us navigate the challenges of life.

Q: Why is deflecting and destroying the most difficult escapist strategy to combat? Why do we think destroying is a good game plan in the first place?

Deflection and destruction are difficult escapist strategies to combat because they involve taking our anxieties and frustrations out on others rather than dealing with them ourselves. When we deflect and destroy, we refuse to take responsibility for our emotions and instead blame others for our problems. This can manifest in various ways, such as lashing out in anger, responding with unfair critiques, or using sarcasm to mask our true feelings.

The reason we think destroying is a good game plan in the first place is that it gives us a sense of control over our situation. We feel powerful when we can tear down others and make them feel inferior. It’s a way of asserting our dominance and protecting our ego. However, this type of behavior is ultimately destructive, both to ourselves and to those around us.

Q: Death is the fourth escape plan you address. Could you share some of the sobering statistics that shed light on how many people wrestle with thoughts of suicide?

According to the World Health Organization, suicide is a significant public health issue and a leading cause of death worldwide. In fact, approximately 750,000 people die by suicide every year, which is equivalent to one person every 40 seconds.

Suicide rates vary significantly by age, gender, and region. For example, in high-income countries, suicide is more common among men, while in low and middle-income countries, women are more likely to die by suicide. Additionally, suicide rates tend to be highest among older adults, particularly men over the age of 70, and young adults aged 15–29.

It’s also important to note that many more people think about death as an escape at some point in their lives, even if they don’t act on those thoughts. In fact, studies have shown that suicidal thoughts and behaviors are relatively common, with approximately 10-15% of adults reporting having thoughts of suicide at some point in their lives.

Q: If someone listening to (or reading) this interview right now that may be considering suicide, what would you like them to hear? What are some of the resources available to them?

There are several crisis hotlines and resources available to those who are struggling with thoughts of suicide. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the US (1-800-273-8255) provides 24/7 free and confidential support for people in distress, as well as their loved ones. The Crisis Text Line (text HOME to 741741) is also available 24/7 for people in crisis to connect with trained crisis counselors. Other resources include online support groups and forums, as well as local mental health clinics and hospitals, and biblical counselors in your local church. It’s important to remember that seeking help is a sign of strength, and there is always hope for a better tomorrow.

Q: Could you share a little bit about your story and what led you to a passion for counseling?

My passion for counseling was born out of personal experience, watching my wife struggle with depression and anxiety. I saw her go through hospitalizations and different forms of therapy, including talk therapy and electro-convulsive therapy. Despite trying different approaches, we didn’t see much improvement until we were introduced to a biblical counselor in 2002, while I was in graduate school.

This experience opened my eyes to the power of biblical counseling and the hope that it can bring to those who are struggling. I began to see how it offered a holistic approach to mental health that addressed the root of the issues rather than simply treating symptoms. Through my studies and my work as a counselor, I’ve seen time and time again how God’s Word has the power to bring healing and restoration to people’s lives.

I also have a deep conviction that counseling is a vital ministry of the church. The Bible calls us to bear one another’s burdens and to restore each other in a spirit of gentleness (Galatians 6:2). Counseling provides a space where people can come alongside one another in a compassionate, Christ-centered way to help each other grow and heal.

Q: How do you close out each chapter of the book?

Each chapter closes with questions for reflection and personal application. The components are intended to help the reader bring their struggles and insights to God, and to ask for his help in addressing their patterns of escape. These are written in a way that reflects the themes and concepts discussed in the chapter and provide a guide for readers to connect with God in a meaningful way.

I believe that prayer is an essential component of the Christian life and that it can be a powerful tool for those struggling with the urge to escape. By directing our thoughts and emotions toward God, we can find comfort, hope, and strength to face the challenges of life with courage and faith.

Overall, my goal in closing out each chapter with these elements is to help the reader engage with the material in a deeper way, and to provide practical tools for them to apply what they’ve learned in their own lives. I hope that by doing so, readers will be able to find freedom from the patterns of escape that have held them back and to experience the abundant life that God has in store for them.

I Want to Escape Frontcover

I Want to Escape: Reaching for Hope When Life is Too Much

When life overwhelms, it’s natural to try to get away. Escape holds a powerful allure amid hard times. Even though we have many good reasons for trying to escape, as Christians, we have even better reasons to depend courageously on our Savior in the ups and downs of life. Pastor Rush Witt helps us learn to bravely run to Christ instead of running away.  

About the author

Rush Witt

Rush Witt (MDiv, DMin, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is lead pastor of Paramount Church in Bexley, Ohio, and author of Diehard Sins and I Want to Escape. Rush and his wife Kathryn have five children. Along with his pastoral responsibilities, he works as Acquisitions Editor for New Growth Press and serves as Chaplain for the Bexley Police Department. Rush is a certified biblical counselor with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors.

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