The Most Common Escape Routes

Daring escapes fascinate me. And why not? Escape plays a key role in most great stories. The hero falls into peril, the tension mounts as all seems lost, and just in the nick of time, a climactic escape occurs. Indiana Jones slides through the booby-trapped passage, straining backward to snatch his dusty, wide-brimmed hat. Princess Buttercup escapes the clutches of Prince Humperdinck moments before she’s forced to become The Princess Bride. Hansel and Gretel apply their own cunning to avoid the witch’s oven and escape with her jewels in tow.

As Christians, escape marks major moments in the story of our faith. Israel escaped from Pharaoh, Joseph from Potiphar’s wife, and Daniel from the lion’s den. Peter and Paul escaped from prison on multiple occasions. And down through the ages, every person who has faith in Christ will escape the worst peril of all, God’s wrath for sin. The miraculous escapes sprinkled throughout Scripture and life are given by God as wonderful gifts! I’m grateful for them. But I’ve also seen and experienced the ugly side of escape.

When I look back upon my life, I find countless examples of escape gone wrong. Running away is often my first instinct when trouble comes. But like you, I feel the need to better understand my heart’s obsession with escape. And like you, I want to trade my escapism for courageous dependence on God. Thankfully, by the grace of God, we can be changed from people who run from trouble to people who rest in Christ when trouble comes.


Let’s explore four common ways we seek to escape rather than trust God in the ways that Paul described in 1 Corinthians 10:13. As you read, carefully think about how you have struggled with each one. Like me, you likely will see yourself (at least a little, and maybe a lot) in each one. Once we have a basic sense of each one, we’ll take time later to dig deeper into each of them.

1. Denial

If you have ever tried to sweep your problems under a rug, you’re in good company. Truly! Most people I know regularly hear the white knuckles of fear rapping on the door of their hearts. Even Christians who seem to have a rock-solid faith in God can become discouraged when temptations grow and trials persist.

Despite biblical instructions to renew our courage through God’s powerful grace, we can respond by pretending that everything is just fine. And we work diligently to keep up the façade and stay in denial. Though we pretend all is well, reality remains full of trouble. The choice of living in denial casts on us a self-deception. But there is a better way.

2. Distraction

Another common path to escape is distraction. When others sin against us or when a season of suffering settles upon our lives, distractions promise a reprieve. I have been known to pour myself into good endeavors, interesting hobbies, captivating entertainment, and neighborly projects.

Although I love and enjoy God’s many good gifts, I’ve also been known to use good gifts in bad ways. Can you relate? For instance, throughout my life I’ve struggled with procrastination. If a challenging—perhaps even undesirable—task lays ahead of me, I’m inclined to distract myself with a more enjoyable—and often less important—alternative. Or when I know a painful problem needs my attention, I allow social media to take my mind away from it. These are only a few of the many distractions I contend with in my Christian life. I imagine you have some of your own! But there is a better way.

3. Deflect and Destroy

Disappointment often holds powerful sway and influence in life, and it can provoke us to anger against people and things, even against ourselves. Both crushing defeats as well as mild letdowns seem to drag us into a pit, where we live like coiled snakes ready to bite. We deflect responsibility and declare war on those we believe have failed us. We lash out in self-destructive ways, instead of resting in God’s loving care.

But in reality, the worst of our troubles often do not come from other people and circumstances. They flow from our very own, unmet expectations. We place a high priority on the fulfillment of our wishes (whether consciously or unconsciously), and inevitable disappointments provoke us to walk a downward spiral of destruction. Then we end up isolated and alone, often disappointed even with ourselves. A novelist once said, “If you meet a loner, no matter what they tell you, it’s not because they enjoy solitude. It’s because they have tried to blend into the world before, and people continue to disappoint them.”1 It’s a sobering observation. But there is a better way.

4. Death

If our destructive desires go unaddressed, they can grow into darker despair and even a desire for death. It is no wonder John Bunyan cast despair as a powerful giant in his classic story Pilgrim’s Progress. When faced with Giant Despair, Bunyan’s Christian pilgrim uses Job’s words: “Brother, what shall we do? The life that we now live is miserable: for my part I know not whether is best—to live thus, or to die out of hand. ‘My soul chooses strangling rather than life’ (Job 7:15).”2

God’s people know what it’s like to welcome death. Samson, Job, the psalmist, even Paul to some extent, all longed to depart from this world. But welcoming death as an entrance to heaven and seeing God face-to-face is different from trying to escape our troubles through our own death. That’s why, of these four escape routes, despair and death are the most tragic. Fueled by discouragement, displeasure, and disappointment, despair has led some to contemplate the most final of escapes: suicide.

Despite the shocking nature of suicide, Scripture does not turn a blind eye or unfeeling heart. God’s Word speaks directly to the allure of this ultimate escape, and he offers us a better hope than any the world offers. Even here, the hope of the gospel can break through the ominous clouds with rays of grace. Again, we need to know there is a better way.

Whether overwhelming circumstances tempt us to deny, distract, destroy, or even die, the God who never runs from trouble is he who holds us, his beloved children, in the palm of his sovereign, wise, and good hand.3 We can rejoice in knowing his sanctifying work replaces our love of escape with something far, far better: a courageous dependence on God! What could be better?

1.       Jodi Picoult, My Sister’s Keeper: A Novel (United Kingdom: Simon & Schuster, 2009), 189.
2.       John Bunyan and Craig John Lovik, The Pilgrim’s Progress: From This World to That Which Is to Come, updated version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2009), 163.
3.       Jerry Bridges, Trusting God (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2016), 209.

Excerpted from I Want to Escape © 2022 by Rush Witt. Used with permission of New Growth Press. May not be reproduced without prior written permission.

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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