The Hebrew root for to "be in distress" can take several forms. All of them have in common the meaning of being vexed or distressed, or, to put it more colloquially, "in a bind." The people of Israel frequently found themselves "in a bind" and distressed, particularly when, because of rebellion against God, they were hemmed in by their enemies, unable to enjoy the promises of God, and incapable of exerting an influence for good on the societies around them. Israel was in distress and in a bind when she found herself marginalized, captive to pagan influences and practices, cavalier in her attitude toward God's Word, and more enthralled with prosperity than with the proper worship and service of God.
Hmmm. To be marginalized. Without influence. Awash in pagan practices and captive to unbelieving ways. How does a people get that way?