There are two powerful emotions that motivate people to make dramatic changes in their lives:inspiration and desperation. It is often the case; a person finds their greatest inspiration in the most desperate of situations. When a person hits rock bottom, and they reach the lowest point in their lives, they are awakened to the reality that their lives must change. God’s word is full of examples of men and women who hit rock bottom:
David – 2 Samuel 11-12:23
Elijah – 1 Kings 19:1-18
Manasseh – 2 Chronicles 33:10-13
Jonah – Jonah 1:1-2:10
Judas – Matthew 27:3-10
The Rich Young Ruler – Mark 10:17-31
Tax Collectors and Sinners – Luke 5:29-32
The Sinful Woman – Luke 7:36-50
The Prodigal Son – Luke 15:11-24
Peter – Luke 22:31-34, 54-62
Paul – Acts 9:1-19
There are 6 lessons that we need to learn from these Biblical examples of hitting rock bottom:
#1 – Different People Have Different Rock Bottoms:
In recovery circles there are what are called, “low rock bottoms” and “high rock bottoms.” Let me explain the difference. The “low rock bottom” describes a situation where a person, because of their actions, has lost all their stuff: job, possessions, and relationships. On the other hand, a “high rock bottom” describes a situation where a person has not lost their stuff, but a crisis has forced them to evaluate the consequences of their actions. What is consistent in both situations is that a person has hit rock bottom, and they are saying to themselves, “I’ve got to change.”
We see those differences reflected in the examples we citied in the introduction. Elijah’s rock bottom was different from Jonah’s, which was different from the Prodigal’s, which was different than Paul’s. Some rock bottom moments come after incredible highs; sometimes they are the result of our own stubbornness or pride. While other times, rock bottoms can be merely crisis of conscience. Just as we have been endowed by our Creator with individual personalities (Psalm 139:13-16), we have different rock bottoms. I say all that to set up our next point.
#2 – Do not Judge Others When They Find God at Their Rock Bottom.
Because we all have different rock bottoms, there is a great temptation to judge others based on our own experience. If you experienced a “high rock bottom”, the temptation is to judge those who find God at a “low rock bottom.” For example, if your rock bottom was a crisis of conscience that you experienced on a church pew, there is a great temptation to judge those who found God when they hit rock bottom in jail as being less than genuine in their repentance and unworthy of receiving forgiveness. This was the modus operandi of the Pharisees that Jesus condemned time and time again.
When the tax collectors and sinners hit rock bottom and came to Jesus, the Pharisees complained (Luke 5:29-32). However, Jesus simply said,
“I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (v. 32).
Who are we to judge? Jesus came to call the repentant, not the one who contemptuously looks down at others. On another occasion, a sinful woman (prostitute) hit rock bottom and came to Jesus. Simon the Pharisee judged her as unworthy of forgiveness (Luke 7:36-50). Nevertheless, Jesus simply said,
“I tell you her sins, which are many are forgiven – for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little” (v. 47).
The sin-laden person who finds Jesus in the lowest of situations is the one who will love Him the most, not the one who believes his sins are few.
Finally, Jesus drives home the point of why we shouldn’t judge others when they find God at their rock bottom in the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector in Luke 18:9-14. When we hold others in contempt for finding Jesus in their rock bottom, it is a sure sign that we are trusting in ourselves for our own righteousness (ref. v. 9). While the Pharisee was thanking God that he was not like the tax collector, the tax collector was finding God at his rock bottom. Luke says,
“But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!'” (v. 13).
Jesus concludes by saying,
“I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other” (v. 14).
Do you see the irony of this situation? The Pharisee was thanking God that he was not like the very man he needed to be. Listen to our Lord’s conclusion,
“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (v. 15).
Why was the Pharisee not justified? Because he exalted himself above the tax collector. The consequence of his sinful action is that he will be humbled in eternity. Do you want to be right before God? Do you want to enjoy the eternal blessings of our Father? Then do not judge those who find God at a lower rock bottom than you. Rather, humble yourself, and in due time God will exalt you (ref. James 4:6, 10).
#3 – Rock Bottom is a Place to Begin to Build.
Before a contractor begins to build a building of any type, whether it is a house, or a skyscraper, he first must construct a strong foundation made of rock. In the case of large buildings, builders sink deep pilings down to bedrock. The reason for this is simple: if the building is to withstand settling and the forces of nature, it must have a solid foundation. Jesus illustrated this perfectly in Matthew 7:24-27 when He said,
“Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall because it was founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mind and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
After Manasseh hit rock bottom, with God’s help, he began to rebuild his life and his kingdom on the Rock he found at rock bottom (2 Chronicles 33:14-16, 19). When the Prodigal Son came to his senses in the pigpen, he too began to rebuild his life on that solid foundation of rock bottom (Luke 15:16-21). And do you know what Jesus expected Peter to do once he hit rock bottom? Build. Our Lord said to Peter,
“I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32).
Even though Peter failed miserably, his faith was never overthrown. In essence, Jesus is telling Peter, “you are going to hit rock bottom, and once you do, I want you to begin to build off that experience and strengthen your brothers.” Before Peter hit rock bottom he was building on himself, as was the case with the Prodigal Son and Manasseh. However, building on self is like building on sand, and those who do that will fall and great will be their fall. There is only one place where we can build upon that is our rock, Jesus Christ, and that is at rock bottom (cf. Matthew 5:3-6).
#4 – Do not Protect Others From Hitting Rock Bottom.
We have just established that the benefit of hitting rock bottom is that it is the perfect place to begin to rebuild our lives. We know this is true, yet too often, we try to protect our loved ones from hitting rock bottom. This is the classic behavior of an enabler. The enabler protects their loved one from hitting rock bottom, and therefore, keeps them from thing they need in order to change their lives. In the process, the enabler becomes their loved one’s foundation. As we have already established, we are like sand, and if our spiritual house is built on sand, it will fall and great will be its fall.
It is interesting to note that the book of Proverbs offers all sorts of advice on parenting, yet never once does it instruct parents to keep their children from hitting rock bottom by fixing the children’s problems. God did not keep Manassah from hitting rock bottom, and neither did the father of the Prodigal. Even Jesus did not keep Peter from hitting rock bottom when he denied knowing Him. Rather, God, and the Father in Luke 15, and Jesus, knew their loved ones had to hit rock bottom in order to change.
I think we fear what will happen to our loved ones if they hit rock bottom. I understand that. There is a real possibility that when they hit rock bottom they will not recover. That happened to the Rich Young Ruler (Mark 10:17-31) and to Judas (Matthew 27:3-10). However, we must put all of that into God’s hands and not protect our loved ones from the very thing that will help them: hitting rock bottom.
#5 – Finding God at Rock Bottom Does not Remove the Consequences of Your Actions.
I remember once helping a friend through a rock bottom moment. His finances were in shambles, wife had left him, and she had taken the kids with her. He told me that he had been praying to God that if God would just make everything all right, he would serve Him forever. What my friend failed to realize was that finding God at rock bottom did not remove the consequences of his actions. He needed to serve God no matter if his wife came back or not. Sometimes we have to live with the consequences of the actions that drove us to our rock bottom.
Even though King David had bitterly repented at his rock bottom moment in 2 Samuel 11-12:23 he had to live with the consequences of his action: the sword would never depart from his house (12:10-12) and the death of his newborn son (12:14-23). Manasseh is another example. While at his rock bottom, he had found God and turned his life around. But it was too late for Manasseh to reverse the evil example he had set for his son. The text says,
“And [Amon] did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, as Manasseh his father had done. Amon sacrificed to all the images that Manasseh his father had made, and served him” (2 Chronicles 33:22).
Even the apostle Paul had to live with the fact that at first other Christians did not trust him because of his past sins (ref. Acts 9:13; 26).
Just because we turn to God at rock bottom does not mean that He will bar us from suffering the consequences of our actions, and that is okay. Rather than being discouraged, let us take on the spirit of Job as he was hitting rock bottom,
“The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).
Remember the promise of God is that He will work all things together for good for those who love Him (ref. Romans 8:28). Therefore, when we hit rock bottom, our concern must be on serving the Lord, regardless of whether or not we will suffer the consequences of our sinful actions.
#6 – Never Forget Your Rock Bottoms.
There is no doubt that all of our rock bottoms are painful moments in our lives. However, we should never forget the emotions, or the pain of those times. I say this for two reasons:
One, you can use your rock bottom moments to teach and strengthen others so they can avoid the pain and hurt that you experienced. That is the gist of David’s words in Psalm 32:8-9 and Jesus’ words to Peter in Luke 22:32. This would be in keeping with what I’ve always called, The Commission for the Rest of Us in Mark 5:19,
“Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”
Rather than burying your rock bottom moments, share with others how the Lord raised you up from your rock bottom.
Second, if we forget what it was like to be at rock bottom, we are doomed to repeat the behaviors that sent us there in first place. Rest assured we will hit rock bottom again, and the second time around will be worse than the first. Peter drives this point home in 2 Peter 2:20 when he says,
“For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.”
Hitting rock bottom is hard. However, those moments of desperation can be the catalyst for great inspiration if we will turn to Christ. If you have not come to Jesus, let today be your rock bottom. You do not have to be like the Manasseh or the Prodigal; you do not have to go that low before you open your eyes to Christ. You can be like Paul or the Philippian Jailer, have a crisis of conscience, and give your life to Christ today. Wherever you are at in this world, Christ desires you, and if I can help you in any spiritual way email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. God bless.