How do we define “rock-bottom?” Department stores advertise rock-bottom prices. We can hit a literal rock-bottom digging a hole in our yard. But there is another kind of rock-bottom that involves a very personal and painful journey.
King David describes this experience in a penitent Psalm. He hit rock-bottom after an illicit sexual affair with a married woman and the murder of her husband. At first, David covered up his sin, but his actions haunted him. “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer” (Psalm 32:3-4).
As David suffered in this cauldron of his own making, God sent the prophet Nathan to deliver a means of restoration. But the road back would demand deep repentance. Nathan shared a parable with David about a rich man who seized a poor man’s only ewe lamb to feed some house guests (2 Samuel 12). The parable infuriated David! How could a rich man use his power and position to treat others unjustly?
Then David heard the words from the prophet Nathan that would certainly be etched in his memory: “you are the man!” David later wrote, ‘Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”’ (Psalm 32:6). Rock-bottom is a frightening place to be, but it is the best place for God to transform our hearts.
Sin is not the only culprit that drives us low. If rock-bottom were a convention center, its guests would include those with broken relationships, financial disasters, incurable diseases and emotional breakdowns. Maybe you have been there. Maybe you thought you were there until things got worse and you realized the bottom was deeper than you imagined. Yet, whether we are responsible for a crisis in our lives, or are the innocent victims of circumstances beyond our control, full disclosure and confession is always a good place to start with God.
Rock-bottom is where we hand the reigns of our souls over to God and give Him permission to change us. In His wisdom our Creator refuses to impose His will on us unless we are willing. But He wants to be our “hiding place” (Psalm 32:7); our protector and deliverer. He says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you” (Psalm 32:8-9).
The difficult climb out of any pit always begins with trust in God. “Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him” (Psalm 32:10). Our trust in God doesn’t mean we won’t have trouble in our lives, but it does promise progress. In fact, when we yield to God’s will and surrender our trials into His hands we have already made progress, even if we are just beginning our long and arduous ascent from rock-bottom.
I don’t mean to suggest our lives have to fall apart before we let God lead. Surely, He prefers we trust Him in all circumstances, and would love to help us avoid some of life’s darkest hours through a life of obedience. But if you ever find yourself at the very bottom wondering if there is any point in pressing on, please know you may actually be on the threshold of unimaginable joy. Trust the Lord. He knows all about rock-bottom. I am inclined to think He spends a considerable amount of time there, binding up wounds and preparing broken people to walk in the shadow of His amazing grace.