Summary: We're all going to hit rock bottom, the challenge is to build up from there with Christ.
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).