Psalm 130: Hitting Bottom

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What does hitting bottom look like?

In addiction treatment they speak of hitting bottom. It isn’t until the addict hits rock bottom that they are ready to make the necessary changes to leave their addiction behind. That meant that family member stood by feeling powerless as their loved one spiraled out of control. Some try to “raise the bottom” – get an addict to quit before they have lost everything – by staging interventions.

I can remember a number of rock bottom moments in my life, moments when I had a choice to make. The good thing about hitting bottom is that you can’t go any further down. You can choose to either wallow around in the bottom or start to look up. The choice doesn’t change the situation you are in; it changes you. You go back to the problems which led to your hitting bottom and you deal with them.

These rock bottom moments are turning points. Literature is full of such turning points where the hero chooses to take a stand or is transformed. Think of Scrooge. God staged an intervention in his life through three ghosts who forced him to see himself as he was. Scrooge chose to change.

“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! Lord, hear my voice!” (1-2a) the psalmist cries in Psalm 130, one of the penitential psalms. “Help, God – the bottom has fallen out of my life!” in The Message version of this psalm. The bottom has fallen out of the writer’s life.

As so often happens in the Psalms we don’t know the particular situation. We are left to our imagination as to what might be the cause of the writer’s plight. Thus we can insert our own situation. We could be facing medical problems, bankruptcy, loss of relationships, any one of the many reasons that force us to hit bottom and finally take a good look at ourselves.

The writer is aware of his sinfulness and comes to God to ask for forgiveness. We don’t know the nature of the misfortune the writer is dealing with, but we do know he is remorseful for his sins. He is confident that God will forgive him. “If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness.” (3-4a)

The writer is waiting for God’s response. It may take a while, but as surely as morning follows night, God’s forgiveness will come. “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.” (5-6)

The writer ends by admonishing Israel to have hope because of God’s steadfast love. “O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plenteous redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” (7-8)

Our God will redeem us from all of our sins, which is far more powerful than saving us from any earthly problem. Such is the sinful nature of humankind that sometimes we have to hit bottom before we turn to God. But if we are aware, perhaps we can “raise the bottom” as well, stage a self-intervention, recognize where we are going wrong and return to God before we lose everything.

In that those rock bottom times helped me to change my life for the better, they are blessings.

Have there been times in your life when you hit bottom? What happened? How did you resolve the situation? How have they helped you be the person you are now?


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