We have probably all heard, especially regarding addicts, “They just need to hit rock bottom before they will get better.” Often, this idea is applied to people more generally. Sometimes we say of young people, “They are just sowing their wild oats.” Or we say, “They are enrolled in the school of hard knocks.”
Sometimes these ideas become reasons for not helping people and thereby guaranteeing they reach the bottom sooner. I am against any line of thinking that encourages people to hit the bottom before turning away from sin, bondage, and selfishness. I also oppose letting people hit rock bottom when it is in our power to help, intercede, and love. Yes, there will always be people who will not flee the house of sin until it is on fire, but I will always be banging on their doors and catching them when they jump from the windows.
First, we must admit that rock bottom for some, especially addicts, is fatal. In 2017 over 70,000 people in the United States died of over-doses. If we withhold help until they have hit rock bottom, it may simply be too late. No addict is bouncing back from the bottom of a grave.
But even if not fatal, hitting the bottom can be terrible, filled with irreversible consequences. The bottom can be prison and a felony record. It can mean the loss of children put into foster care. The end of family. Some hit rock bottom and live there for years—sleeping under bridges after spending each day panhandling.
True, some people clamp onto sin like a pit-bull with a bone. They will not let go until consequences hit them up the side of the head with a bat. But I think it arrogance for us to think we know who these people are or exactly what constitutes rock bottom for them. I believe that is best left to God. Often the addiction is not the disease but the symptom of rejection and pain. Letting them hit the bottom hard may cure their addiction for a while but not address the disease best treated by a revelation of Jesus’ love, sacrifice, and acceptance. I think this is why rehab often fails to help so many addicts.
I don’t, however, ever want my help to enable a person to stay in their addiction or continue down a sinful path of destructive behavior. I can’t and shouldn’t remove every speed-bump God puts on the road to hell. On this road, I want a role somewhere between roadkill and spectator. I will put on the orange vest, grab a flashlight, set out some cones, and direct people to the free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus. However, too often our fear of enabling is just an excuse for not giving or loving in a way that makes us vulnerable.
Life is short. The devil is a liar. Sin hurts everyone—and teaches us nothing God can’t teach us better with love, gentleness, and grace. Love intercedes without enabling and keeps pointing to Jesus. At any and every moment we must say, “Jesus saves us and sets us free.”
We need a case of holy “carpe diem”. Down with bottoms! Let’s seize the day for Christ. Today, before we hit the bottom, is the day of salvation. Down with getting our act together before we come to Christ.
Up with grace. Up with the steadfast, inexhaustible lovingkindness of God that leads us to repentance before we hit the bottom.