“Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
— Hebrews 12:11 (NRSV)
As a computer slows and locks, requiring a restart toward faster performance, and we wither in fatigue without sleep, necessitating a nap that facilitates alertness, so too real-life rock-bottom experiences can mean life and hope for our futures.
But the rock-bottom experience is far from kind. It takes us to a depth we’d not wish on anyone. Suddenly life’s plunged into darkness and we can begin to panic. Indeed, panic summarises our life at this point.
It’s not until later that we see the purpose in a time so tremulous.
The wisdom of God is taking us there,
The condition and circumstance that strips us bear,
Discipline, as such, to show we’re loved,
Won’t happen, really, unless we’re shoved.
Desperation facilitates an inbounding grace,
We’ve never experienced such incredible space,
For considering God like never before,
God we know now — that’s for sure.
Sinking All the Way Down
None of us sinks all the way down willingly. We will all struggle and strive to arrest the slide. Sometimes we do arrest that slide, we miss the rock-bottom experience, and we save it for a later time, putting off the inevitable. Or we might miss it and therefore miss what God has for us, even in the midst of turmoil.
God, of course, many times has different thoughts on the matter.
Completely opposite to our understanding, God’s love takes us through this extreme experience; always for our good. We say, “How could God allow this?” We don’t see the longer term plan. We don’t see our pain paving the way toward a new us; a raised and revived us. Suddenly our true purpose is made known through this ‘valley of the shadow of death’ season.
Sinking all the way down, again, is not something we will allow to happen willingly. It’s more likely to occur by way of our removal of choice and control—the circumstances of life bewitching us for a time, but inevitably—as it’s revealed—not bewitching us at all.
Experiencing This Truth
Of course, we cannot agree with the foregoing unless we have actually lived the rock-bottom experience, or someone close to us has.
If we’ve never experienced this truth, it may still be coming toward us like a freight train through a tunnel. It’s not a jinx to think in these terms, for blessed is the person who is thankful for what they haven’t been called to endure, yet is prepared — at least in theory — for what hellish times may yet confront them. This is but another image of the fear of the Lord.
At the place of least resistance we learn so much more about God, and this new direction God is taking us. With time we begin to see the goodness in it. The process taking us from that old life to the new is clean and swift; in that way, so respectful. We see that afterwards.
Actually recovering is initially about surrender; then it’s about perseverance; finally, it’s patience.
With this new head on our shoulders, and a heart flexible to the meandering voice of God, we learn to navigate the choppy waters as the winds eventually die down. A season of soul-peace is born.
What is recovery from the rock-bottom experience — as a ‘felt’ thing — other than the normal process of grief? But then again, is there such a thing as a ‘normal’ process of grief? It is different for all.
What is common for all, however, is that surrender, perseverance and patience see us through.
Harsh and despairing times can be the impetus for being raised; we reach out to God in all honesty and sincerity. God meets us there. If we choose to follow God, and we continue to, life will work out, and much better than we could have ever hoped or dreamt for.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.