Hitting rock bottom is something we say when we feel as though our lives are at an all-time low, and rightly so. I’m not here to deny that people sometimes experience the lowest points of their lives; by definition, everyone will experience that in some moment while they are alive. But I would like to explain why hitting rock bottom is important in our lives as Christians from a biblical perspective.
To give reasoning for this, we will consult the prophet Elijah in the book of 1 Kings. If you’ve been a Christian for a while, you are probably familiar with Elijah’s “showdown at Mount Carmel” which takes place in 1 Kings 18:20-40. Here, Elijah faces down King Ahab’s dispatched 450 prophets of Ba’al and 400 prophets of Asherah, both of whom were pagan gods of the Cannanites. The showdown is a spectacle to say the least; the prophets of Ba’al and Asherah cry out to their gods for hours, petitioning them to come down to Earth and light a fire on an altar that was built among all the people. Spoiler alert: nothing happened. When Elijah petitioned Yahweh (the God of the Bible) to do the same, the altar was burned and completely consumed, even after Elijah had his prophets soak it with water for extra measure.
This showdown was Elijah’s big moment in his narrative. Elijah had been persecuted and hunted down by King Ahab and his wife Quen Jezebel throughout the majority of the book and was able to strike a mortal blow to the pagan king through the events of Mount Carmel. However, Elijah’s story isn’t one of him rising to power and then immediately having this awesome moment of triumph and success; rather, Elijah first had to hit rock bottom – he had to be humbled before he could be exalted. That sounds a little familiar.
If you back up one chapter in 1 Kings, you’ll come to Elijah’s rock bottom moment. In 1 Kings 17:1-7, we see Elijah prophesy to King Ahab about a coming drought brought by God himself, but then God does something strange. Instead of taking Elijah straight to an event like the showdown at Carmel, he instead immediately commands Elijah to head eastward to the brook Cherith east of the Jordan River.
“1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” 2 And the word of the LORD came to him: 3 “Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. 4 You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” 5 So he went and did according to the word of the LORD. He went and lived by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan. 6 And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook. 7 And after a while the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land.”
1 Kings 17:1-7
One would think that following such a prophecy from God, Elijah would be bound for glory right after. Even modern day heroes we see in the cinemas tend to have their “big moments” right after showing up and telling everyone who they are. Look at the whole of the Avengers in Avengers: Endgame for example; they all show up (and I mean ALL of them aside from Vision… RIP) and kick the teeth down the Chatari army’s throats. But Elijah is different; Elijah is first brought as low as he could be before kicking the teeth down the throats of the false prophets.
In this text, we see that Elijah is brought to the brook Cherith east of the Jordan River. The authors of the biblical texts are not very subtle when writing their accounts, especially the narrative writings. The root word of Cherith is כָּרַת (kaw-rath’) which means “to cut off or cut down.” Furthermore, the root of Jordan is יָרַד (yaw-rad) which means “to come or go down; to descend.” Elijah was taken to this place specifically because it was here that God planned to take Elijah down low and cut from him that which was undesirable – that which would have caused Elijah to fail in his mission at Mount Carmel. This is evident by the fact that Elijah, the prophet of God, was fed by the ravens, an unclean bird according to God’s dietary regulations per Leviticus 11 The ravens brought him the food (v1), so Elijah was not eating unclean meats, but was still being fed by dirty birds; that’s pretty humbling. For a modern comparison, King Ahab to Israel would be as President Trump to us (by position only; I am not advocating that Trump is compared to Ahab in character) and Elijah and the other prophets would be to Israel’s king Ahab as the chief advisors to President Trump are to us, Elijah being the chief of the chief advisors. That may help you understand how significant God’s humbling of such a high official in Israel’s monarchy is, especially prior to such a grand event as was the showdown at Mount Carmel.
So how do we apply this to our own lives? Personally, I hit rock bottom in December 2015. My life was moving forward steadily with some positive changes, but then everything suddenly fell out from under me and I was brought down to the lowest point in my life. God cut things off me in Chatsworth just like he cut things off Elijah at the Cherith and the plan that he had waiting for me in mid-2016 would not have been realized had I not lost some of the terrible things I had attached to me in 2015. I had become aggressive, impatient, oppressive, and indifferent to many people and many schools of thought, and I was not in a good place at the time for me to meet my future wife. It was only after God brought me down low, humbled me to the point of breaking, and cut off those terrible things from my spirit that I was able to recognize and seize the plan he had for me and Krista in June 2016 when she walked into a room in which I was standing – a room that I would not have been standing in had God not cut me, broke me, changed me in 2015.
I hope that you can see the importance of hitting rock bottom now for the purpose of God’s greater plan. If you are there now, know that there are millions of other people who have been drug through the trench just like you are right now. I encourage you to seek the purpose for your suffering and do your best to recognize what God may be trying to cut from your life so that you can be prepared for the purpose and plan he has waiting for you.
“28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”