The Beauty of Rock Bottom

How Reaching Your Lowest Point Can Change Your Life for Good

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Photo by Paul IJsendoorn on

Mountain climber, Aaron Ralston, hit rock bottom one day – literally. While hiking alone in Bryce Canyon near Moab, Utah, Ralston went to jump several feet to the canyon floor and, for stability, he grabbed hold of a massive bolder nearby. To his surprise, the bolder jarred lose and rolled down with him to the canyon floor.

At the bottom, Ralston discovered something that immediately felt like a death sentence. His arm was wedged tightly between the bolder and the canyon wall. With no wiggle room whatsoever, he was, as would later be the title of his tell-all book, Between a Rock and a Hard Place.

For the next several days this young man with his whole life ahead of him was in the canyon alone, waiting to die. He hadn’t told anyone where he was going, so he wasn’t expecting anyone to come looking for him. He tried various things to free himself, but to no avail. His meager supply of water gone and nothing left to eat, he waited. At one point, he used his video camera to record a good-bye message to his mom, dad, and sister.

But then Ralston experienced an epiphany of sorts. In a moment it became vividly clear to him that his only way to survive was to cut off his arm. He could cut away the part of his arm that was wedged and live, or he could do nothing and die.

With a renewed resolve, Ralston proceeded to use his cheap and dull multi-purpose knife to cut through muscle, bone, and tendons until finally his arm was severed and he was free.

Incredible, huh? There are more gritty details to the story but that by itself is enough to help us think differently about whatever we might be up against today.  

There’s no denying that hitting the bottom is hard, but even at the bottom there are options as to what happens next. At bottom, there are choices to be made.

Peter, the apostle of Jesus, hit bottom one night. There was no sex, drugs, or alcohol involved, but there was an overdose of fear – a raging, debilitating fear that crashed him. Jesus had warned Peter, but the warning didn’t even register. When it happened, his three denials of Jesus that is, it was over before he knew what hit him. 

He thought he was stronger than that. He thought he had more of a backbone. He thought he could handle whatever the enemy threw at him, but there he was, flat on his back at rock bottom, conscious but wishing he weren’t. 

Until then he had never noticed how annoying was the sound of a rooster crowing.

But when Jesus is in the picture, there is always some bounce, even at rock bottom. After a very long and guilt-ridden Friday and Saturday, Sunday came. With the dawn came news that the Messiah was alive. If that weren’t enough of a surprise, it was also clear that Jesus had not given up on Peter, in spite of his epic failure.

Peter’s life thus becomes a stunning example of how there is life after hitting rock bottom. By God’s grace, your worst moments need not define you.

Just weeks after cowering in fear of being publicly associated with Jesus, Peter would boldly preach to a massive crowd and some 3,000 would place their trust in Jesus. Later, the Holy Spirit would move him to write these beautiful words, which are preserved in the New Testament:

He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross
so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right.
By his wounds you are healed.
Once you were like sheep who wandered away.
But now you have turned to your Shepherd,
the Guardian of your souls.

1 Peter 2:24-25 (NLT)

One bad night doesn’t mean there aren’t lots of good days ahead. Just like with Peter, the cross and the resurrection of Jesus assure us that there is life after hitting rock bottom. 

It’s a new day with God. Run with it

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