What to do When at the Bottom
I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” Luke 15:18-19
I wrote yesterday of being at rock bottom. I remember thinking – when I felt like I’d lost everything – that I couldn’t sink any lower. I looked at my options and quickly realized that things could actually get worse. If I continued on the same trajectory, repeating the same behavior that got me into my pit, my disaster would continue to worsen. My only other option was to figure out how to change directions and begin the long climb out of the hole.
This was the decision the prodigal son faced in today’s passage. In the parable, Jesus told of this young man who squandered his father’s wealth in reckless living. In his destitution and starvation, he remembered that even his father’s hired men lived better than he was living. At this point, he could have allowed his shame to prevent him from returning. He could have stayed his course and remained in his misery. Or, he could turn around, go home, humble himself, and change the direction of his life.
When we find ourselves suffering the consequences of our self-destructive pursuits, we face the same choice. We can continue the behavior that got us into our mess, or, we can commit to radical change. This is what Jesus called repentance. It was the only fix to the prodigal son’s rock bottom, and it is the only solution to ours.
The problem is not that we don’t want out of our pit. The problem is that repentance is hard. This is not just about being sorry and wishing things were different. Repentance means radical change. If we refuse to change anything, nothing changes. Repentance doesn’t mean simply deciding we’ll never get angry, do drugs, gamble, view porn, or be selfish again.
If we truly want to be different, we must commit to radically different behavior. If anger is our problem, we may need counseling. If drugs are our problem, we may need treatment and meetings. When at rock bottom, if we want life to be different, we must do whatever it takes to abandon our way to follow Christ.