HITTING ROCK BOTTOM

This reflection is on John 11:1-45.

I was having brunch with a couple of good friends yesterday, and our conversation strayed into this business of “hitting rock bottom.” There are moments in our lives when, for different reasons, we find ourselves in the pits. Life feels like it’s in ruins; things have somehow fallen apart. Perhaps we’ve just experienced a major failure in our work; or maybe a valued relationship has just–in spite of our best efforts–ended. Or it’s possible we’re going through one of those major personal mid-life–or quarter-life–crises.

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The point is, whatever the cause, we feel like we’ve hit rock bottom: It can’t get any worse! The tunnel is longer and darker than any you’ve been through before, not a flicker of light in sight. It’s a terrible place to find yourself in.

I hit rock bottom a few years ago, I confided to my friends.  “Do you remember the time you came over to me after Mass asking why our mutual friend sat behind you crying during my homily?” I asked them. “She was crying not because of the homily, but because she knew I was suffering. She knew I had hit rock bottom in my life.”

I mention this because the story of Lazarus has always reminded me of my rock bottom–and of how the Lord patiently and repeatedly called to me to pick myself up and climb my way out of the dark.

Summoned from the darkness of his tomb, Lazarus hears Jesus calling him, that familiar voice accompanied by other familiar voices–those of his sisters’ and friends’–imploring him to step back into the light, and back into this world. What could he have been thinking? Did he have to make a decision? Was he tempted to stay in hiding and remain dead?

In a strange sort of way, I know that feeling. And perhaps you do, too. Those of us who have experienced a major crisis in our lives and in the process, some kind of death–perhaps emotional or spiritual–know that the sadness and the darkness that we wrap around ourselves can at times become too comforting to shed. We can be tempted to remain in that place, and for that reason, need all the help we can get–tender love as well as tough love–to nudge us out of it. Like Lazarus, stepping out of our tombs could be painstakingly effortful and could require every ounce of our will power.

But thanks to the encouragement of those who love us, and thanks to God’s grace, we somehow manage to pull ourselves together and find our way back in the land of the living.

I did, thanks to the love and prayers of people who patiently stood by me and cheered me on as I stumbled my way out of the dark. When I began waking up in the morning feeling the weight less and less on my chest, I knew I was on my way to recovery. One such morning I sat down and wrote this in my journal, dedicated to all those who stood by me:

I’ve been in hell the past months. Actually, it felt more like I died–or at least was left for dead. But recently when I wasn’t looking, the stone covering my tomb was rolled away for me. And though I wanted to remain in the dark to nurse my perhaps occasionally exaggerated wounds, I heard the Lord call out to me, ‘Come out!

It’s the same thing he asked of his friend Lazarus–and it wasn’t so much a command as it was a plea, a prayer from a friend who loved him dearly. And that’s exactly what it took to pry Lazarus off Abraham’s bosom (the poor man’s name in the parable was certainly no coincidence!). I think it was Jesus’ tone more than anything else that convinced him to return to this chaotic world of ours, emboldening him to cross that great chasm and to finally pull himself out of his dark tomb, and step back into the light.

For me, it took exactly the same irresistible tone to pull me back into the light and into this life. Only, the Lord called out to me in a voice not His, but the voices of my friends.

The story of Lazarus is a reminder to us that when we feel down, buried by the troubles of our lives, it will do us well to recall the love that people reserve for us. It is what will make the difference.

And this is precisely why we should always be on the lookout for people around us who have quietly and secretly hit their rock bottom. They  need us to call to them and cheer them on as they climb their way out of the pit. They need us to be Jesus to them.

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25 thoughts on “HITTING ROCK BOTTOM”

  1. It’s nice to see this platform of mutual encouragement..I am also hitting rock bottom and know other people in the same situation. It’s good to see some hope. Reading all your comments truly helps .

  2. Thank your all for your participation and of being open to your innermost feelings.
    It helps us to recall it when I myself might hit rick bottom

  3. Thank you for this sharing, Fr. J! I also hit rock bottom and you are right, the tears of those who love us matter much…especially when it is shared in solidarity and not just out of pity…i always remember glyzelle palomar here when she asked Pope Francis why do children suffer so much…and the reply the pope gave her: “Certain realities in life can only be seen through eyes cleansed by tears”. May we indeed learn how to weep.

  4. One of the best retreats I have gone through while I was rock-bottom was “God in the Dungeons…” In this time of Lent, I am also going through a rock bottom crisis at work. But I thank God for the grace of being so thirsty of finding him. In this season of Lent, may all of us who are tired, find our rest on the Rock.. Christ himself have been through rock bottom.. And may all of us who thirst, be quenched and be made alive by the living water which only Christ offers.. Thank you po Fr. Johnny…

  5. I’ve hit rock bottom. Lost my job, career, family support, Funds, dignity. I’ve asked help from friends but few are willing to. Xavier school only produces superficial Catholics or as Pope refers to hypocritical Catholics. Even my own family has abandoned me. Where is God? I pray to Him at least 3 times daily for past 5 years, try to go to daily mass, talk to Him in adoration room at least 3 times a week, listen and watch Catholic Radio News/EWTN, watch lenient retreats but nothing. God is cruel and it’s easy to become a Catholic but difficult to live as one. Just see all the scandals at the Vatican, Vatican bank and abuses by Catholic priests, etc. Is it worth being a Catholic?

    1. I can understand why you feel the way you do. Having gone through very bad rock bottoms myself, all I can say is hang in there, keep walking (especially if you’re going through hell), and don’t make any drastic decisions. Prayers for you.

    2. Hey Ed… I may not necessarily have the answers… I may not have gone through the same as you are… But my prayers for the grace of the Spirit and the peace of the Lord be upon your heart. and may things fall into the right places for you.. Amen..

    3. Would you like to talk? I am still here at the lowest depths myself (lost my sister to jail, in danger of getting fired from my 5th job in 10 years, still to few savings either, unsure about my relationships with everyone), but maybe together we can work our way back up and out. mjc.bordador@gmail.com

    4. Would you like to talk? I am still here at the lowest depths myself (lost my sister to jail, in danger of getting fired from my 5th job in 10 years, still to few savings either, unsure about my relationships with everyone), but maybe together we can work our way back up and out. joyspalancabox@gmail.com

  6. It is never easy to turn to God when one hits rick bottom. Tragedy strikes twice often: the reversal in life also comes with forgetfulness of the mercy and love of God. This is one of the graces I think we must all pray for – that when we are down in the pit we will remember not just to cry out in agony, but more so to cry out to God for rescue

    Lazarus could not call out to God but Christ did call out to the Father for him. Christ will always be there but sometimes we need to have sisters to call on Christ for us. Perhaps we are to be the ‘sisters’ or the ‘brothers’ to others and call out the Father and Christ for them.

  7. I am now going through the most difficult time in my life. Everything is collapsing… I need the Lord to help me find the light.

  8. Thank you for sharing this and for your honesty. I was at mass this morning knowing I have gradually been “disconnecting”. I had a brief spark at the beginning of Lent, of being called back. Fast forward to this morning, I realized I was disconnected still, this deep into Lent. Letting all that is not as important consume me while letting go of the life giving Source. At mass this morning, I suddenly saw myself as Lazarus. Jesus weeps for each one of us. He “comes and sees” us where we are in our ‘death’. Thanks again. I will keep this prayer community in my prayers through Easter.

  9. I cried while reading and am now in the Madrid airport so I showed it to friend because I went through this too. In the abyss of my despair , I found God holding me ever gently and leading me towards the light. Thank you for this very frank sharing father. God bless you always

  10. I’m crying as I write. I’m rock bottom now. I’m sooooo sad. I can’t explain. I’ve gone to confession. I’ve talked to priests, friends but nothing changed. I talk to God and tell Him how I’m feeling. I don’t want to be in this situation. I hope to be Easter soon for myself too. Please join me in prayers.

  11. When I was in darkness, your voice stopped me from making the wrong decision. Thank you, Fr Johnny. The Lord was with me all along!

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