Carlyle Fielding Stewart III

Writings on Democracy, Social Justice, and Religion

“When You Hit Rock’s Bottom”

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Day by day I am meeting more people who are down and out, despondent, depressed and discouraged by a recent turn of events in their lives. Many have lost their jobs, homes, families, friends – and they feel that their lives are spinning completely out of control. Some have even considered taking their own lives. They are living under siege; held hostage by misfortune and circumstances.

One man summed it up in a very interesting way. He said that their lives have simply hit “rock’s bottom,” where everything just seems to them to be an uphill climb out of a dark and endless pit. This man was expressing what many of us are seeing, that too many people feel they are living under the crushing weight of a heavy rock. When you feel that your life no longer has meaning and you are living “at the bottom of the rock,” you may have truly reach the lowest point of your life.

But there is hope even for those whose lives have come to this dark and dismal place. There are several options available to you.

First, you can remain contented with your current resting place, tucked neatly underneath the rock. You can resign yourself to stay there and just dig deeper into the hole and remain there forever. Here you will have no worries and you can make peace with the darkness in which you now find yourself. You have felt the crushing weight of the rock pushing you further into the hole and thus resigned yourself to never come out from under the rock. You have now made peace with your situation and can just remain there “at rock’s bottom,” forever.

Second, you can become the rock. You can decide to take on the characteristics of the rock and morph yourself into an ossified, fossilized form of existence. You may take on the rock’s hardness and strength, vowing to forever insulate yourself from the sharp pangs of reality, the stabbing  blows of life’s daily trials and disappointments. You are now strong and immovable like the rock, but in becoming the rock you lose your capacity to feel life and be fully human. With your hard, cold, strong exterior, there is nothing warm and alive within you. Nothing fazes you because nothing now touches you.  You are now an inanimate object devoid of feelings and compassion and the true sentiments that make you a true human being.

Third, you can resolve to neither take refuge under the rock, become dispassionate in becoming a rock – but instead, your life can be moved in another direction by a guiding hand. You can make the choice to allow yourself to be changed. You cannot move on your own because something outside of yourself must move you. And we do not know where this next step will take you.

Someone greater than you must pick you up in His hands and use you, and mold you, and move you. Perhaps in your new life you will be thrown into deep, still waters to make ripples on the surface or planted firmly in solid ground to provide support for someone who is needing to lean on you, to use you as a pillar of strength and support. Perhaps God can use you as a dependable tool to sharpen other rocks or build something of lasting purpose and value.

In this sense, you are not living under a rock, you are not just becoming a rock, you are being formed to be utilized as something more.  You are no longer “at rock’s bottom,” but you are now in top form. You are now so much more than a person at the mercy of a lowly object but you are being formed to be used in the masters hands for a specific purpose. Your life has value because your life and existence have moved to higher ground.

When you hit rock bottom, you don’t have to become the bottom of the rock. Life still awaits you. Goodness still surrounds you. There is still so much more of your life that God has in store for you. In the hands of God, you can find value and usefulness that you never thought you had.

Let God take you into his hands and mold you further, and use you for greater purposes and know that life can truly be worthwhile despite the fact that you’re hitting the “rock’s bottom.”


2 responses to ““When You Hit Rock’s Bottom””

  1. Dawan Wallace Avatar
    Dawan Wallace


  2. Cecil J. Thompson Avatar
    Cecil J. Thompson

    Greetings, Dr. Stewart:

    Thank you for this wonderful piece on hitting “rock’s bottom.” I appreciate the light you shed here on menacing states of mind (depression, discouragement, despondency, etc.)that are a result of a variety problems. With great clarity your response calls attention to what the individual’s options are: 1) staying under the rock, 2)becoming the rock, and 3)letting the hand of God guide you away from the bottom of the rock.

    The second category is intriguing (i.e., “becoming the rock”) because it seems like an emotional “deep-freeze.” I have often pondered this state of mind (“becoming the rock”) which is a state of apathy. I wonder if it doesn’t have a certain saving quality. The depressed, discouraged, and despondent heart might consider itself saved by it “becoming the rock” because it no longer feels pain. So, it seems, for some, this state of mind becomes somewhat therapeutic in the management of pain. Very interesting! But, ultimately, it appears this state of mind does not save one from the problems that caused it in the first place.

    A momentary digression: I wonder if the mystic gets stuck in this state of mind; the mystic strives for an ultimate disconnection from pain (through deep spiritual cultivation over a very long period of time). That is, he/she no longer strives for external realities that are susceptible to change. And, I admit, there are layers of complexity to the mystic’s position that it would be difficult to discuss and analyze in this forum. So forgive the over-simplification. But even for the mystic, “becoming the rock” might have a salvific quality. Paraphrasing you here: the price of full insulation from disappointment and pain is loss of the “capacity to feel life and be fully human.”

    I am assuming here that even though the insulation–keeping pain at bay, saves one from the painful-effects of problems, the loss of the “capacity to feel life and be fully human” is a grave consequence of “becoming the rock.” Without deconstructing this consequence, I am assuming it has something to do with having a broad appreciation of life, people, things; perhaps, even deeper, a grand LOVE: the loving sacrifice of Jesus for the salvation of the world. Again, I am assuming the “capacity to feel life” and to be “fully human” constitute, perhaps, the possibilities of that love-seed planted in us when we come to the Cross. So it’s a broad phenomenon, nothing narrow!

    Here is what just came to my mind: Thomas Hobbes says every person is a “self-interested being that acts out of self-interest alone.” This assertion is antithetical to the “capacity to feel life” and be “fully human” as I have interpreted them. It seems Hobbes would be okay with one insulating oneself from pain and disappointments, but not with taking seriously the “capacity to feel life” and be “fully human.” He might dismiss that as an illusion unless it’s defined or interpreted in terms of narrow self-interest.

    But what I like that seems to be happening is that what you state as a grave consequence of apathy/indifference to life’s struggles is, by implication, a critique of Hobbes. It seems you would say a self-interested being who acts only in self-interest has not attained full humanity; and I agree! Martin Luther King, Jr. as suggested by some of his writings, speeches, and sermons spoke to collective indifference to humanity–you seem to be speaking to individual indifference to humanity; King viewed “humanity” as a goal that people had to try to attain.

    On another note, I wanted to mention some interesting intersections between your three categories in this piece and the discussion of the first comfort against tribulation in St. Thomas More’s A Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation, but I must take no more of your time.

    Thank you for the opportunity to comment on your writings. I remain truly inspired by your ministry and scholarship!



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