In John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, he says, “We can never really seek God in earnest until we despair of ourselves.”
This was true of the younger son in Luke 15. He only “came to his senses” and decided to go back home when he was out of human resources. What he discovered upon his return was not judgement and wrath, but mercy and love.
When we hit rock bottom, religion frowns–but the gospel smiles. Not because of our pain, but because it is finally at that point of need from which we will cry out for mercy… and find it.
Yes, the angels in heaven rejoice over the sinner who repents of his rags and receives the new robe of righteousness only Jesus can provide.
So, will I come to my senses today, or will I get religious, trying to be strong and get better? Will I believe the gospel, that on the cross Jesus took my place at rock bottom so that I could experience rescue? Will I despair of myself so that I can experience the hope of the gospel?
Quite ironically, rock bottom can be an unexpected place of grace, turning our own frowns into an unexpected smile.
The smile of the redeemed.
The smile of the forgiven.
The smile of the beloved.