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Have you ever hit rock bottom? What was the cause? Perhaps your business failed miserably, or a dearly loved family member died. Perhaps your health failed. Perhaps other people strongly opposed you. Rock bottom might have been completely out of control.

Sometimes, however, rock bottom is our own fault. The writer of Psalm 130 knew this feeling. He called to Yahweh “out of the depths” (v. 1). But “the depths” in this psalm were not the depths of affliction or sadness or sickness. As you read the psalm, it becomes clear that “the depths” were the depths of sin. It was his own “iniquities” (v. 3) that left the writer floundering in the deep. His sin left him in danger of drowning.

Do you know that feeling? Do you know what it is to feel so overwhelmed by your own sinfulness that it is as if a weight is pulling you below the surface and you find yourself gasping for air? It is a sad reality that we too often fail to recognise the true weight of sin. But there are times when that weight falls in full force upon us. How should we respond when our own sin leads us to rock bottom? Psalm 130 offers us at least three pieces of counsel.

First, when you hit rock bottom, look to the cross. “If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared” (vv. 3–4). Were it not for the promise of forgiveness, the psalmist would have drowned in the depths of his own sin. But he didn’t because he knew that forgiveness and cleansing were available.

Christians are sometimes guilty of believing that the benefits of the gospel apply only at conversion. They embrace forgiveness in Christ initially but forget that the same forgiveness and cleansing empower the entire Christian walk. When you feel crushed under the weight of your sin, look to the cross. Find forgiveness and cleansing in Christ alone. Know that, because of Christ, God does not “mark” your iniquities. Instead, he extends forgiveness.

Second, when you hit rock bottom, immerse yourself in Scripture. “I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning” (vv. 5–6). When we are in sin, the last thing we often feel like doing is meditating on Scripture because Scripture convicts us of sin. But that conviction is precisely what we need because, without conviction, we will never experience forgiveness.

Third, when you hit rock bottom, seek out the fellowship of the saints: “O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities” (vv. 7–8). Sin tends to drive a wedge between us and fellow believers. When we are in sin, we do not naturally desire the fellowship of the saints, but we desperately need it. We need our brothers and sisters to point us afresh to the cross.

As you face a new week, you can be sure that it will be a week of, among other things, failures. Your sinful failures may drive you to despair. But when you hit rock bottom, remember these truths from Psalm 130: Look to the cross; immerse yourself in Scripture; and seek out the fellowship of the saints. As you do so, may you experience God’s steadfast love as you are delivered from all your iniquities.