No Atheists in Foxholes

Aug 26, 2008

“There are no atheists in foxholes!” declares an old saying, implying that everyone extends his hand to God or calls to Him during times of suffering, affliction, or ultimate threat, regardless if one is a believer or not. Even the religious tend to deepen their relationship with the Lord at these times. In these extreme cases we call out to God for his help, support and company, as we reach deep inside us for the strength, resiliency and ability to act in the face of fear—strengths we don’t use in the normal course of our lives.

Have you noticed that often difficulties in our lives come in waves, one after another? With the first we say, “I can handle this.” And with the second wave we say, “Okay, Okay, it’s okay, I can still manage.” But with the third we say, “No, NO! I cannot do this alone! I need help!” In my own life the year our twins were born was such a time: my husband had a dead kidney removed after he passed a kidney stone; he was just going back to work when our twins were born six weeks early; little Jonathan was back in the hospital a week later with, the doctors thought, meningitis, luckily only dehydration; at six weeks little Peter was in the hospital with bronchialitis; the next day Jonathan stopped breathing at home, we rushed him to the hospital with viral pneumonia; and three months later we moved! After the first wave or two we are still standing, but when they begin to knock us down, it’s harder and harder to get up. That’s when we called on help from God, because only He is strong and powerful enough to help us through these passages. We had reached the limit of our ability to continue alone. We cried out to the unseen God: “Enough! Enough!” “Stop all this now! I cannot take anymore!” “Save me! Save my child!

Apparently the Lord does not treat a person any differently if he is Christian or not, for when we call out to God, he responds. He treats everyone equally and welcomes all. You can count on this. When you call, he will hear and answer you. Now He does what He wishes in any situation, His answer will not necessarily be what we asked for. But He cares about us, He sustains us during a crisis and after if we want Him to.

The Lord does not impose himself on us, but stands ready to extend His help when we ask for it. It is our choice if we want a relationship with Him; we have free will, however, He is calling us to His side all the time through the beauty of nature, through his Word, through the love that is offered to us, through the experiences of life good and bad, and through our own souls.

Distinct from human sovereigns the Lord does not manipulate us into doing His will, He does not change the rules for this person or that one, He does not treat any person differently from any other. When the universe was created God made the rules and has not changed them since then. He gave us free will, the resources of the earth to use, and He continues to offer his help, support and companionship to everyone who asks for and accepts them. No exceptions! Now there are standards for our behavior that He gave us in the Ten Commandments and further explained in the teachings of Jesus, and there are consequences if we break those standards, but God is faithful, constant and patient. When a person is ready to include and embrace God in his life, the Lord will be there with him.

We think that we are very independent in our lives: we make our own decisions, we live far from our families, we are fine and alone, thank you very much. But when the difficulties come we realize our dependency on a God who cares for us, no matter what we think of Him. How fortunate we are! We move away from God and we know that we can return, whenever. How generous! How merciful! How understanding!

In our rebellion and distance from the Lord, there is a price that we much pay: insecurity, isolation, consequences of violating the Commandments, egoism and its pains, persistent unhappiness, the vagaries of a life without purpose, etc. Why do we stay far from God when our lives don’t function well.? According to many scientific studies religious people have more satisfaction in their lives, less isolation, more purpose and more happiness. The arms of the Lord await us all ready to welcome us, to help us with the troubles of life, to be our companion, to love us, for reasons that we can’t comprehend. We know that He awaits us, whenever me need Him.

In these rational and scientific times our thoughts of religions have been formed by those who would eliminate religions. We must examine these attitudes in order to determine the truth. Until the modern era all cultures put religion in the center of their lives. Today we ignore the place that religion has played in history, we think that we no longer need it. Are we happier? More satisfied? More determined? Without religion we are as a body without a heart or soul. We pretend that we are a whole people, but we are a people shadowy and dark. We lack the profundity of the ancients, the breadth of their interests. Do you know anyone with many dimensions? An amateur scientist? Someone who studies subjects different from his profession? Someone like Thomas Jefferson who studied the Bible in his free time in order to discover what Jesus actually said as opposed to what was added or changed later. Do you know anyone who is well-educated far beyond his college or high school education just because he is hungry for knowledge? So many of us go to college, but are we educated? Are we lifelong learners? We are a one-dimensional people, steeped in television but little else. What is important to us? How much money we make and how many things we have, the size of our house and auto! We travel but mostly to see the monuments everyone else has seen. Do we meet the inhabitants, get to know them, learn the language? Don’t we mostly travel to countries with people just like us? We pass through life like travelers without being touched by life, or so we hope.

Religion offers profundity in our lives, a purpose for our actions, a feeling of being a part of the family of God. And, if we respond to God’s call to enter into a relationship with Him, there will be a great transformation of our interior and exterior lives. We fear the spiritual life because it would require us to change when we think that we are in charge. Because of this we remain alone, isolated and unhappy.

Recently the Rev. Dr. Williams Dols spoke at our church: “When the worst comes, the wise reach out for the love that is offered and fall into its arms.” In the extreme circumstances of a war, “there are no atheists in foxholes,” but in the difficulties of a normal life, we think that we have a choice. The biggest stumbling block to religion is that we don’t really want to change. God calls us to a live lived in service, to a richer and fuller life, to one where the standards are clear. All that means change. God is still waiting.

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