I am sure that you may have hear the quote, “There are no atheists in foxholes.” One of the explanations of the term is that in times of great fear or impending catastrophe, men and women will believe in, or hope for a “higher power” that will be merciful and lift them out of their distress.
I always considered myself to have a strong faith foundation. Being raised in the Catholic Church, I never questioned the existence of God or my commitment to Him. I believed that – until I found myself in a “foxhole.” There I realized that my faith was elementary at best. It was the size of a mustard seed. But a mustard seed produces a tall, wide, sturdy tree. The Bible says the mustard tree grows to such a size that “birds of the sky can lodge in its branches.” (Matthew 13:32)
Recently, I came across this quote; “Christianity is not a message which has to be believed, but an experience of faith that becomes a message.”1 In my “foxhole,” I had an experience of faith that was transformational. When I cried out to Jesus, He revealed Himself to me. In my pain, He spoke into my heart words of comfort and of healing. In my confusion and uncertainty, He whispered words of guidance and direction. In my loneliness, He brought people into my life who lifted me up. When fear paralyzed me, He created circumstances that propelled me forward.
Most people thought I would not survive, many thought if I did, I would commit suicide. But today, my experience of faith has become my message. When I couldn’t stop crying, when depression ruled and I couldn’t lift my head off the pillow, Jesus gave my life meaning. All I had to do, all anyone has to do, is reach out and take His hand. Experiencing Jesus “is not reserved to a privileged few but is graciously granted…to anyone seriously seeking [Him].2 He is always reaching out for us.
Everyone’s encounter will be different, but certain elements are the same. We recognize the unconditional love of Jesus for us. We also realize that He is meeting our needs. While He doesn’t always answer our prayers with what we ask for or even when we ask for it, we eventually come to realize that He always provides us with what we need, when we need it. That creates a deep sense of security which births newfound, lifelong, unshakable trust in the Lord. Now, I feel I don’t do anything on my own accord, but “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
You may be dealing with significant health issue. You may be mourning the loss of a love one. You may have lost your job and cannot provide for your family. You may be in a stressful relationship. Whatever “foxhole” you are in today, I pray that you seek out the Lord and find that experience of faith that becomes your message.
1E. Schillebeeckx, Interim Report (New York: Crossroad, 1985), 52. 2Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust (New York: Harper Collins, 2000), 89