This saying circulated during World War Two, but may have gone back to World War One which was largely fought in fox holes. The idea is that when things get bad enough, everybody searches for a higher power. I thought about this saying the other day while overhearing conversations in the “Infusion Room”. I prefer calling the room the “Cocktail Lounge”. It is where you go to lounge around in Lazy Boys and receive potent cocktails of drugs. On Wednesdays I get a blend that includes five different items (chemo, anti-nausea, steroids, saline, Benadryl, and Zantac). Thursday’s mix is made of the first four ingredients (but different chemo meds) above. The hang-over is a real doozy!
Anyway, while sitting there, conversations are going on all around the room. Most of these conversations are sprinkled with “God language”. And, though I don’t want to sound judgmental they tend to fall into two categories. The first category includes those people who obviously have a deep and abiding faith. They entered the foxhole with it, and they will leave with it. Their language is one that us Christians are familiar with. It is our language. It is not based on the circumstances around us, but our experience of God in our lives.
The other category includes people who are grasping at religion in the bad times. They are vaguer about their language, using terms such as “the man upstairs”, and “a higher power” to refer to a God that is distant to them. I know this sounds judgmental. But I’m just observing. At least they are moving towards God in their time of need. And hopefully, God will reveal himself to them in big ways.
But I have to say, religion won’t get you through it. I make a big distinction between “spirituality” and “religion”. Religion is an effort to win God’s approval by doing and saying the right things. Religious folks will often try to make a deal with God. I’m sure a lot of deals have been attempted in foxholes! People say things like “God, if you will just get me through this I will _______.” This way of thinking is based on the idea that God needs a reason to care about you.
Spirituality is quite the opposite. It begins with an understanding that God cares deeply for you. You don’t have to prove yourself to him, earn his love, or bargain with him. You just need to receive what he offers. Spirituality is durable in good times and bad. Spiritual people have staying power. They don’t spend a lot of time asking “Why me?” They don’t think too highly of themselves. They believe in miracles, but don’t expect special favor. They humbly accept whatever God sends their way. This is what I aspire to.
Religion, on the other hand, has a tendency to fall apart if things don’t go your way – or if things do go your way. Let me explain. The religious person often bargains with God. If God doesn’t come through with what they want, they turn their back on God. Or, God does come through, they get better, and go back to their normal life – forgetting what God did for them.
I plan to carry my faith through this thing with me. I have been given a lot of reason for optimism by the doctors. But my faith isn’t based on the outcome. I know God will be glorified no matter what happens. My role is to point people to his glory.
I sincerely hope that the “religious” folks in the Infusion Room find a deep spirituality that is based in God’s unchanging love for them. It is so much better! It’s what keeps me kicking.