I listen to a lot of sad music. 

As an Enneagram Four, I am drawn to what Ian Morgan Cron calls “delicious melancholy”. I have several playlists on my Spotify dedicated to songs that are guaranteed to make me cry or at least fit the gray mood I often find myself in. This proclivity towards melancholia has even infiltrated my algorithms: Spotify recently recommended a playlist for me called “Sad Bops”.

One singer that always finds his way into my sadness queue is Nick Cave. One of my favorite songs is a bright spot of optimism in an otherwise dark catalog of music called “Into My Arms”.

The song is centered on the narrator’s lack of belief in God until it comes to the well-being of the one he loves. The first verse begins with Cave’s haunting baritone voice singing: 

I don’t believe in an interventionist God
But I know, darling, that you do
But if I did I would kneel down and ask Him
Not to intervene when it came to you
Not to touch a hair on your head
To leave you as you are
And if He felt He had to direct you
Then direct you into my arms
Into my arms, O Lord, into my arms.

We all have a crafted image of who we think we are (or who we would like to be) in our heads. We have political and religious stances clearly outlined. We have ethical decisions pre-made. We know what we like, what we will do, and who we will become. And then things happen. We lose our job or our house or both. We get sick or a loved one gets sick. We fall in love or out of love and suddenly everything is upside down.

“There are no atheists in foxholes,” the saying goes. This, of course, means that it is hard to fight the impulse to pray when your life is at stake.

Bob Crawford, the bass player for The Avett Brothers, hosts a podcast called The Road to Now about the layers of history that have led us to the present world. In a special episode last year about Christianity and culture, Crawford outlined his faith journey. 

Raised Catholic, Crawford rebelled against organized religion for most of his twenties and thirties. In 2015, his 22-month-old daughter was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He said this: “For some reason, one of the first things I did after arriving at the hospital was gather our family and friends together to pray.”

The desire to pray shocked him but ultimately led to what Crawford calls his conversion. 

Both the Nick Cave song and Bob Crawford’s story got me thinking this past week about how we view belief in our postmodern age. As I (and others) have written before, in today’s world belief itself has become unbelievable. The core tenets of Christianity that were pervasive and unquestioned in 1500 are seen by many in 2019 as relics of a backward time.

And yet, in the case of Bob Crawford, when your daughter gets sick, you pray for her well-being. Or if you are Nick Cave, you pray that your love will be brought safely into your arms.

There are no atheists in foxholes and the truth is that we all find ourselves in foxholes from time to time. We are all fighting a battle that is known only to you and God. It is in that situation where the true state of our belief begins to show.

Since deactivating all my social media accounts at the beginning of the summer, it has become clear that I was crafting a version of myself that was not real. I was building a persona that did not match who I actually am in my daily life. I found myself oscillating between poles; one day believing one viewpoint or theological idea or political position and the next floating another. I can firmly say that I have no need of God and then find myself on my knees praying for His help. I was like Nick Cave singing the same breath that I don’t believe in God and then praying to Him. 

In his new book called Mentors, Russell Brand wrote that he often struggles against the desire to “live an autobiography, not a life.” 

We are all living the life we have been given, not the one we dream up or wish we had. We all find ourselves in a variety of foxholes, moving from one crisis to another, all the while looking for a reprieve.

I don’t know what foxhole you are in at the moment. I don’t know what the battle sounds like where you are, but I know the feeling of being huddled in the dirt, praying that things could be different or that someone would come and save you. I have experienced that feeling in my own life and the lives of those around me. 

There is no avoiding the foxhole. Eventually, our prettiest plans or nicest vision of who we are is brought up against the reality of our sin, failure, and darkness of the world. In those moments, when we cry out, “My God, my God!”, we find that we are in good company. We find that our cry has been echoed by the One who sits at the right hand of God. In the deepest darkness of the hells we find ourselves in, we see that Christ is there with open arms and scarred hands, ready to put us right again. 

There are no atheists in foxholes and we are all in our own foxhole from time to time, when it seems that our very life is at stake. Christ meets us there at the bottom and calls us to go ahead and die. For only when we are brought to the end of ourselves, when our illusions are shattered, can we rest in the arms of the Father in the light of the Resurrected Christ.