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Foxholes and Sensitivity

THE FOLLOWING DIALOGUE can occur quite often:

"I started to pray one day, after my second child was born prematurely. The doctor said to me that it would be ‘touch-and-go for the next 48 hours. ‘And,’ he added, ‘Do you pray?’ "

"Not really," I answered.

" ‘Well,’ he said, ‘if there was ever a time to start praying, it’s now.’ "

"His remark caught me off guard, and it made me think. I came from a family that believed religion was the opium of the masses, a family which ignored its religious relatives. But standing there in the emergency waiting room, I felt so helpless. So I prayed."

'But that’s exactly the point,' says the listener. 'You needed to pray because you had trouble. That’s why I don’t pray, because my life is running quite smoothly.'

'No. That’s exactly the point. When things go well we don’t believe in God, and we certainly don’t feel a need to ask for His help. But the reason I prayed that day was not because I was down. Being down made me more sensitive to a reality I should have always been aware of, but was out of touch with because I believed too much in myself and fate. My son’s situation tuned me into the fact that, as good and clever as mankind is, we’re really still quite limited..."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Imagine two people outside on a hot, sunny day. One of the two people has slightly burnt skin, while the skin of the other one is pale. The one with the sensitive skin turns to the other one and says,

'We better head for shade. This sun is hot enough to burn.'

The one with the pale skin says, 'Actually the sun is nice and warm."

The sun was the same temperature for both people. However, the skin of one was more sensitive than the skin of the other person, and that allowed him to be more aware of the actual heat of the sun. In fact, many people are sunburned because they don’t feel the heat of the sun until it’s too late.

Awareness is a function of sensitivity. Just like a radio can only pick up radio signals if it is tuned to the right frequency, so too can human beings only be aware of God if they are "tuned" to the right "frequency".

In order to feel God’s Presence, one has to have a certain level of spiritual sensitivity and receptability. Below that level of sensitivity, God can be "beaming" down on a person, but he or she won’t feel Him or notice Him. Such people act like those who stay in the sun too long because they don’t feel any pain - yet.

Tragedy instantly creates spiritual sensitivity. Suffering is humbling, eye-opening. Prosperity creates the illusion that everything goes the way we want it to go, and makes many ask, "So who needs God?'

This can be the "curse" of success, warned Moses:

When God your Lord brings you into the land that He promised to your fathers... you will find great, flourishing cities that you did not build... you will eat and be satisfied, but be careful not to forget God. (Deuteronomy 6:10; see also 32:15)

Success leads to confidence, and confidence very often leads to over-confidence. Over-confidence, in the end, leads to a de-sensitization to the reality of God.

Suffering says that life does not always go your way. It smashes through the illusion of a single reality, and says, "Look, there’s more to life than you and the way you perceive it. Shouldn’t you find out what that ‘more’ is, for your own sake?"

The trick of course, is to remain spiritually sensitive while being successful, as Jacob, the forefather of the Jewish people, was able to do:

"It is I, Esau, your first born," said Jacob. "I have done as you have asked. Sit up, and eat the game I have trapped, so that your soul can bless me."

"How did you find it so quickly, my son?" asked Isaac.

"God, your Lord, was with me." (Genesis 27:19)

Isaac said to himself, 'It is not normal for Esau to mention the name of heaven." - Rashi
But is was normal for Jacob to constantly have God in mind whether he was successful, or unsuccessful. So normal, in fact, that Jacob almost gave himself away by acting too much like himself and not enough like the brother he was trying impersonate.

This is the spiritual beauty of a "foxhole". It has the ability to open spiritual doors that the person may have closed, or, in the case of many, may never have had the chance to open. Everyone has the capacity to pray, and as mentioned earlier, an inherent need to as well.

The down-and-out person doesn’t need God anymore than the successful one, and the successful person doesn’t need God any less than the down-and-out-person. Ironically, though the successful agnostic has a physical advantage over a sad, spiritually sensitive individual, it is the latter who has the spiritual advantage over the successful person, and spiritual advantages are what life is about.

But it is the successful, spiritually sensitive person who has the advantage over both. This is the goal in life, and the challenge as well. Don’t wait to suffer to become spiritually sensitive. Otherwise, you may find yourself having difficulty climbing out of a “foxhole” custom-made for you.


The reason why people who suffer turn to prayer, whereas people who do not suffer do not readily turn to prayer, is because the former are more spiritually aware. Suffering makes a person spiritually sensitive, and therefore more spiritually aware. Success, on the other hand, can blind a person to their dependency on God’s help.

© by Mercava Productions

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