There are certain songs that I go to when everything seems to be falling apart. One of those songs is Damien Rice’s “Cold Water” which is about that moment:
“When you’re right on the edge about to fall off a cliff or in a car accident or whatever… When you feel your life might be taken away from you. All of a sudden we shout ‘Jesus,’ ‘God…’ It’s just one of those thing… The strangeness of how we drift from from one side [not needing God] to the other [calling out to him] depending on where we’re at.” –Damien Rice Pukkelpop 2003
What I love about this song is the way it portrays the emptiness and subtle hope of those moments. God feels completely absent experientially yet somewhere; somehow we know he’s working. Have a listen and see what it invokes in you.
Mockingbird founder David Zahl coined one of my favorite phrases which applies perfectly to this song. He says, “God’s office is at the end of your rope.” This is right for two reasons. First, it’s only in suffering that we’re finally humbled enough to actually call and depend on him. Second, and most importantly, God is often working in those things we deem unattractive. This is true because in Christ God revealed himself on the cross. Martin Luther says it this way:
“He who does not know Christ does not know God hidden in suffering. Therefore he prefers works to suffering, glow to the cross, strength to weakness, wisdom to folly, and, in general, good to evil. These are the people whom the apostle calls ‘enemies of the cross of Christ’ [Phil. 3:18], for they hate the cross and suffering and love works and the glory of works. Thus they call the good of the cross evil and the evil of a deed good. God can be found only in suffering and the cross… Therefore the friends of the cross say that the cross is good and works are evil, for through the cross works are destroyed and the old adam, who is especially edified by works, is crucified. It is impossible for a person not to be puffed up by his good works unless he has first been deflated and destroyed by suffering and evil until he knows that he is worthless that his works are not his but God’s.” Martin Luther’s Heiderburg Disputation Thesis 21.
Simply put, God uses suffering to make us cry “uncle” so that our complete dependence will be on him. As Michael Horton writes, “Without the trails, faith is not really roused to grab hold of the God of promise.”
This is why I love Damien Rice’s song. It beautifully portrays that broken moment when God meets man. That moment when we are roused from our slumber to call out to the Savior. More than this, the “God Voice” [more apparent in the album version] in Cold Water answers back in a distinctly Christian way:
“Don’t you know I love you, and I always have…. hallelujah… will you come with me?”
From a Christian perspective, because God’s love and saving will was most present in the weakness and suffering of the cross, we can be confident that very moment God seems most absent to us he is present whispering “I love you, I always have, come with me.”
For Further Reading
Gehard Forde “On Being a Theologian of the Cross.”
Michael Horton “A Place for Weakness.”
Martin Luther’s “Heidelberg Disputation”
Tullian Tchividjian “Glorious Ruin”