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What does it take to be healed spiritually?

From the January 2020 issue of The Christian Science Journal

This interview was originally recorded as a podcast on June 10, 2019 and was adapted for the January 2020 issue of The Christian Science Journal

Listen to podcast

In a Christian Science Sentinel podcast, Jenny Sawyer, Managing Editor of Youth Content, talked with Christian Science practitioners Mark Unger and Amy Richmond about how a Christian Science approach to healing is both practical and revolutionary, and how an understanding of God forms the basis for effective, permanent healing.

Jenny: For many people, the thought of turning to God for healing might be a new concept. But when everything you’ve tried hasn’t brought you a solution, then turning to God might start to seem viable. So, how do you turn to God for healing? And is it hard?

Mark: We certainly have the master of healing, Christ Jesus, as our model. One of the simple things he said was, “Know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). He showed in his life that the “truth” he was talking about is God. This divine Truth is about harmony. It’s about goodness. It’s about love. It’s about God taking care of us. 

Truth doesn’t have anything to do with disease or discord or death. Truth has to do with reality—spiritual reality—and with what God, Spirit, creates in man, His own image and likeness. As this image and likeness, man, which is a term for both men and women, is entirely spiritual and good. And from that basis we can understand that whatever is unlike good is unreal. 

As far as whether it’s hard, I was thinking of a true story that a friend told me about a mother who was a Christian Scientist. She was feeling really ill one day and praying about it the way she always had, but she wasn’t getting anywhere. At one point she had to lie down on the couch, and her son was there putting on his roller skates. She asked him if he would pray for her. 

He said sure and continued adjusting his skates. A minute or two later, she realized she was healed. She sat up and asked, “What did you pray?” 

And he said, “I prayed with what I know: ‘the scientific statement of being.’ ” Now, “the scientific statement of being” is an amazing paragraph in Mary Baker Eddy’s seminal work, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures (see p. 468). It makes clear that we are spiritual and not material and that God is All-in-all.

She said, “But you only had time to go through it once.” 

He looked at her and said, “Well, God is not deaf.” 

I love what this story illustrates about healing. Here was this child who had absolute, childlike trust that this prayer would be effective. That knowing the truth in “the scientific statement of being” would heal. I’m sure his mother had had many quick healings, but we as adults tend to feel like we’ve got to work so hard, pray so hard. And we forget our childlike, pure trust that God is with us and taking care of us. 

Jenny: So in essence, knowing the truth isn’t an intellectual process. That flies in the face of achieving things by a certain amount of work, a certain amount of acquired knowledge or skill. So maybe we can talk about how if healing isn’t a process, then what is the “work” of healing? 

Amy: It does take a consistent devotion of thought. It’s work, but it’s not work in the traditional sense. It’s getting ourselves, our human concepts, out of the way and letting God show you what’s really true about you. It’s more of a revelation than a willfulness that you need to see something different.

Mark: I like that very much—getting ourselves out of the way. And I think, if there’s work involved, it’s getting rid of these heavy material concepts that we’ve taken on—that we’re mortal, that we’re separate from God, that we’re destructible, that we’re limited. In the face of divine Truth, all of that has to go away. 

Amy: It’s God that does the healing. But we have to open ourselves up to that. 

I had an experience a couple of years ago in which I woke up in the morning and there was something terribly wrong with my eyes. I couldn’t really see; I couldn’t focus. I thought, “I can make my way to and listen to the audio loop of Science and Health.” I clicked on it, and I could tell right away that I was in “Fruitage.” That’s the chapter at the end, where there are lots of testimonies in which people were healed just by reading Science and Health. But it’s not written by Mary Baker Eddy. Very inspiring, but not what I needed—or so I thought. I thought, “No, I need something big, deep, metaphysical.” And then suddenly I heard “Diseased eyes cured.” And I went, “Oh. This is for me.” 

Jenny: That was the title of the testimony. 

Amy: Yes. And this woman wrote that she was going blind and had been given up by the medical community. So she went to see her sister, who had been healed previously through Christian Science. And when she saw her sister, who had been so ill before and now was in good health, she said, “God has as much for me, if I will accept it” (p. 628). 

I thought, “That’s true for me, too. God has as much for me.” 

The woman in “Fruitage” was instantaneously healed of that eye condition. And I was, too.

Jenny: I love that, because it gets to another key point when it comes to healing, which is dealing with this feeling that maybe some of us aren’t good enough to be healed. Like some of us are left out, or we’re not quite good enough pray-ers. I’ve been surprised to hear that voice myself—which you could call the carnal mind, something leading us away from God—telling me, “You’re not good enough; you don’t deserve it.” And one of my favorite experiences is sort of a tandem healing with Amy that happened because I specifically confronted that voice.

Healing isn’t work in the traditional sense of the word. It’s more of a revelation—letting God show you what’s true.

Amy had had a healing of a burn after drinking hot chocolate, and a week or two later, I burned my tongue. My first thought was, “Oh shoot, I never get healed when I burn my tongue.” (Because that’s been my experience in the past.) And then I thought, “Wait a second. Amy just told me about that healing she had, and I know that this law of health and harmony is universal, because God loves all of us equally and there’s no place in God’s universe where I could be left out of God’s provision of health and wholeness and harmony.” And I was instantly healed. Sometimes something as simple as the fact that we’re worthy of healing can be so powerful.

Amy: One thing Jenny and I have talked about is that the way we pray has changed recently, in that we’ve tried to be more open to hearing God instead of telling God. It used to be that I would always be telling myself truths about God, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But I’ve also found that it’s more effective for me to be still and be open to hearing God’s messages—and then trusting them.

Jenny: I love that, because one of the things I thought of as a quick answer to “What does it take to be healed spiritually?” is: It’s about God. It’s fundamentally about all that God is and all that God is doing. 

One time, when I was praying, what came to me was: God is not on a dimmer switch. God is not down on low light, and when we’re having a problem, we, through our prayer, are not inching that little slider up to get God at full illumination. God is constantly being all that God is, but sometimes our back is turned to that, so to speak. So opening ourselves up to God allows us to feel that full presence of God more quickly, versus having to inch our way up toward the understanding that God really is there.

Mark: We’ve learned, through studying the Bible and studying Mrs. Eddy’s spiritually scientific interpretation of the Bible, that God is all good. There are a lot of people who don’t know that. So when we say it’s all about God, we know that means it’s about feeling the presence of good. 

I have realized that that’s key to healing: not feeling separated from God. And that understanding brought about an amazing physical healing for me. 

It was a severe burn on my arm—all up my arm. And the woman who is my wife now saw the burn and said it was probably a third-degree burn. She didn’t know anything about Christian Science, but I was praying and I told her I was OK. 

What had happened was that burning wax exploded, and a lot of it landed on my arm and burned it. And I thought, “Where did God go when that happened? Where was He?” And I knew the answer: He didn’t go anywhere. As you both were saying, He’s always there, always shining, always with us. 

And I thought, “God didn’t go anywhere, so He didn’t allow me to be hurt. So actually, this accident has to be unreal.” I just knew so clearly: “God, You never left for a second. So You’ve always been taking care of me.” 

Now, you can say that sounds funny if you want, but the result of knowing God was there every second was that after a couple hours, when I went to leave, my girlfriend said, “Can I see your arm?” And there was nothing there—nothing other than three tiny red spots. 

She said, “I just saw a miracle. You have to tell me what you did.” 

And I said, “You know, all these ideas that I pray with are in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy.” 

Jenny: That struggle against what the five physical senses are telling us is often the moment that determines which way we’re going to go. Because when you’re in pain or upset about something, it can feel very compelling—just as that burn did. But the opportunity that I’ve learned about from studying Christian Science is that we have a choice between two narratives. There’s the narrative that seems compelling because you can see it with your own eyes, and then there’s what Mary Baker Eddy calls spiritual sense. What is the spiritual sense of things—the basis of which is that God is Life, God is our Life? What is that story? 

I had an experience last summer that was all about that exact choice. I’d been downtown, walking on uneven sidewalk, and I tripped and fell and went down pretty hard. Both my wrists felt kind of off—not broken or anything but really sore. And it came to me so clearly as I started to pray: You have two paths here. You can take the path of, “I just fell down and now my wrists hurt”—and then the litany of pain and suffering that was going to follow as a result. Or I could choose to know that God had always been there. I’d never been separated from God; I was always encompassed by divine Love. And as soon as I made that choice, I could feel a mental shift take place. 

The fear started to fade, and that running track in my head saying, “Well, now you’re going to feel this way, and what about this later in the week?” started to shut off. I kept praying about it into the next morning, but I could feel how decisive that turning point was when I realized I really could trust God. That the spiritual sense of existence in which I was untouched was truly my only existence. I could be perfectly healed because I chose that path. And I was—I was completely healed. 

Mark: I’ve been thinking about the need for trust in regard to prayer and healing. An underlying trust in God’s constant care for us—rather than feeling like it’s all on us to understand more or to come up with a perfect prayer. And in that light I wanted to start examining how I think about things when I pray for healing. How much do I put it on God to take care of me, and how much do I put it on me to take care of me? 

Recently I had a physical challenge that I needed to pray about, and I decided to observe my thoughts through the process. I noticed that I tended to pray and let it go and just trust God, rather than pray and check to see if it worked or to see if my prayer was good enough.

Prayer helps me to see reality in its pure and beautiful spiritual form—
as God created it.

And in this particular case I had pain in my stomach, and I noticed there was a lot of fear because I’d had the same condition some months earlier and it ended up being a multiple-day health challenge. And even though I did find great healing, I didn’t want to go through that again. 

So I prayed to put down the fear by remembering that God was taking care of me. That I was in fact spiritual and not material. 

I went to bed, and even though I was praying, the pain was keeping me awake. And I continued to pray, and I noticed that I was trusting God to take care of me. 

Ultimately, even though the pain didn’t go completely away, I finally went to sleep, and I woke up with the pain a couple hours later. But I didn’t go down the road of thinking, “Because the pain is still here, my prayer isn’t working or maybe I don’t have enough understanding.” Rather, I just prayed again, trusted God, and went back to sleep. I woke up with pain again later, and I did the same thing again. 

When I woke up in the morning, there was no pain and I felt great. So my conclusion was that it is really helpful not to get caught up in the problem and all the reasons we think we’re not being healed. And it makes me want to cultivate more of that childlike trust, to have that underlying attitude of faith in God as we pray through a problem—knowing that God will provide the prayer or inspiration or understanding that’s needed. God is the one who provides for us, rather than we for ourselves. 

Amy: Sometimes it’s harder than other times. Once I had a bump on my face, and it panicked me. Every morning I’d be putting my makeup on and I would see it. And I became kind of obsessed with it because I was so afraid. 

Then I decided I was going to use that obsession to my advantage. So every time I would think about it, I would turn to God to find out what I could learn. And every day there was something new. 

Around that time I had a tune go through my head, and I remembered it was something that I had heard a guy named Tim Dixon sing. There’s a line in his song that says, “I’m not made of things that vanish” (It’s about good, “Immortal,” You can’t escape it). And I realized, Me neither! I am not made of things that vanish; I am made of solid spiritual ideas that are from God. So anything that can vanish—like that bump on my face—wasn’t part of me. Steadily I made progress, and within a month it was gone—completely healed. 

I don’t think that we always need a huge revelation. We just need to move the needle a little bit—learn a little bit more about God and His control of our lives—and we can experience healing. 

Jenny: What I hear both of you saying is that we’re not using prayer to change something. And for me, at least, I feel like prayer helps me to see reality in its pure and beautiful spiritual form—as God created it, as God is sustaining it, as it exists right here for us to see. When I’m really in that sweet spot in my prayers, I’m so taken with that new view that it becomes the most compelling thing to me. And then even if whatever it is that was bugging me is still there, whining like a mosquito in the background, I’m understanding what’s true—that the world we live in is spiritual here and now. 

Mark: This, to me, is what sets Christian Science apart from everything else on the planet. We are not trying to fix something. 

That’s what every other healing system I’ve heard about seems to do: start with a problem and then try to fix it. Whereas Christian Science teaches that our prayer enables us to see reality—to acknowledge our present perfection right where discord or disease appears to be. We are praying to see what is real, what is really going on. 

Mrs. Eddy wrote about how Jesus did that: “Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals.” Then she says, “In this perfect man the Saviour saw God’s own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick” (Science and Health, pp. 476–477). And so we’re getting to what is true in our prayer. Truth reveals, and this heals. 

Amy: Healing is, frankly, inevitable—even in chronic situations. Mary Baker Eddy is clear on that point. Over and over again in Science and Health she makes the point that matter’s not real. So if it’s not real, we’re not trying to change something. We’re just seeing what’s spiritually true and what God is already doing for us. 

Mark: What Mary Baker Eddy writes about matter takes us back to “the scientific statement of being.” That statement refers to Mind, another name for God, at the beginning, saying: “There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter. All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all.” And it ends with: “Spirit is God, and man is His image and likeness. Therefore man is not material; he is spiritual.” 

As a little boy in grade school, I even had my first healing of a painful burn on my finger praying for myself by thinking about the first couple sentences of “the scientific statement of being.” The pain went away instantly when I started praying, and I remember thinking, “Wow, this really works. There really is a God.” 

So Mary Baker Eddy was clearly well ahead of her time talking about the insubstantiality of matter and proving it by healing. And here we are today, over 150 years after her discovery of this spiritual Science of being, and we have things like quantum physics at least approaching the idea that matter isn’t quite what it appears to be. 

I love how Christian Science explains that matter is a mental concept. It’s actually an objectification of our present state of thought. So a metaphor might be that a projector in a movie theater is the human mind. And then what you see on the screen is like the human body. So you wouldn’t go to the screen and fix the picture. You would go to what’s causing the problem, which is the projector, or the mental belief or mental concept. 

Now, how we work on the mental concept is another area where Christian Science stands out; we don’t work with our human mind, our mortal mind, or, as the Bible says, the carnal mind, and try to change it. Christian Science goes to the divine Mind, which is God, to get the right thought about our true spiritual identity as God’s idea or expression—and that improves the body. When we look away from matter to Spirit, we see Spirit producing the healing effect. 

Jenny: The bottom line to me is that this is a joyful thing. There can be a feeling of heaviness when we’re talking about healing, because when you feel like you’re struggling, that can be a heavy thing. But ultimately, it really is about getting a new view—it’s a mental concept that’s changing. It’s God giving us the new view, which is beautiful. The new view is free, unlimited, full of health and vibrancy—and it’s joyful. When I think about healing in that way, it makes me sigh a big sigh of relief. 

Mark: I think what Mrs. Eddy wrote in another book really encapsulates what we’re saying here. She says, “That individual is the best healer who asserts himself the least, and thus becomes a transparency for the divine Mind, who is the only physician; the divine Mind is the scientific healer” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 59). And again, that is the important point: that God is the healer. As a practitioner, I try to think as Jesus did: “I can of mine own self do nothing” (John 5:30). I know that God is always the healer. 

Amy: Right. It’s super important to remember that all answers can be found by turning to God. And each individual can expect to get the answers they need. That doesn’t have to be hard.

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