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From complaint to joy

From The Christian Science Journal - June 18, 2012

The genesis of this article is a little protracted. I originally sat down to write a sort of treatise on the value of never complaining. It had become clear to me in my study of Christian Science that a human tendency to find things to complain about can keep someone from grasping truth wholeheartedly. I had been particularly adept at doing just that, and I wanted to share my insight with others. 

So I set out my new-found understanding that I could only entertain joy and love if my thinking was not in “complaint mode.” However, along the way, the article took on too much of an accusatorial tone and its language lacked compassion. In making a metaphysical argument it is easy forget that one is not going to have much of an audience if entreaties to “rise higher mentally” lack love. Net result: The article needed a rewrite. 

For those who are in the midst of a demanding challenge, it is a very human reaction to chafe at the circumstances. If you have just been fired from your job, when you have done nothing wrong—as happened to me once—the sense of injustice and grievance can be overwhelming. It really does not help, at such a time, to have someone say, “Just get on with it; you will be blessed by this challenge,” especially if you feel cursed by the unfairness of it all.

Oddly enough, having seen the lack of compassion in this approach, I was still at a loss on how to tackle the issue in any other way. The original premise of my article was simple: If you never allow your thoughts to get into complaint mode, then you will have nothing to complain about. Irrespective of how true that may be, the approach smacks a little too much of psychology and mental science rather than the presence of an ever-loving Father, who washes away all our tears. 

It is not as if the Bible doesn’t support the boot camp approach to such things. We find in the Old Testament, “And when the people complained, it displeased the Lord: and the Lord heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the Lord burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp” (Numbers 11:1). 

Such verses however are not exactly “aflame with divine love,” which Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of our Church, characterizes as “legitimate Christian Science.” In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, she writes, “The tender word and Christian encouragement of an invalid, pitiful patience with his fears and the removal of them, are better than hecatombs of gushing theories, stereotyped borrowed speeches, and the doling of arguments, which are but so many parodies on legitimate Christian Science, aflame with divine Love” (p. 367).

Uplifted thoughts take us beyond self-pity to healing.

Having recognized that I needed to approach the issue more from the standpoint of divine Love, I was forced to sit back, wait, and pray for inspiration. As usual the answer came in such a way that the angel message could only have been divinely directed. 

My attention was drawn one evening to a TV program about Hasidic Jews. One of the participants indicated that in the eyes of the Hasidim “it was a sin to serve God without joy.” From those words I realized that it was not enough just to stop complaining about one’s lot. It was far more important to give up the sense of life being a challenge and gain a sense of joy about all things.

Joy is an extraordinary quality in that its substance is so cathartic. A clear sense of true joy carries us through the most difficult circumstances. Until I understood the value of joy, any attempts to simply think my way out of the notion that I had something to complain about were more of a mental exercise than a spiritual conviction. But when joy is at the helm of thought, it carries with it such effulgence that it leaves little room for any despondent or complaining thought. 

Since “joy is self-sustained,” as Mary Baker Eddy points out (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 209), it is not dependent on anything. So our ability to experience joy and to express it is totally innate. It is available to us at all times. When we understand this fact, we know we can never lose our joy. To me, that is one of the most extraordinarily uplifting spiritual truths I have encountered. As I insist with conviction that joy is the real fabric of my being, I know that the kingdom of heaven is right at hand.

One can be joyful without having a reason for it.

Another interesting facet of joy is that it doesn’t depend solely on the intellect or an intellectual framework. It can be highly intuitive. Joy in and of itself is not a function of any form of reasoning any more than music is. One can be joyful without having a reason for it.

Sometimes there is a tendency to operate within an intellectual framework to the detriment of spiritual sense. In some ways, this kind of outlook may have led to my original, rather soulless approach to the problem of the complaining mind. But I’ve learned that powerful spiritual qualities such as joy defy logic and reason.

Until we experience the power of the spiritual approach, a certain amount of spiritual reasoning and argument does pay dividends, but it’s helpful to realize that we can move beyond that method of healing. Mrs. Eddy, in her healing work, didn’t have to resort to such things because her spiritual sense was so pervasive. I think that if one has a sense of joy and love which are so embracing that they represent the presence of God Himself, then healing is going to be immediate because there is no room for anything else.

In my own experience a specific spiritual insight that transcended a purely intellectual approach brought healing. For nearly 20 years I suffered badly from depression. Despite my prayers and Christian Science treatment from others, the healing did not come.

Nonetheless, one day it suddenly became clear to me that for all that time, I had allowed my thinking to indulge in self-pity, which is a kind of internal complaint mechanism. What I had not realized was that error had justified its continual stance of self-pity by claiming I had much to complain about. That realization alone was sufficient to break the hold of depression. 

I see very clearly now that in the kingdom of heaven there is just no room for self-pity, and I had to get out of that ditch irrespective of whether or not it appeared justified. As a result of being able to avoid all invitations to indulge in self-pity, I was healed of the problem. And the conditions that had made me feel that self-pity was justified were alleviated.

In the final analysis, it is divine inspiration that leads us into all truth. Until the time comes when we can ply our trade as healers in the power of Spirit and in the full conviction of God’s presence alone, as Mrs. Eddy did, we are going to have to spiritually reason things out from time to time. 

The fact that we can see the whole role of joy in raising our consciousness to the level of the divine Mind means we have come a long way in dispensing with intellect as the sole platform of His grace. 

And by the way, I did revise the article with a more joyful spirit in my heart.  You’ve just read the result!

Anthony Whitehouse is a Christian Science practitioner who lives in Coppet, Switzerland.

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