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Joy, not sorrow, is the victor

From the May 2017 issue of The Christian Science Journal

A few years ago I experienced a dramatic change in my closest relationships. My mother and six of her siblings and/or their spouses passed on in a span of two and a half years. 

These were people with whom I had dined and traveled, and whom I admired for lives lived honorably and filled with love. Yet remarkably I felt free from grief. A deepening consciousness of everyone’s eternal life in God relieved me of any feeling of absolute parting. I saw that grief is not God’s plan for me or anyone. The Bible promises that we may “know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God” (Ephesians 3:19). This fullness does not include suffering.

In Psalms 30:5, we read, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” I think of the “night” mentioned in the psalm as being when evil seems to overshadow God’s goodness. It can make a situation seem hopeless and unchangeable. But there, in the second half of that statement, is the promise that joy comes in the morning.

Does that mean we will feel joy if we literally wait until daybreak? Is it just a matter of time passing till all will be well?

Sometimes it seems as though it would be easier if it were just a matter of waiting, but truly overcoming sorrow has nothing to do with the passage of time. There has to be a change of thought, a spiritualization of our thinking—an awakening in the spiritual light of divine Truth—moving our focus from the apparent mortal situation to the immortal and present reality of God.

The change from sadness to joy occurs naturally as the Christ-spirit dawns in our thinking.

The change from sadness to joy occurs naturally as the Christ-spirit dawns in our thinking. This is where prayer comes in. We can begin by affirming the absolute truth about God. In the first chapter of Genesis, we read, “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good” (verse 31). Anything that does not conform to this rule of spiritual creation is not of God and does not have any reality. Its seeming presence is temporary and diminishes as our understanding of the divine reality becomes clearer. As we more fully and profoundly understand God as infinite and good, we begin to experience the dawn of spiritual reality in our lives.

There may be times when it is necessary to prayerfully persist with these basic truths in order to counter feelings of sadness. Those downward tendencies may present themselves as natural and inevitable, even necessary. But regardless of how justified they may seem, sorrow is not God’s plan for us. We are God’s beloved children, and divine mercies are covering us at all times.

This is where a moment-to-moment commitment to pray for ourselves and the world is essential. In a section called “Alertness to Duty,” which Mary Baker Eddy included in the Manual of The Mother Church, it says, “It shall be the duty of every member of this Church to defend himself daily against aggressive mental suggestion, and not be made to forget nor to neglect his duty to God, to his Leader, and to mankind” (p. 42). This clarifies that we cannot be passive in defending ourselves against the belief that inharmony and sadness are part of what we really are. This thoughtful defense can take place anytime and anywhere. It can begin in the morning as we prayerfully purify our thinking, cultivating our receptivity to the Word of God. It can continue during the day, whether driving to work, working in the yard, or paying bills.

St. Paul directs us to “pray without ceasing,” which follows his counsel to “rejoice evermore” (I Thessalonians 5:16, 17). At times it may seem impossible to “rejoice evermore,” but that is the biblical demand—and God’s promise to us. This helps me see that even in hard times, we can look for something to be grateful for, affirming God as the source of all that is good and true—magnifying the Lord. I’ve found that staying with the thought of magnifying the good that I see—that is, acknowledging the evidence of God’s love in my experience—lifts grief.

Of course, I do miss being able to share my daily life with my mom, aunt, and uncles, but that is tempered by my gratitude for the blessings of having had them in my life and, above all, an understanding that the one God, good, gives all of us infinite life and joy. I am striving to magnify the Lord by expressing gratitude for their lives: that is, for their expression of spiritual qualities. This prayerful approach has opened my thought to the healing Comforter, which has brought joy and continues to companion me every day. I am very grateful for the strength and freedom from sadness I have received by turning to God every morning in prayer.

Regardless of how many times we have been led to believe that sorrow is the victor, we can continue to turn to divine Love, God, to break the hold of sorrow and grief.

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