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Extremity or opportunity?

From the August 2022 issue of The Christian Science Journal

Desperate circumstances, strained relationships, perilous events, even physical beatings and imprisonment—the Apostle Paul knew them all. In a letter to the Christian church at Corinth he recounts his sufferings for Christ, then makes a startling statement: “I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” (II Corinthians 12:10).

As a result of a strengthening message he received from God, Paul was even able to recommend “good cheer” at a time of extreme circumstances (see Acts 27). As a prisoner on a ship headed for Rome, he had been caught in a storm that had raged for many days. The circumstances appeared inescapable. The seamen were gripped by fear and all hope of being saved was gone. The Bible says, “But after long abstinence Paul stood forth in the midst of them, and said, Sirs, ye should have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and to have gained this harm and loss. And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, but of the ship.” 

Perhaps the Roman centurion in charge heard the ring of truth in his words, for when “they ran the ship aground” and his soldiers wanted to kill the prisoners lest they escape, the centurion commanded instead that they be allowed to swim to shore, because he wanted to save Paul. All 276 people aboard the ship were saved. 

In this extremity, Paul had received an assurance of safety from God, and he trusted the divine power to save them all. This experience evidenced that God, divine Love, is ever present and all-powerful, and proved what Paul would write later on, that nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39). This spiritual conviction of the presence and power of God’s all-embracing love transformed an extremity into an opportunity to prove the constancy and continuity of God’s care for man. 

No matter how threatening or serious things may appear, by turning wholeheartedly to God, we, too, can gain spiritual understanding and find guidance, safety, security, and deliverance. Through Christian Science, we gain the understanding of the reality and might of God, good, and the consequent unreality and impotence of all discord. This reveals our God-given dominion over all evil, and empowers us to exercise it. 

As we lean on the divine Principle, Love, spiritual truth transforms our false sense of human weakness to invincible spiritual strength. Instead of anxiety and despair clouding our vision, courage and calm poise clear it, and open thought to a way forward. Impelled by a power not our own, we become convinced that we and those around us are safely held in the Father’s embrace, unerringly guided into right actions, and strengthened by His grace for each demanding task.

The key to experiencing this is exchanging a false material standpoint that sees no exit from danger, strife, and want, for the spiritual standpoint that beholds what God sees—infinite good at hand, including present harmony, peace, order, safety, security, and abundance—even the divine law of harmony actively directing and governing all. We can stand up to appearances of extremity, of no way out of discord and chaos, with the spiritual understanding of divine Love’s allness, its omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience. As Christ Jesus proved time and again, this is the sure way out of discord and strife.

Mary Baker Eddy offers this Bible-based description of God’s nature in her book on spiritual healing, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “The three great verities of Spirit, omnipotence, omnipresence, omniscience,—Spirit possessing all power, filling all space, constituting all Science,—contradict forever the belief that matter can be actual” (pp. 109–110). And as the creation of God, we each forever reflect the divine Spirit in spiritual goodness and in nothing else.

That God’s spiritual creation is entirely, eternally good may be startling to the human mind, but it is a demonstrable spiritual truth, as Paul shows us. Whether at sea, on land, in air, or even in space, right where we are, God is, so the divine all-power and all-embracing love are immediately available to deliver us. And since God has all power, evil can have no power.

No matter what the material senses shout at us, spiritual understanding nullifies anything unlike good in our experience. Because God is All-in-all, good is continuously unfolding. Because God is omnipotence, only good has power in our experience. Because God is omnipresence, we are always enveloped in the divine atmosphere of peace and divine goodness, wisdom, and love. Because God is omniscience, what He knows to be true—infinite good—is all that really exists. By contradicting false material appearances, we bear witness to the reality of one infinitely good God. 

If a situation seems to have reached an impasse, the humble recognition of God’s infinite unfoldment of good and the consequent nonactivity of evil (human will, selfishness, hatred, destruction, or obstruction) can bring to light what we need to know and how to proceed. Listening and yielding to God turns trials into spiritual lessons and blessings. As Science and Health assures, “The very circumstance, which your suffering sense deems wrathful and afflictive, Love can make an angel entertained unawares” (p. 574).

Through Christian Science we find that material circumstances do not control us, because the infinitely good and loving God governs all. We have a permanent relationship to God and are in His care, always. We are never truly at the mercy of circumstances. Science and Health counsels, “Meet every adverse circumstance as its master” (p. 419).

As we take control of our thinking in stressful circumstances, we assert our God-given dominion and our divine right to harmony. Rather than avoiding or evading difficulties, we can exercise moral courage to reverse the material picture with spiritual facts. “He is bravely brave who dares at this date refute the evidence of material sense with the facts of Science, and will arrive at the true status of man because of it,” states Mrs. Eddy (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 183). In the midst of challenges, we can deny that we are harassed mortals, cut off from God, with limited or no options, and instead claim our oneness with God as His cherished spiritual idea, living now in His heavenly kingdom, blessed with bountiful opportunities to be and do good.

In late 2019 my circumstances changed without warning. A decade after a forced early retirement, I suddenly needed employment and a new place to live. Things looked grim. I had little in the way of resources, no current résumé, and no references. But steadfastly reversing the material picture with the spiritual facts of abundant good and ever-unfolding opportunities to bless and be blessed, within two months I had purchased a modest home in another state and relocated there.

When the pandemic struck in early 2020, my job prospects looked hopeless. For months I sent out hundreds of résumés, but they were rejected due to a lack of recent work experience. At times it felt as if I were hanging on for dear life after a shipwreck! But again, prayer led step by step to one interview and one needed reference from a former manager I found online, and I was hired.

If Paul exuded “good cheer” even in extreme circumstances, we, too, can let our innate joy bubble up and overflow in songs of praise to God, even before a resolution appears. Spiritual understanding—the consciousness of God’s reality—can transform any extremity into an opportunity to magnify and rejoice in God’s constant care.

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