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Life, love, and the lifting of grief

From the August 2018 issue of The Christian Science Journal

At times of tragedy, our hearts naturally reach out to embrace individuals who have lost loved ones. In our desire to help, we can earnestly turn to God in prayer, trusting that His love—infinitely larger than human affection—is present and has the power to lift our brothers and sisters out of grief and loss. I’ve felt this powerful, healing love in my own experience.

The Psalmist sang of the healing power of God, divine Love, to bring comfort, strength, respite, and yes, even joy to the whole human family: “Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; to the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent” (Psalms 30:11, 12). Through heartfelt prayer, we can experience this transformation from darkness and heaviness into light and joy, even when the one who has gone on is a beloved family member or friend.

On the first Mother’s Day after my mom had passed, I stood before a display of Mother’s Day cards on the cusp of tears. However, turning my mental gaze heavenward, I felt an imperative need to thank God right then and there for the incredible ways in which Mom expressed Him—for instance, in her kindness, love, and wisdom. Most importantly, I recognized that my mom’s uniquely precious spiritual qualities were still present and could never be taken away. As my heart began to fill with gratitude, I felt as if my mourning was indeed turned into “dancing” as God dressed me with joy. I went forward with a lighter heart.

Later, at a time of great need, those same mothering qualities of wisdom, tenderness, understanding, and spiritual strength were beautifully expressed by a dear friend I’d met while overseas. One morning, out of the blue, the telephone rang, and this friend’s sweet voice said, “God told me to call you and to tell you, ‘You are not alone. God is always with you.’ ” It was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment.

Christ Jesus shared a similar message, as recounted in the eighth chapter of the Gospel of John: “He that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him” (verse 29). As the Son of God, Jesus lived his oneness with God, and showed us how to follow his example, living our own oneness with Him. His words have helped me recognize that God never leaves any of His spiritual offspring alone. God’s precious love is boundless, borderless, unrestricted by time or place. There is no state of experience in which the communications of divine Love cannot be received, and where Love’s tender presence cannot be felt.

The fact is, we can never be cut off from the comfort of God. The same divine law that established truth, health, and harmony during Christ Jesus’ healing career continues today. Jesus fully demonstrated, through his resurrection from the grave and ultimate ascension out of all the conditions of earth, that life is in God, Spirit, not in a human body.

Regardless of how dire or final the material circumstances may appear, true, spiritual life can never be lost, because its source is infinite Life itself. “And this is life eternal,” said Jesus, “that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). Jesus understood that life is eternal, independent of matter. As we come to recognize each one’s inseparable relation to God, the Life and origin of all existence, feelings of loss and grief begin to lift.

But what of those who have left the earthly experience? Do they find themselves alone, bereft of comfort? In loving and praying for them, we can hold to the truth that God, our Father, has never left them alone, isolated, or cut off. This is true both for ourselves and for those who are no longer with us in bodily form. Mortality, despite how it seems, is no part of how God created us. Our real nature as God’s spiritual expression is for all eternity.

The fact is, we can never be cut off from the comfort of God.

I learned this powerful lesson when Oklahoma City’s Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, which included a child-care center, was bombed years ago. In tears, I asked God, “Father, what about the children? What if they aren’t ready to work out their salvation alone?” The thought that came to me was so clear it seemed audible, and included this message: “I’m there. I’m there in exactly the form they need. They are not alone.” This quiet reassurance has been a constant source of comfort to me. Even when we feel overwhelmed by loss, God’s goodness and love are always present and able to be manifested in the form that precisely meets the need.

Accepting our Father’s promise, “I’m there,” enables us to protest the mesmeric suggestion that anyone can be tragically torn from the dearly cherished expressions of His goodness in their lives. Our loved ones are God’s forever gift to us, as are we to those we love. We may not be able to converse with those who have left us, but the glorious Godlike qualities they reflect are never lost. The Apostle James assures us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17).

In 1910, Mary Baker Eddy reiterated this point in a sweet letter of comfort to one of her students whose husband had recently passed on. It reads, in part: “Your dear husband has not passed away from you in spirit; he never died, only to your sense; he lives and loves and is immortal. Let this comfort you dear one, and you will find rest in banishing the sense of death, in cherishing the sense of life and not death. Your dear husband is as truly living to-day as he ever lived, and you can find rest and peace in this true sense of Life” (Yvonne Caché von Fettweis and Robert Townsend Warneck, Mary Baker Eddy: Christian Healer, Amplified Edition, pp. 278–279).

The spirit of these words, so comforting, is a call for each of us to deepen our understanding of life as everlasting, acknowledging that our Father has never left us alone, we can never truly lose our loved ones, and neither can we (or they) be separated from their radiant reflection of His goodness. The expression of good that comes from God continues to flow, blessing individuals and the whole human family.

As a phrase from a poem by Mrs. Eddy called “Mother’s Evening Prayer” assures us: “His habitation high is here, and nigh, / His arm encircles me, and mine, and all” (Poems, p. 4).

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