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Web Original

Turn loss into gain

From The Christian Science Journal - March 7, 2011

Originally appeared on spirituality.com


When I was a young teen, my dad experimented with investing in the commodity futures market. He grew potatoes on the family farm, and a farmer friend had convinced him to hedge his crop against low prices through the purchase of futures on a commodity exchange. Dad lost several thousand dollars in the venture, and swore never to invest in the futures market again. The lesson was painful enough that he developed a philosophy for life out of the misfortune. He said to me, “Son, never put your money into an investment you don’t understand.” He stuck with his motto and prospered in the farming business, which he did understand. Our family has benefited over the years in heeding his hard-earned lesson. Loss was turned into gain.

In tough economic times, people’s faith in a turnaround can be tried by unemployment, credit crunches, bleeding budgets, shrinking income, and mounting debt. There is a spiritual lesson to be learned, though, and a blessing to be gained in these difficult periods that enable us to triumph over lack. Supply is not temporal, subject to cyclical human conditions. Its substance is spiritual, produced by God, and available independent of cash levels in the bank. Through prayer we reach this spiritual understanding, which brings blessings and turns loss into gain.

When Abraham (at this point still named Abram) was instructed by God to leave his homeland and take his family to a foreign country, he had to rely on an understanding of spiritual substance to sustain him. He obeyed, and at the age of 75 he left the familiar behind, including his home, neighbors, farmlands, social, political, and economic ties that he had grown accustomed to during his lifetime (see Gen. 12:4). Abraham was asked to start over in many ways. He had mobile wealth to take on his travels, but his spiritual sense informed him of even greater gain to be acquired for heeding God’s command and not mourning the loss of temporal lands and neighborly ties left behind. His clan prospered in the new country, and their faithfulness to God’s direction beneficially affected the history of the world. Abraham’s short-run loss turned into long-term gain.

Abraham was able to leave economic security behind, not knowing what lay ahead, because he trusted God’s ability to sustain his family under new and unforeseeable circumstances. It was not land, business contacts, acquaintances, social structure, or relatives that primarily provided for him, but God’s unfailing love. Abraham was able to be flexible and adaptable because he trusted the care of divine Providence to meet his needs in practical, tangible ways. And his faith was rewarded.

After Abraham settled down in the new region with his family, his nephew’s flocks and herds grew along with his own. Eventually, there was not enough room for the companies of each to dwell together, and a separation was necessary to preserve peace in the family. Abraham told Lot, his nephew, to choose the land he wanted, and he would take what remained. Lot chose the fertile and watered plain of Jordan and left the more desolate land of Canaan for Abraham (see Gen. 13:11). It would appear that Abraham got the poor end of the deal. But he had something more than land and herds to support his well-being. Abraham must have understood that God, not a material asset, was the source of supply. Despite the apparent property disadvantage, his herds and flocks prospered just as God had promised.

There may be times when we feel disadvantaged, left out, overlooked, excluded, devastated, or forgotten. But we can learn from Abraham’s experience. What appears to be lost materially can be more than compensated for as we grow spiritually. It’s not a paycheck, corporation, mutual fund, IRA, or cyclical investment that meets long-term needs. God sustains our being with the inexhaustible resources of divine Love. These riches of God are tangible, concrete, meaningful, and ample to spiritual sense. They are the ideas, wisdom, insights, truths, and love of God that inspire the human mind to see progressive possibility rather than stay mesmerized by a lie of lack. “The kingdom of heaven is at hand,” Jesus cried (Matt. 4:17). How close is your hand? It’s attached. All the goodness of God is built into your being. We are spiritually equipped to discern the presence of God’s heavenly wealth, experience it fully, and live a happy, satisfying life.

When I first went into the full-time practice of Christian Science, I had to leave a strong family business, a reliable salary, and my home. But I didn’t regret the decision because I experienced such tremendous spiritual gain through my increased studies and devotion to serving God with my whole heart. My wife and I lived modestly, but without resentment, in our early years as my practice took its baby steps. We felt richer, wealthier, and more blessed year after year as we learned to trust divine Love to provide and care for our family. What we left behind materially in that transitional time pales in comparison to the spiritually rich life we live today. Our human needs have been met abundantly.

Jesus taught, “Judge not according to the appearance” (John 7:24). When he had five loaves and two fishes to feed a multitude, he was not distressed by the limited number of portions at hand. Jesus measured supply spiritually and knew that in divine Spirit there is always enough. His gratitude to God manifested itself as plentiful food for hundreds of hungry mouths.

When faced with material loss, it’s promotive of progress to look for the blessing. God never deserts us or leaves us to our own devices. Divine Love is always supplying exactly what we need to advance out of any troubled situation. The first need is often not for money but for better morals, greater wisdom, spiritual mindedness, or devotion to God. King Nebuchadnezzar is a stimulating example of how economic tragedy can lead to moral and spiritual gain that restores a sad economic plight to health and strength.

Nebuchadnezzar had built a vast empire of wealth, commerce, and employees. Everything was going his way from a commercial perspective. But to his distress, he lost his kingdom overnight. He became penniless and homeless, living in the fields with wild animals, disgraced and abandoned. Though suffering terribly, Nebuchadnezzar did not consent to permanent loss. He mentally wrestled with his adverse circumstances and looked for lessons to learn. His ego had grown to monster proportions and needed a healthy deflating. In his prayers, he recognized a need for more humility and opportunity to honor God as King above all. He adopted a humbler attitude and respect for his Maker. His kingdom was restored. Loss was turned into gain (see Daniel 4:28–37).

The spiritual lessons we learn amid tough times are not tests administered by God. They are the result of a need for greater spiritual understanding. Nebuchadnezzar was not punished by God for being vain. His conceit self-imploded. To his credit, Nebuchadnezzar rose to the spiritual demand of his ordeal, saw his error, repented, reformed, and then prospered on a more spiritual footing.

Sometimes evidence of loss is not loss at all, but the effect of evolving circumstances that are required to bring about a healthier and more balanced state of affairs.

Last summer, a ficus plant in my office began to shed hundreds of leaves daily. It was a little tree about six feet high. Leaves were falling so rapidly that I feared it would be dead in short order, if the dropping didn’t reverse. I had the plant for over five years, and nothing like this happened before.

One afternoon, as I sat at my desk and stared at my sad looking specimen, upon closer examination I noticed that many leaves were still on the branches despite the massive fallout. A third of the remaining foliage looked sickly, but many leaves appeared healthy. A light went on in my thought. “Maybe the tree had too much green,” I reasoned. “And it had to drop extra leaves to survive!” I was in a new office space, and had put the pot in a very sunny spot compared to its previous location. I wondered if the tree had overindulged on the sunlight producing more leaflets then it could reasonably support and needed to lighten its canopy to maintain a balanced proportion of root to top. And so it proved. In a couple of weeks, the fallout ceased, the remaining leaves were green and vigorous, and my plant thrives today. It wasn’t dying at all, but shedding the effects of getting over zealous in the past and adjusting to new circumstances.

Human economies often go through cycles of shedding burdensome weight. Lust, lack of discipline, selfish want, blind ambition, deficit thinking, and gluttony are the effect of seeking gain in matter, rather than in Spirit. They are counterproductive to spiritual growth and need to be lost for God to remain front and center of human seeking and finding. There does not need to be prolonged suffering to break these cycles. Spiritual lessons can be learned quickly and strength restored rapidly. The resources of divine Love are readily available to guide, lead, and inspire us to healthy economic activity. Jesus did not condemn the thousands of hungry souls for poor planning and neglect when they were stranded in the desert with no food. He fed them without delay. Christ feeds us, too, and in a timely way.

Mary Baker Eddy wrote, “Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need” (Science and Health, p. 494). This is not a promise to be satisfied in the future. It’s been fulfilled. Every imaginable legitimate need has already been divinely supplied. Its provision is discovered in the infinite wisdom of divine Mind. Spiritual sense reveals the inspirations of divine Love that enable us to see beyond economic turmoil to the ever-present blessings of God. As we embrace heavenly lessons and act upon them, material loss is turned into spiritual gain, and human needs are met.

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