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The great ‘nevertheless’

From the March 2016 issue of The Christian Science Journal

 It was the first snow of that winter, and I headed out of my hotel for an early morning run. This was decades ago, but I still remember it vividly—the ground was covered with a thin blanket of white and everything seemed extra quiet. It seemed a good environment to be in, because I’d awakened troubled about an important decision I needed to make, yearning for some clarity and direction.

As I jogged toward a nearby park, I passed a church with a sign that showed the pastor’s topic for that week’s Sunday sermon: “The Great Nevertheless.” 

Catchy title. I began musing about what I might say if I were asked to share some ideas on that subject. Immediately I thought about what the Master, Christ Jesus, prayed in the garden of Gethsemane. He was preparing to undergo the severe experience of an unjust trial and cruel crucifixion. He said, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” To me that meant he knew what he was about to face and didn’t want to have to go through it. Then he spoke what seemed to me like a perfect example of a great nevertheless: “Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39).

It seemed to me that in that holy surrender to the divine will, Jesus was grounding the next steps in his human experience in God’s protecting power and His loving guidance each step of the way. His humble giving up of his own will clearly set him on the right course toward the culmination of his final victory over death and the grave. And it began with his willingness to surrender his whole life to God’s government and plan of salvation for humanity.

I continued my pensive jog through the downtown streets, and although it seemed a little presumptuous for me to be comparing my circumstances with the Master’s—I wasn’t going through anywhere near the kind of agony exemplified in that experience in the garden—I definitely found myself in a situation I didn’t feel ready to face. I was participating in a workshop that week, and I’d just been asked to be willing to accept an extra assignment added to my already demanding workload. I was really balking at taking on this mini-version of a “great nevertheless” challenge.

As I reached out prayerfully to listen for what God’s will was for me, I honestly wondered: Did I have the humility to surrender to His plan? Could I accept this “great nevertheless” moment with courage and grace, no matter how challenging this possibility might appear to me right now? I was feeling a lot of fear that I just might not measure up to the demands—that I might fail and disappoint those who were investing a lot of effort in preparing me for this opportunity. 

The divine Mind leads us to yield to our “great nevertheless” moments by lifting our thought, quieting our concern, and enabling us to let God be God.

One of my “go to” verses for overcoming fear comes from the book of Isaiah: “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand” (41:10, New Living Translation). With years of experience praying with this verse, listening for different ideas on how to relate it to every conceivable circumstance, I’ve come to realize what a comforting three-part recipe it can be for removing fear from my thinking.

The first part in this recipe is feeling God’s reassurance of His presence. It’s almost as though I might hear these words: “I’m with you. I’m always right where you are, ever present to remind you of how impossible it is for you to be outside My presence and influence. Don’t be afraid, because thoughts of My presence are right now acting in your consciousness.” 

Mary Baker Eddy writes: “Immortal ideas, pure, perfect, and enduring, are transmitted by the divine Mind through divine Science …” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 259). We are on the receiving end of spiritual concepts that teach us of Mind’s intelligent direction, and these spiritual facts are inevitably expressed practically in exactly the way they need to be.

The second part in overcoming fear is the reason we don’t have to be afraid: “I am your God.” This is a reminder of our inseparable relationship to God, divine Love. This truth might express itself to my thought in this way: “I’m your loving Father-Mother God; I’m yours and you’re Mine. You’re the full expression of all that I am. We’re inseparable. You’re My child, My beloved; you’re all that I have created you to be—good, patient, tender, loving, strong, capable.”

After we’ve reaffirmed that we’re never outside God’s presence, and we can never be separated from God, the divine source of all good, the third step in removing fear from our thought involves the assurance of what God does for us—right in the midst of the most fear-producing, confusing circumstances: “I will strengthen you and help you.” We can learn to be willing to lean on the Truth that is God, with full expectation that the only reality is God’s mighty power, acting in our consciousness to sustain us in ways that make themselves felt when we turn to Him wholeheartedly. The divine Mind leads us to yield to our “great nevertheless” moments by lifting our thought, quieting our concern, and enabling us to let God be God—to allow Him to express Himself to us, through us, in us. The scientific truths revealed as we pray act with power and authority, asserting themselves in thought to reassure us, guide us, and help us make right decisions. In Mrs. Eddy’s words, “Truth is affirmative, and confers harmony” (Science and Health, p. 418).

As for my predicament that early winter morning, I came to realize that if I let fear make this decision for me, I would be denying everything that I knew God was calling on me to be and do in demonstration of who I was as His expression. I would end up rejecting the very truths that I knew were the real substance of my identity. I prayerfully reaffirmed that my true self is an idea of Mind, the result of Mind’s self-awareness. Therefore I had God-given dominion over every experience and the ability to see beyond the seemingly unwanted to the spiritually inviting; to move past approaching this task with hesitancy, and instead to view it as an opportunity to rise even higher in my confidence in God and my ability to lean on His guidance and care.

I ended up accepting the assignment, with ever-growing certainty that I would be able to feel God’s tangible support every step of the way, as I learned to expand my capacity for the work I was called upon to do. I felt such dominion in fulfilling everything demanded of me during this period. My “great nevertheless” was a lesson in fearlessly leaning on God and letting the action of the divine will take over my consciousness and experience. I yielded to the divine Mind and stopped resisting. I found the next few years of this extra work spiritually rewarding, with blessings for myself and those working with me. 

As I look back on this experience, I know that what I learned about overcoming fear and human will, as well as yielding to divine direction, prepared me for ever richer and rewarding “nevertheless” opportunities over the years since then. And I’m looking forward to more of them.

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