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From the November 2008 issue of The Christian Science Journal

"What a lovely surprise to discover how unlonely being alone can be."—Ellen Burstyn, actor

For some people, unlike Ellen Burstyn, being alone doesn't mean a lovely discovery of pleasing solitude, but rather strong feelings of loneliness, which might include emptiness, isolation, dejection, unhappiness, or the grief caused by separation from loved ones. Yet today, as from earliest Biblical history, people can find a permanent solution to loneliness by discovering their unity—their oneness—with God.

Oneness with God replaces an emotional, abstract state of being with a concrete spiritual state where an individual perceives his or her inherent spiritual nature as the creative expression of God (see Gen. 1:26, 27). Just as we recognize the inseparability of a ray of light from the sun, in the same way we can see ourselves as inseparable from God, at one with our divine Creator. When we understand our unity with the one divine Mind, we naturally feel the presence and goodness of God with us. And that understanding shows us that we can never truly be alone. When we see that our fullness and completeness exist eternally in our divine source, loneliness disappears. And in its stead we experience peace, joy, and fulfillment.

But sometimes loneliness strikes, aggressively and persistently. At times, it convinces us that we need more than mere companionship or going places with someone. This bitter, insistent kind of loneliness usually means feeling separated, disconnected, or even totally alienated from others. These debilitating feelings come from humanity's entrenched belief that as mortal, material beings we exist on our own in a universe fraught with complexities and uncertainty. Materially based life separate from God presents an awful predicament. It means that at any time we can find ourselves separated from good, from comfort, love, security, peace, and wholeness. And when we cling to a material sense of existence, we open the door to possible random bouts of loneliness, limitation, and unhappiness.

So how do we move from feelings of loneliness to embracing our oneness with the divine Mind, with its promise of joy, love, dominion, and fulfillment? First, we need to quiet our thought and listen for thoughts coming to us from God—what Mary Baker Eddy called angel messages—that inform each of us moment by moment, individually, in the way we need to hear—of our unity with God's attributes of grace, peace, harmony, and completeness. When we companion with these holy thoughts, these angels, we no longer feel alone.

In Science and Health Mary Baker Eddy gave this description of these angel messages. She explained: "[Angels are] God's thoughts passing to man; spiritual intuitions, pure and perfect ..." (p. 581). And elsewhere in the book, she further explained, "These upward–soaring beings never lead towards self, sin, or materiality, but guide to the divine Principle of all good, whither every real individuality, image, or likeness of God, gathers" (p. 299). As these spiritual intuitions pass from God to us, they awaken us to see God's loving presence ever at hand, ready to rouse us from the depths of loneliness.

Jacob's lesson

In the Old Testament of the Bible, the book of Genesis describes the struggles that confronted Jacob, the grandson of Abraham and the son of Isaac (see Gen. chaps. 25–33). In a scheme to inherit the birthright of his twin brother, Esau, Jacob cheated his twin out of everything that rightfully belonged to Esau as the firstborn. Their mother, Rebekah, learned that Esau had vowed to kill Jacob in revenge. To protect Jacob, she scurried him off to a distant country.

One night alone on his long journey, Jacob dreamed of angels ascending and descending a ladder, symbolizing to him God's presence. This vision brought him comfort and assurance at a time when he greatly needed it. Then, 20 years later, after he had amassed great wealth working for his uncle and now with a large family of his own, Jacob received another angel message from God—this time to return to his homeland.

En route homeward to Canaan, Jacob's scouts warned him that Esau was approaching to exact revenge upon him—replete with a company of 400 men. Jacob feared for his own life and that of his wives, children, and servants. During the night he sent his family away and was left to face the threat alone. Science and Health explains both the enormity of the challenge that faced Jacob and its awesome outcome. "Jacob was alone, wrestling with error,—struggling with a mortal sense of life, substance, and intelligence as existent in matter with its false pleasures and pains,—when an angel, a message from Truth and Love, appeared to him and smote the sinew, or strength, of his error, till he saw its unreality; and Truth, being thereby understood, gave him spiritual strength in this Peniel of divine Science" (p. 308).

Just as Jacob had to, each individual must wrestle with the material sense of life until its unreality becomes so understood that an actual transformation of character and consciousness results. The belief of being a mortal personality must yield to the identification of one's self as a spiritual being governed by God. It is not enough to watch angels go up and down the ladder of our consciousness. We must do something with those messages that come to us—we must act on them, just as Jacob did.

During Jacob's struggle he overcame the fear of facing his brother. He rejoiced, "I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved"(Gen. 32:30). The change in Jacob's thought and character elicited a change in Esau, who ran to welcome Jacob with a loving embrace and kiss. When Jacob discovered his oneness with God, he found his relationship with his brother restored. And that transformation of thought ended the loneliness of Jacob's separation from home and family.

When we understand our inseparability from God the one divine Mind, we realize we can never truly be alone.

Elijah's wilderness experience

Fast forward some 800–plus years. Here we read of the prophet, Elijah, and his dark night of loneliness in the wilderness (see I Kings 19:1–18). Jezebel, then queen of Israel, bitter and angry because Elijah had annihilated 450 prophets of Baal, threatened to kill him. Elijah fled into the wilderness where, in utter discouragement, he prayed for God to take his life from him. Elijah felt sure that only he remained in Israel to take a strong, unyielding stand for the one God in the face of the Baal worshippers. Alone and fearing the horrors of Jezebel's death threats, he felt helpless and hopeless, even suicidal.

Yet even in this barren wilderness of desperate loneliness, darkness, and self–doubt, Elijah was not alone. An angel spoke to him, twice encouraging him to rise and eat the food and drink the water that had unexpectedly appeared before him. He did as he was instructed, and for 40 days and 40 nights that food sustained him as he journeyed to Horeb, the Mount of God. There he had an experience that taught him a lesson that echoes down the centuries: God is not in the destructive forces of wind, earthquake, or fire, but in the "still small voice" of truth.

When Elijah heard the still, small voice within him ask, "What doest thou here, Elijah?" he recounted his trials and anguish, his aloneness in facing those opposed to God. When God told Elijah that some 7,000 believers had not bowed to Baal, the self–righteousness of thinking that only he remained to serve God melted into humility. Never really alone, Elijah heard God's angel thoughts instructing him step by step out of his loneliness and desolation.

The first part of the definition of wilderness in Science and Health shows first the emptiness of mortal existence: "Loneliness; doubt;darkness" (p. 597). But the definition goes on to show the spiritually uplifted meaning of the word: "Spontaneity of thought and idea; the vestibule in which a material sense of things disappears, and spiritual sense unfolds the great facts of existence" (p. 597). When angels spontaneously arrive in our thought, if we naturally and immediately acknowledge them in the vestibule—the inner chamber of our consciousness—we naturally move from fear to the spiritual facts of existence. In the case of Elijah, his thought became so spiritualized that he perceived God as his very life. He understood his inseparable relationship and loving companionship with God. Elijah served God so faithfully that he eventually became one of the few individuals on earth who transcended his fleshly human experience without leaving a body behind (see II Kings 2:9–11). Elijah's earlier wish for God to take away his life by death had been forever silenced.

Jesus' example

Christ Jesus described the unity of God and man—the spiritual identity of all of us—when he declared, "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30). And Jesus verified this oneness when he explained, "The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things so–ever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise" (John 5:19).

However, before beginning his ministry, Jesus went through his own experience of solitude in the wilderness (see Matt. 4:1–11). He faced devilish suggestions that he could have a mind separate from God. But through understanding the powerlessness of evil, he refused to be intimidated by evil temptations. Jesus knew God so well and knew the Scriptures so well that he refused to believe any assertions of evil. He immediately stood his ground against those suggestions and never let them into his consciousness. In fact, he emphatically replied to those temptations, "Get thee hence, Satan," as if to say, Get out of my consciousness. I respond only to messages from God. Immediately after he rebuked the devilish thoughts, angels came to comfort and companion with him. And the same thing can happen to us when we reject suggestions of loneliness, friendlessness, or any belief that we or anyone else has a mind or life or thought separate from God.

Contemporary healing

Understanding my oneness with God freed me from loneliness years ago when I became a single parent with two young daughters. Prayer helped me understand that the strong fatherhood and tender motherhood of God cared for my children in precisely the right ways. This passage from Isaiah: "Thy Maker is thine husband" (54:5), taught me that my God would provide every need—whether for love, protection, supply, or encouragement. Divine Soul instilled in me the spiritual conviction to follow Principle and harmony in our family's daily affairs.

Still I felt alone. Couldn't someone—like a companion or a new spouse—help me?

The ideas that most strengthened my thought came from the writings of Mary Baker Eddy. In one passage she affirmed, "God is our Father and our Mother, our Minister and the great Physician: He is man's only real relative on earth and in heaven. David sang, 'Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee'" (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 151).

I knew in my heart that above all else I yearned to understand, know, and follow God. I had no other true desire. Although I took several tumbles into loneliness and uncertainty along the way, I clearly began to see my relationship with God as the most precious of all my treasures. Much later, when the girls—whom I deeply love—grew up and left home, no emptiness plagued my heart. I knew they were always safe in God's care, and I enjoyed the aloneness—not with myself, but with God. Angel thoughts filled me with the desire to serve Him. I learned that He is my best friend and companion. He is always with me. And He is always with you!

The very angel messages any of us needs speak to individual consciousness all the time. As each of us listens in our own way, we learn that no one can ever be truly alone.


Connie Coddington is a Christian Science practitioner and teacher. She lives in Brookfield, Wisconsin.

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