The day before my oral defense for my doctorate degree, I sat in my advisor’s office, basking in her glowing feedback about my dissertation. But she concluded her compliments with the statement, “I just hope you pass the defense.” I was stunned! If my work was so commendable, why the looming possibility of failure?
My advisor explained that a recent clash of egos on the dissertation committee could prevent my completing the program. She feared I would be caught in the middle of the dispute, each side trying to prove the other wrong by attacking my research. Just to give an idea of how dire the situation seemed, she asked if my parents could attend the defense because sometimes professors “didn’t go for the jugular” when parents were present. With failure now looming as a possible outcome, I had to decide—who was in control of this situation, feuding academics or God?
We’ve all likely been in situations where it seems some other power is challenging the omnipotence of God, good. Personality clashes, sickness, accidents—any kind of inharmony—claim to be disruptive forces that can overmaster God. But in the face of fear or dismay, we can have a calm confidence in the power of God, and we can refute these aggressive suggestions of chaos and panic with the expectation of healing. We can know that God is already omnipotent and supreme, and there is nothing that can ever change that fact.
The Bible is filled with statements that declare the omnipotence of our Father-Mother God. One way God’s power is often symbolized is through references to His “right hand.” For example, Exodus 15, verse 6, states: “Thy right hand, O Lord, is become glorious in power: thy right hand, O Lord, hath dashed in pieces the enemy.” Not only do these statements affirm the all-power of the Lord, but they are also powerful promises of His support. God removes every “enemy,” be it illness, discord, etc.; in other words, His all-power doesn’t allow them to exist. Therefore, we have biblical authority for experiencing the protecting and saving power of God’s omnipotence in our daily lives.
This spiritual power is practically demonstrated in our lives through the Christ. The healing and saving power of the Christ is referenced throughout the New Testament, and Paul declares the omnipotence of the Christ when he says, “Christ sitteth on the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1). This specific reference to the right hand suggests the spiritual power behind the Christ’s redeeming mission.
The Christ destroys the supposed laws of matter, false laws that say we are sick, afraid, dying, etc. If all the ills of sin, disease, and death were boiled down to one root error, it would be the belief in a power or mind apart from God, a supposed power that can hurt us. The Christ comes to save us from this false concept by declaring the omnipotence of our Father-Mother.
The Bible also represents the right hand of God as divine law. In Deuteronomy we read, “From [the Lord’s] right hand went a fiery law” (33:2). Christian Science is God’s law of harmony, and Mary Baker Eddy describes Christian Science as “God’s right hand grasping the universe” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 364). The power of God is demonstrated in our lives when the Christ, Truth, and the laws of Christian Science are understood and obeyed. These demonstrations prove that God is omnipotent.
The power of God is demonstrated in our lives when the Christ, Truth, and the laws of Christian Science are understood and obeyed.
The possible derailment of my oral defense for my doctorate degree was certainly an opportunity to witness the right hand of God. I prayed diligently with this line from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy: “Already the shadow of His right hand rests upon the hour” (p. 233). I thought about the omnipotence that “right hand” represents, and was comforted to know that God’s powerful presence rests upon every hour, and that included the hour of my defense. It was also clear to me that if the shadow of God’s right hand was present, God must be there, too. It was so comforting to know that God was in control of the entire event.
I called a Christian Science practitioner to help me pray about the situation. As I prayed, I remembered a statement in The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany about how our reason for existing is “to impart truth, health, and happiness” (Mary Baker Eddy, p. 165). As important as the academic component of my defense was, I knew that my real purpose for being at the event was to impart truth, health, and happiness. In order to bring these qualities to the oral defense, I had to let go of any frustration or ill will I might have been harboring toward the committee members. I knew I couldn’t express God, good, or see Him expressed by others, if I was ruminating about the situation and feeling victimized. I rejected those fearful and hurt feelings until all I felt for the committee was gratitude and compassion.
The next morning upon arriving at the dissertation defense, I honestly felt energized and fearless. My advisor, however, seemed very nervous and worried. Minutes later another committee member walked in with a grumpy look on her face, and didn’t even greet me. After a moment she said: “Don’t mind me. I have a terrible backache, so if I look unhappy, it’s nothing personal.” My husband, a Christian Science practitioner who came to silently cheer me on, looked at me and we smiled at each other as if to say that no one needs to feel discomfort at this defense, if God is governing!
As the committee assembled, the tone of the group was not reassuring. No one was particularly friendly, and several individuals were late. Regardless of the standoffishness and tardiness of the committee members, I kept my thought uplifted and unimpressed. I knew the shadow of God’s right hand was resting on us all.
Within about ten minutes, there was a tangible shift in the way the committee members treated me and each other. At the end of two hours of questions, every one of my committee members cheerfully shook my hand and congratulated me for passing the defense. The woman who had come in with the backache left smiling and happy. In addition, the committee didn’t ask for a single correction or revision prior to the dissertation’s submission to the graduate school, which rarely happens. My advisor, who had forecast such a dreary picture the day before, said she’d never been at a defense where people had been so loving and respectful to each other.
With the conclusion of this wonderful experience I completed the dissertation process full of gratitude and joy. The omnipotent right hand of God had truly rested upon the event. I feel sure that committee had felt the power, presence, and healing effect of the Christ.
When faced with situations that seem overwhelming, dangerous, or painful, we can turn to God’s ever-present protection and saving power, His right hand. Perhaps we see this truth manifested in small ways at first, but those daily demonstrations prove the power of the Christ, and they give us the confidence and understanding to trust God’s omnipotence to bring correction and healing to any circumstance. As we grow in our spiritual understanding, we learn never to be upset or angry in any situation, because no person, event, or disease has the power or authority to intimidate or terrify us. Instead, we joyously know that “the right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly” (Psalms 118:15), and “his right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory” (Psalms 98:1).
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