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Can struggle be holy?

From the October 1997 issue of The Christian Science Journal

If God is good, then God's will for us all must be good. But if that is the case, you may ask, am I doing something wrong if I seem to be struggling? Even Christ Jesus, whose healing mission had already shown his total obedience to God's purpose and plan, nevertheless struggled at the time of his crucifixion. Matthew records that Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt." Matt. 26:39. The "cup" of his earthly fate did not pass from Jesus. The Saviour drank it in accord with the divine purpose that he prove man's complete dominion over materialism and hatred by triumphing over the grave through divine Love. His resurrection and ascension showed how total this dominion is.

In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, next to the marginal heading "The holy struggle," Mary Baker Eddy writes of Jesus' experience in Gethsemane, "When the human element in him struggled with the divine, our great Teacher said: 'Not my will, but Thine, be done!'—that is, Let not the flesh, but the Spirit, be represented in me." Science and Health, p. 33.

If Christ Jesus—unmatched in his spirituality —found himself engaged in a "holy struggle" when faced with this highest of divine demands upon him, we should not feel ashamed if we find ourselves struggling with the demands for obedience that come to us. It's not wrong to find ourselves experiencing a struggle with "the human element"; it's right! In fact, if there appears never to be any such struggle, we might ask ourselves honestly, "Am I growing spiritually? Am I prayerfully listening for God's guidance and following it?" We shouldn't feel at ease if we seem to be sailing along without prayerful effort. Identifying and winning the struggle for spiritual ascendancy lead to practical dominion, and show we're accepting divinity's demand for our spiritual growth.

The problem comes if, instead of persistently praying until we win the struggle, we resign ourselves to living with such mortal elements of thought as arrogance, sensuality, resentment, fear, doubt, or shock. These are illegitimate, because they're no part of our real being as God's spiritual offspring, His perfect expression.

On the other hand, it's important to guard against the temptation to externalize the "holy struggle" by allowing ourselves to believe we are engaged in a struggle with other people, be they friend or foe, neighbors or governments, members of other religious denominations or of our own. It is within ourselves that we can and must overcome, through prayer, the propensity to allow the divine revelation of absolute spiritual reality to be dwarfed by accepting the false sense of life as a mixture of good and evil, Spirit and matter, Truth and error. When this struggle is won in a particular instance, and God's will for good is recognized to be the unsoiled reality, healing occurs.

In each experience of healing we're proving the allness and supremacy of Spirit, of the divine Mind, and the powerlessness of the so-called carnal mind with its claims of evil. As Mrs. Eddy writes in Science and Health, "During his night of gloom and glory in the garden, Jesus realized the utter error of a belief in any possible material intelligence." Ibid., pp. 47-48.

God's will for us is always good. We demonstrate it through spiritual growth, through our progress in overcoming materialistic elements of thought and expressing divine intelligence. God's will is manifested in individual careers of spiritual commitment and purpose. When we let the divine win out over the human in our hearts, the reward is invariably fresh opportunities for service.

Once I found myself terribly disturbed by a belief in a "possible material intelligence." It would be more accurate to say I was spellbound by an intellectualism that seemed to be riding roughshod over the normal, loving natures of some friends of mine. At that time I was also struggling with a career choice. I had two part-time jobs with two different employers, and both wanted me to commit myself to a full-time role. Both opportunities offered some good avenues for service and, more important, seemed designed for what I had to offer.

While God, infinite good, doesn't cause
evil or send conflict, the struggle we may
be encountering can help us prove His good
will for us.

One day as I was listening to readings from the Bible and Science and Health at a church service, I found that my need for seeing through the belief in a real, material intelligence was getting a "jump start." I suddenly felt enlightened by a glimpse of the truth that evil is utterly unreal and isn't in reality governing any of us. I regained some hold on the genuine, unconditional affection that it was right to feel for those whose attitudes had been concerning me. I saw "material intelligence," which seemed to be holding sway, as a lie about every one of us.

This insight was liberating in and of itself, and I went home from church gratefully uplifted. Yet it also helped to resolve the job question. As it turned out, a wholly different opportunity for service soon arose. I left both part-time jobs and soon saw them filled by full-time replacements who were obviously excellent candidates. God's will of good was certainly proved, even though the interim period of waiting and praying had seemed such a struggle to me.

Jesus' "holy struggle" shows us all the demand ultimately to overcome every vestige of the belief in so-called material intelligence. God's will of good for us is eternal life, unchallenged joy, a full spiritual freedom from materialism. And we demonstrate these step by step through spiritual growth and our proofs of God's healing power.

While God, infinite good, doesn't cause evil or send conflict, the struggle we may be encountering can help us prove His good will for us. It can show us the rewards of a deeper spirituality. Healing must occur as we continue to watch and pray. God, through His eternal law of good, is working with us at every moment, directing us home to the consciousness of His love!

Give unto the Lord, ye kindreds of the people,
give unto the Lord glory and strength.
Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name,
bring an offering, and come before him:
worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

I Chronicles 16:28, 29

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