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Consolation abounding

MANY people think of God as supremely loving, which He is. They also believe that they may be punished if they sin but that they will be protected while they are good. If, however, they encounter serious illness, natural disaster, or one of the lesser evils that befall even good people, their faith may waver. What kind of God, they wonder, is unable to prevent the suffering of the innocent? Even thoughtful attempts to explain suffering may be of little help to one actually in distress. Yet the Apostle Paul writes, ``As the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.'' 1 Paul's promise points to genuine comfort: the Christ-principle that leads us out of the fleshly sense of life with its inherent suffering. One cannot read the Gospels without feeling the luminous presence of God's love made visible in the work of Christ Jesus. Where there was sickness, he brought health; where there was sin, he awakened repentance; where there was lack, he revealed abundance. He was unrestricted by laws of the material world.

His close followers saw that he offered more than a pain-free human life. He presented an entirely new view of man and the universe. He healed, not miraculously to overcome bad aspects of reality that God had somehow overlooked, but to glorify God and to show that the blend of ease and pain so real to the fleshly mind is neither solid nor permanent. He revealed God's spiritual creation, where only good is possible, to be just at hand.

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No suffering was more unjust than that of Jesus on the cross. Yet his resurrection displayed in the most profound terms possible the way to true freedom from earthly hardship. It showed the entire realm of the flesh--its pains, laws, pleasures, and very claim to existence-- to be an impossible imposition on the real man. God's likeness, made of Spirit, is forever free.

Mary Baker Eddy2 writes: ``Was it just for Jesus to suffer? No; but it was inevitable, for not otherwise could he show us the way and the power of Truth.'' 3 Elsewhere she says, `` `The way,' in the flesh, is the suffering which leads out of the flesh. `The way,' in Spirit, is `the way' of Life, Truth, and Love, redeeming us from the false sense of the flesh and the wounds it bears.'' 4

The way of the Christ is available to us today. In early adulthood I experienced an illness so confining and threatening that comments were made about how unjust it was that so young a life was being cut off. I certainly agreed! But consistent prayer and Scriptural study over a period of time began to change my outlook. Instead of believing my condition to be real and sad, I began to see it as an illegitimate attempt to obscure my true identity as the image of God. My values and goals altered, reflecting a growing recognition that Spirit, not flesh, was substantial and worth pursuing. Finally, not only had the extreme sense of suffering faded, but the physical condition had too. Christian Science had healed me.

No one in distress need give up on God as too remote, uncaring, or powerless to help. Walking in Christ's way, we can experience God's kingdom with us now. Instead of enduring suffering, we can find freedom. This is abundant consolation.

1 II Corinthians 1:5. 2 The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. 3 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 40. 4 Unity of Good, p. 55.

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