This week, there has been continuing news coverage of Jiverly Voong, the man who killed 13 people and wounded others before shooting himself in Binghamton, N.Y. There also have been reports about the hundreds killed and thousands displaced by the earthquake in Italy, and a host of other situations around the world. Behind all these sad events is a similar question: In the face of darkness, is good possible? Or even there?
It's a question Jesus could have asked in the garden of Gethsemane on the night when he would soon be betrayed by Judas and later face crucifixion. Instead of doubting God's presence, he prayed, "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).
After a lifetime of proving God's healing power in so many different ways, Jesus stood alone before the greatest darkness of all: betrayal of the innocent and a hideous death. Yet, he still could affirm trust in his divine Father.
If that trust had been misplaced, Jesus would be unknown or a footnote in history. Instead his trust in good did more than resurrect him from the tomb. As Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Monitor, put it: "His three days' work in the sepulchre set the seal of eternity on time. He proved Life to be deathless and Love to be the master of hate" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 44).
We can begin to follow Jesus' lead â€“ in a degree â€“ as we pray about situations in our lives or about world events. In the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus yielded to the divine will and trusted God fully. Similarly, in the face of sorrow and loss, trusting God with the outcome may take genuine self-surrender.
This is where starting to prove "Life to be deathless and Love to be the master of hate" comes in. The nature of divine Life is to express strength, joy, action, intelligence, goodness. These are powerful qualities, and it's worth the effort to claim them as daily companions always, because they originate in God, who is with us always. And this is particularly helpful in times of special need.
Taking the time to look for evidence of these qualities helps provide evidence to us of Life's presence â€“ whether this proof takes form as a child joyfully playing in a big backyard or a sparrow chirping on a scraggly tree outside a tenement.
Even tiny evidence counts.
In times of stress, feelings of anger, even hatred, may arise, depending on the circumstances. Many years ago, a group of people with whom I was volunteering had become polarized over the direction a project was taking. No resolution seemed possible.
During the weeks before the next meeting, I thought deeply about Jesus' life and what he had proved in the face of hatred and opposition. The problem within this organization seemed very small by comparison, of course. But I found it scary to be among such antagonized people, and really needed Jesus' example to guide me.
This enabled me to release any personal will about how the situation should be resolved and to trust God's guidance. One reason I could do this was the powerful spiritual fact that Jesus already had proved the presence of God's love and had conquered even the grave.
At the next meeting, an unexpected resolution totally changed the situation, and the group was able to go forward. That experience taught me many lessons about God's love and care â€“ and about Jesus' courage and strength.
In the face of grief and loss â€“ bad news of any kind â€“ the way ahead may seem dark indeed. But going before each of us is the example of Jesus the Way-shower. He walked that path for us and proved that both during the journey and at its end divine Life and Love would be present â€“ that we would not walk alone.
In his final gathering with his disciples, Jesus closed his comments with this promise: "In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).
That promise is here today for you and for me and for everyone.