Suffering or Overcoming?
Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life
Last fall the Monitor reported on the public's growing appetite for sordid secrets ("Confessions Of Tell-All Society," Oct. 24). It said many people want to find out what others, famous or ordinary, do in private.
Some people are airing their dirty laundry because they feel victimized and decide the only way they can get sympathy is to announce publicly that they have suffered. One person who was quoted in the article commented, "In this culture, people lay claim to moral authority, to a state of moral grace, by saying, 'I have suffered.' That's what drives confessionalism. But it's not the suffering that really matters, it's the overcoming."
Anyone who has suffered in private knows that no matter how awful it was, how long-term, or who was involved, we have to move on and regain our freedom. This is true whether we're facing grief, divorce, abuse, or anything else.
Contrary to what we're often told, suffering does not have to be a part of healing. As God's spiritual image - which you and I really are - we are always in God's presence. And here suffering is precluded. Suffering assumes something exists contrary to God that is more powerful than He is. It assumes that supposed laws of inharmony are real and entitled to our worship. It's true that suffering often brings us to God. But suffering does not have any inherent value, and God never requires or occasions it.
As that person said, what has value is the overcoming. Overcoming is not always easy, but it is what matters. It frees us from present misery and heals scars of the past. It broadens our horizons and allows us to go forward with joy and peace. Yet many struggle with the "how" of overcoming trauma and shedding painful memories.
There is available a healing power that is effective under all circumstances. It was put into full practice by Christ Jesus 2,000 years ago, but is just as available today.
The "how" of Christian healing - of overcoming evil in any form - lies in learning that God has always been in control of us. His power alone is what helps us to overcome whatever is harmful. The founder of the Monitor wrote, "Christian Science reveals a necessity for overcoming the world, the flesh, and evil, and thus destroying all error." That is from "Science and Health With Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy (Pg. 10), the textbook of Christian Science, which explains how to overcome error through mental means alone. It shows that healing comes through turning away from hurtful feelings and discord to God, realizing His presence, a good presence that is unchanging. This is leaning on God for the spiritual understanding and strength that transform us. Yielding our thought to God's power and goodness is safe and responsible; when we do this, anything contrary to His good nature necessarily leaves us. Then there's no reason at all to air sordid secrets publicly; we are healed.
This is how prayer helps us stop suffering. This is how we see proof of God's great love and control in our lives.
Many years ago, I learned that I didn't have to suffer just for suffering's sake, but could overcome any difficulty by understanding more about God. We were moving to a new city, and I began to feel overwhelmed because we had a new baby and it was difficult for me to get everything done. On top of that, nearby family members never offered to help. Then one day I woke with a very painful back condition.
That afternoon, after finding a sitter for the baby, I went to a nearby lake and prayed. I didn't want this mental and physical suffering. And I didn't want to be filled with anger. I wanted to feel love and forgiveness. Through my prayers I realized that God had never left me. He had never given me any work without also providing the ability to accomplish it - no matter how much there was to do. And by the time I had to go home I was joyful. The back condition was healed before I left the park, and the difficulties related to the move faded away.
"He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son" (Rev. 21:7). No matter what we're facing, no matter how we feel we have suffered, we can overcome what troubles us through the power of God. Communion with Him in prayer keeps our thought resting in truth. And this keeps us expressing His goodness in our lives.