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Discouragement - the real enemy

Adapted from an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel

Recent news stories remind us of how incredibly courageous and determined some people are to avoid responding with hopeless discouragement in the face of overwhelming circumstances.

For example, a 25-year-old skier from Washington State, Dan Witkowski, was found alive after surviving four days and four nights of below-freezing temperatures with no gear other than the clothes he was wearing. By the fourth day, even his father had begun to lose hope. But as ski patrol director Jon Barker told CBS Early Show anchor Julie Chen, "Nobody ever gave up. We would just continue [searching, and] start again the next morning."

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How inspiring those words are: "Nobody ever gave up." If they had, Witkowski might not have been found. And if he had given up (he kept moving, resting only for two hours at the longest), he might not have made it through those grueling days and nights.

Earlier, there were the headlines around the world reporting the 97-year-old survivor of the earthquake in Iran. After she was pulled from the rubble, her humble explanation of how she survived being buried six days and nights was: "God kept me alive." She didn't give up. But she apparently knew that the courage and determination that kept her going came from a profound source of unlimited courage - from God.

Discouragement must surely have surfaced for both of these survivors. Doesn't it rise up to challenge everyone at one time or another? But there is a powerful antidote to discouragement: scientific prayer that affirms and draws comfort from God's unfailing love.

The Bible is filled with accounts of courageous people who never gave up, who never let discouragement, the opinions of others, even injustice, dissuade them from rightful goals and activities. For example, Joseph - thrown into a pit and abandoned by his brothers, sold into slavery, and sent to prison unjustly - never gave up. Nehemiah rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem, regardless of the obstacles in his way. The destitute young mother Hagar persevered. Ruth and Naomi acted constructively despite poverty and widowhood. And the New Testament tells about Jesus, who set the highest standard, facing betrayal and death with courage and the conviction that God was always with him. In each of these stories, and in many others, people overcame daunting trials. They held on to the truth, that no matter the circumstance, God's love would not fail them.

The human condition may present problems. And many people rise to the occasion and move through these difficulties. But sometimes the problems loom large - an illness that drags on, chronic unemployment, separation from family, or loss of a loved one.

The Monitor's founder, Mary Baker Eddy, faced up to all of those situations in her own life. Yet, even in dire circumstances, her faith in God prevailed over discouragement. She relied on God and His laws of goodness to guide every aspect of her life, and she endeavored to follow Jesus' example of perseverance and courage in all things. As she noted: "He alone ascends the hill of Christian Science who follows the Way-shower, the spiritual presence and idea of God. Whatever obstructs the way - causing to stumble, fall, or faint, those mortals who are striving to enter the path, - divine Love will remove; and uplift the fallen and strengthen the weak" ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896," page 328).

When each of us, as individuals, is faced with trying situations, such as grief, unemployment, housing needs, or even life-threatening conditions, we can trust that divine Love is always present. The courage to persevere and not to lose faith is an innate part of our being. Courage comes from God, and because of God's unlimited love for us, we can "keep on keeping on," knowing that God is removing "whatever obstructs the way," leading us to a brighter day.

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Wait on the Lord:
be of good courage,
and he shall strengthen
thine heart:
wait, I say, on the Lord.

Psalms 27:14