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Can a fresh sense of purpose bloom after economic failure?

A Christian Science perspective.

According to US artist and educator Corita Kent, “Flowers grow out of dark moments. Therefore, each moment is vital. It affects the whole. Life is a succession of such moments and to live each, is to succeed.”

This certainly seems like a dark moment for several European economies. The runaway Greek deficit has exposed financial and political flaws that have led to a reaction of social unrest, including some tragic deaths as a result of angry riots. The economies of Portugal, Ireland, and Spain are also considered to be in a precarious position. And my own nation, the United Kingdom – which has mounted up an even greater deficit than Greece – took five days to form a government after no outright winner from last week’s general election.

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Is there anything that the concerned observer can do to play a part in helping ensure that this dark economic moment in Europe blossoms into brighter prospects?

Whether or not we are directly involved in taking practical steps to address the challenge, prayer can contribute something special to nurturing the growth of a resurgent economy. It can illumine an underlying need for growth in the understanding and fulfillment of individuals’ deeper spiritual purpose. That is, it can help bring to light something of the profound spiritual need of all men, women, and children to see themselves as God sees them, each uniquely equipped to contribute to the greater good through a better sense of their spiritual purpose. This contribution may seem limited at first to meeting only their own or family needs, but when it rests on a spiritual basis, it has a transforming effect for the individual and increasingly for all the people in the radius of his or her experience.

That was what I learned when I had a dark economic moment in which I found myself mired in a chronic lack of finances.

I had been praying about my poor job prospects while waiting to hear about a vacancy I had applied for, requiring skills I had recently acquired. I felt an answer had come to my prayers, in the following words: “The certainty is in Him.” This meant to me that because God governs all, there was a certainty to what was right and wrong for everyone, at any time – including for me, at that time.

To my mind, this was vindicated by the way in which I didn’t get the job I had applied for. When I learned who did get the position, even I preferred her to me! (I knew her from a training course we both had attended.) Shortly after this, a job opened up that provided for my financial needs.

Much better, though, this experience nurtured in me a willingness and ability, which I had previously resisted, to work diligently in the service of others, and to enjoy doing so. You could say the financial relief – precarious as my situation had been – represented the outer leaves of a flower whose real beauty was the blossoming of that deeper sense of inherent purpose.

Looking at the larger picture of the European economy, from a similar standpoint, we could say that the ability to work and pray together, to make the kinds of commitments needed to help others, is an expression of a deeper purpose. It’s designed to preserve economies, yes. But it also supports individuals and their communities, as they make their way through local or national difficulties.

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In “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” the Monitor’s founder, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote, “Spirit, God, gathers unformed thoughts into their proper channels, and unfolds these thoughts, even as He opens the petals of a holy purpose in order that the purpose may appear” (p. 506). Such proper channels, nationally speaking, may come through existing government, corporations, and organizations. But even if a nation’s economy is failing, and no prospects for help seem in sight, our prayers can recognize the value of all a nation’s citizens, each of whom includes spiritual qualities such as intelligence, courage, strength, joy, integrity. These come from God and are available to everyone, without limit.

Under such prayer, each one is seen to have the full and forever potential to be of service to one another, and to others in neighboring nations. The underlying truth for all is that each has a vital place and purpose in God’s economy, the equitable and harmonious distribution of His universal, spiritual goodness.

In our prayers, we can acknowledge that “the petals” of everyone’s purpose exist to be opened by the sunlight of Soul’s ever-shining, even where the data suggests darkness is the order of the day. And we can pray to see the individual and collective expression of that purpose, so needed by nations, brought to light by Christ, by the divine influence that makes spiritual good practical in everyday life.

For an Italian translation of this article, see The Herald of Christian Science.