Finding refuge and rest in God
A Christian Science perspective: How can we find more than merely temporary relief from stress and anxiety?
It seems as if everywhere we turn, we hear about the increasing stress from demands placed on us. The joy of accomplishment and kudos from the boss may not stave off stress – especially if we feel personally responsible for all the work. Advertisements promising relief from health issues associated with such anxiety recommend exercise, seminars, and drugs to calm and control our stress.
But these kinds of measures aren’t intended to get rid of stress entirely, just to manage it. Is merely coping the best we can hope for?
Christ Jesus, who faced a great deal throughout his life, found his strength and energy in an entirely different source, in the understanding of his real selfhood, or Christ – even in the face of constant demands from multitudes of people who sought his teaching and came to be healed. In fact, Jesus called everyone to the Christ, the Truth he taught and demonstrated: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). Jesus sought to free people from false, material beliefs by imparting to them a truer idea of God and our relationship to Him, offering everyone refuge in Christ.
The Master knew he wasn’t personally responsible for everyone else. He was actually turning thought away from himself as a man and toward his spiritual identity as the divine idea, Christ, which heals. His teachings revealed that his source of renewal was spiritual, not material. Further, he taught that the Christ is eternal, here with everyone, all the time.
Many years ago, before I began studying Christian Science, there were demands at work that threatened to be more than I could handle. I started having anxiety attacks that were also affecting my sleep. I conferred with a doctor, who prescribed sleeping pills for relief. Oddly enough, since I’d thought this was what I wanted, having a possible escape from anxious nights didn’t feel right. I knew the pills wouldn’t bring actual healing, and I found myself thinking, “You don’t need a dodge – you need a real solution.”
I needed to reconsider my approach. The thought came to me to read a Christian Science Sentinel I’d picked up at a nearby business. Up to that point I had never considered prayer as a way to solve my anxiety and sleep problems. As I read, I felt my thought being uplifted, turning in a new and more spiritual direction. I read about people who were finding solutions to challenges by turning to God, striving to know Him more each day, and understanding that He cares for all His children. They also talked about the Christ, God’s power and presence, which meets human needs.
Boy, did I want to know God and have confidence in His care for me! For the next several days, I left the pills alone. I felt spiritually fed as I continued to read.
One night, when I was especially anxious and feeling so vulnerable, these words by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, came to me: “O gentle presence, peace and joy and power;…” (“Poems,” p. 4). I had remembered these lines from my time in Christian Science Sunday School, which I had occasionally attended as a child. I realized that this “gentle presence” was God. And in that moment I saw that I did know God, that I had always known Him, because He is omnipresent. I felt so safe and no longer felt alone.
I threw away the sleeping pills without ever taking one, slept soundly, and experienced no more of the fear or intense stress.
I have since learned that the voice of comfort speaking to me in the night was the healing presence of the Christ, reassuring me that God is always here and able to help.
As we become more aware of God’s ever-presence, realizing that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalms 46:1), we find a deeper sense of refuge and rest.
This article was adapted from an article in the Dec. 22, 2014, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.