Is freedom from pain an `endless quest'?

THE International Association for the Study of Pain estimates that 90 million Americans suffer from some form of chronic pain. This leads to some 750 million lost days of work each year and costs at least 65 billion dollars. These numbers were cited in a recent newspaper article entitled ``The endless quest for sweet relief.'' 1 The article goes on to point out that medical science has spent generations searching for a truly effective pain killer, but each new drug developed has included negative side effects. The search for relief from pain has led some people to a deeper consideration of the life and teachings of Christ Jesus. Jesus did not employ any material remedies. In fact he never looked to matter as a basis for destroying suffering. Jesus understood and taught that God is man's loving Father, and that this Father is forever blessing His children with health, freedom, and joy. He proved that God creates man with dominion and strength, and that God alone is the genuine source of harmony and progress. Jesus pointed to trust in God's power, not trust in matter, as the basis for healing sickness and pain. ``With God all things are possible,'' 2 he said. Jesus' ministry, as well as the healing works of his followers, prove that finding freedom from pain is not an endless quest. Today each of us can turn to the reality that God is still ``our Father,'' truly present, filling each of us with peace and with the consciousness of His love. God has not created man to suffer, and God has not created man a servant to drugs. Each day we can cultivate a more thorough understanding of God's omnipotent goodness and find permanent release from pain. Prayerful devotion to God has no damaging side effects. It does not deaden or alter one's consciousness in order to make one temporarily unaware of pain. In fact, courageous and wholehearted prayer has the effect of acquainting us with the order, beauty, and happiness that are native to God's man. Recently I was wakened in the middle of the night by sharp pains in my stomach. As a student of Christian Science, I immediately turned to God in prayer. I endeavored to realize that God was the only source of my being and that He wasn't animating or permitting pain in His offspring. But the pain persisted. The thought kept coming to me that if something would just change in my stomach, I would feel better and be able to continue sleeping. But this was not a useful or healing thought, because it focused exclusively on changing matter. I remembered that Jesus had healed by turning away from the flesh and depending on God, Spirit. I saw that a change of heart--that is, a change of thinking or belief--was more important than just hoping for a painless stomach. So I turned away from the notion that my real hope for freedom lay in some physical action and began to honor God by mentally proclaiming His present goodness and power. As I prayed, I turned to passages in the Bible and the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy.3 These books give the honest searcher indispensable guidance and inspiration in his quest to destroy pain. They never lead one to hopelessness or placid acceptance of pain. For example, in Science and Health we read, ``Keep in mind the verity of being,--that man is the image and likeness of God, in whom all being is painless and permanent.'' 4 Gradually the God-sustained harmony of being became more and more dominant in my consciousness, and the sensation of pain drained away. Soon I was completely healed, and filled with joy and gratitude, which are normal effects of prayer in Christian Science. In striving each day to understand the omnipotent love of God as exemplified in the life of Christ Jesus, one discovers that more than ``sweet relief'' is available. In God's great love there is permanent healing and regeneration. And this is not an endless quest, but a present possibility. 1 Quoted in the Sacramento Bee, January 16, 1985. 2 Matthew 19:26. 3 The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. 4 Science and Health, p. 414.

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