BOSTON — When the magnitude of your problems leaves you feeling depressed and hopeless, have you ever resorted to prayer?
Turning to God often turns the expected on its ear! It sometimes demands of us surprising responses to our problems.
Maybe one of the most unexpected (and wonderful) demands on anyone would be to "rejoice" - always. Yet this is something that the Bible asks of its readers (see I Thess. 5:16).
You may think that there are no completely successful followers of that advice. Or maybe you're just not sure how it could be achieved in this world. But there is a secret to constant rejoicing. And it's not a hidden secret.
The book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy, talks about this subject. It says Jesus showed how we can "... rejoice in secret beauty and bounty, hidden from the world, but known to God" (pg. 15).
One time I felt frustrated and helpless to deal with problems in the family. They had gone on for so long and they seemed so intractable. For several years I had been swinging between resigning myself to them and feeling indignant over them. For one thing, our son was having a hard time in school; he was depressed, apathetic, and grouchy. Certainly, I was not making any headway in solving anything for him or myself.
After praying to God, I was reminded of a poem I knew. And as I went slowly over the first stanza, I was arrested by the words "I will follow and rejoice/ All the rugged way" (from "Feed My Sheep," by Mary Baker Eddy).
I had known I wanted God, the Shepherd, to show me what to do. But I hadn't realized that the answer was to "follow and rejoice."
The next question, of course, was, "What do I have to rejoice about?" Gradually, I became aware of some "secret bounty" worth rejoicing over. Certainly it was not the problems! It was what I had come to believe about God. That He is divine Love. The only creator. That all which God has created is good. That He is All-in-all. I felt that included me and my whole family. We were, each one, the reflection of God. God had made us that way - His beautiful and perfect reflection.
Now all that was something worth rejoicing over! And I did. Suddenly, the problems that had seemed so intractable began to seem pretty much like nothing at all. It was so very clear to me that God had not made them. That He didn't even see them. The only place they existed was in the thinking of the person who was focusing on them (in other words, me) instead of on the truth as God knows it.
Later, I was tempted again to feel discouraged over those thorny problems. But prayer to God brings answers from God. And immediately this came to mind: "Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice" (Phil. 4:4). That was wonderful instruction for me. To rejoice again in the truth. God is Truth. And if we find ourselves drifting back, ruminating, we can again rejoice in the fact that God has made everything good.
So I did. Every time I was tempted to feel bad about those problems, I rejoiced in the truth that God is perfect and His creation is perfect. Where error appears to reproduce itself again and again, the solution must be to rejoice in Truth again and again.
Jesus taught this wonderful truth in the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount (see Matt. 5:3-12). He must have known that if we respond to problems with honest gratitude for good, the problems cannot ever have the last word in our life. He even said, "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven."
Rejoicing brings heaven on earth. It has been a big help to me in dealing with frustration and worry. And our son has made a lot of progress. He's making a good life for himself.
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society