A prepackaged specialty dessert has this note to consumers on the package: "Do not turn upside down." The hitch? That note appears on the bottom of the package. Oops! Useful information, perhaps, but once you've gotten around to reading it, not well-timed.
The radio at your bedside clicks on automatically and brings you a traffic report while you're readying for work that day. The reporter alerts you: Take the tunnel into the city. Traffic on the bridge will be snarled for the next three hours. Useful information, and well-timed.
Few things are as discouraging as laboring for hours - or months - to complete a project, only to learn that the plans had already changed, nobody told you, and your labor has been in vain. Whether the project is preparing an elaborate dessert or designing a new bridge to cross the river, no one wants to be told, "Didn't you know? We're taking my boss out tonight. That'll have to be shelved." Or, "I can't believe you didn't hear we switched routes. The bridge will span a shorter gap two miles south."
As if in anticipation of such deflating moments, the Bible's book of Isaiah offers this encouragement: "They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them. And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear" (65:23, 24). Messages don't come better timed than that! How great to know that even before we call, God is answering us. While we are still speaking, He is hearing our need and responding in meaningful and problem-solving ways.
When we glimpse more of God's nature and His control of the whole scene, we find that unproductive work - what the Bible calls laboring in vain - just doesn't fit the divine scheme of things. It's not in line with an intelligent God to have His offspring toiling in fruitless endeavors, struggling with the wrong information, or with none at all. The remedy: A growing understanding of God tends to better direct our efforts. That's not to say prayer is a substitute for appropriate research. But through an increasing awareness that divine intelligence is at hand, we'll more readily locate the information we need. And the number of wasteful efforts will diminish.
Think of God as divine Mind, all-knowing, always present, forever enlightening His offspring. This enlightenment generally comes in the form of spiritual intuition rather than human data. But no matter what, it does come.
A friend of mine had a small but instructive episode. It was her daily routine to study the Bible, and she was accustomed to having practical answers appear as a result of prayer. In this instance, she needed some hard-to-find information for a project she was assigned at work. Before beginning her search, she walked over to the office photocopier to make some copies. And there, apparently left by the previous user, was a sheet containing the exact information she needed. (There's a sequel to this. When I was writing this article and considering different events illustrating the main point, the same friend happened to call, and without my asking, related this story. My need was met, just as hers had been.)
As we keep our thought more in line with the divine, such occurrences are not rare coincidences but regular evidences of holy inspiration. At just the right time. When we glimpse that God, divine Mind, is at hand and is answering us even before we call on Him, good happens. We know whatever we need to, and we know it right when we need it. Spiritual intuitions that make a useful difference dawn in thought. The necessary data, or whatever, shows up at the right time.
In a passage that wonderfully clarifies how God hears and responds to our needs, the founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote, "The 'divine ear' is not an auditory nerve. It is the all-hearing and all-knowing Mind, to whom each need of man is always known and by whom it will be supplied" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 7).
As our glimpses of divine intelligence multiply, the pattern continues. We have the information we need right when it does the most good.
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor