No need to swallow your tears

Originally printed as an editorial in the Christian Science Sentinel

When I was growing up in Brazil, children were often told to swallow their tears. Crying was considered either weakness or bad manners. Unfair, isn't it? Don't children - as well as adults - need comfort when they are sad? What do we gain by swallowing our tears or hiding our sadness? Society sometimes demands that people cover up their feelings and give an exterior appearance of happiness or bravery.

But it's OK to cry. Suppressing tears doesn't solve the problem. Whatever caused them needs to be dealt with, and the sorrow wiped away. Sorrow needs to be overcome, not disguised.

Some people can find joy in very difficult circumstances by asking God, praying to Him, for relief. Others reason it out through an inner search that enables them to say, even in the middle of the storm, "It's OK. It'll work out." That, too, is prayer, answered by the Principle that governs the whole universe, who is the very God, always present.

There is always a starting point for prayer, although sometimes it is almost imperceptible. And it generates a little bit of genuine joy. That little bit is an incredibly strong foundation to build on. We can begin to pray by acknowledging something good that already exists.

Once I was taking care of a relative who had been ill for several months and depended totally on my care. It was a difficult situation to face, day in, day out, all by myself. I was overburdened, sad, and desperately in need of one moment of joy. Every afternoon I sat in the living room, and I let the tears flow. I looked for the presence of Life, for the fact that even then, there was a Principle governing everything. I was aware that God was that Principle, that Life - my solid starting point, something to hold on to.

And from the depths of that recognition came an intuition telling me to find relief in something I liked, even though it seemed that there was nothing to enjoy. I knew this message came from that Principle, from that Life, from God. Right in the middle of sorrow, I was beginning to find a spiritual reality. A reality described in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy as the "scientific fact in all things" (pg. 207). Abstract as that thought was, it was a tremendous help, a ray of hope, a light at the end of the tunnel. I had begun to find the strength I needed in order to carry on.

At that time, one of my indoor plants was constantly developing new shoots. And as I sat there every afternoon, I began to acknowledge beauty in every new leaf. I had found something that gave me brief glimmers of joy. It helped me stand and cope with the situation, as the dear one I was caring for gave small signs of improvement. Slowly, steadily, little by little, step by step, we began to feel the joy of seeing a full recovery take place. And more years of activity and service followed.

The standpoint of Christian Science is that sorrow can be turned into joy when we recognize that happiness is rejoicing over the spiritual fact - in other words, over what is spiritually true. Then we find a way of turning the disturbing situation around. The situation changes, and joy begins to be within our reach because we understand that in the spiritual reality there is no separation, no space between us and the Principle of all being.

In the Bible, a New Testament writer said, "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss" (James 4:3). And Jesus said, "Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full" (John 16:24). There is no contradiction in these words. The prayer that doesn't ask amiss doesn't ask for things. It asks for understanding of the spiritual reality, and is answered in full. With that kind of prayer, tears cause no embarrassment or shame, and don't need to be swallowed. They are wiped away.

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

Revelation 21:4

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