As we lived through news reports on Monday of another plane crash, I found an interesting fact emerging. New Yorkers are not as fragile as many might think. Sure, a number of my neighbors and friends are jittery, anxious, not eager to travel. But that is more on the surface. Most have found a deeper strength that has helped them pick up their lives and move forward. And this is helping us all again.
As I was praying during these past two days, I was reminded of a film by the famous American playwright Horton Foote, called "1918." While people in the United States were absorbing the strains and casualties that followed their entrance into the First World War, they were also being assaulted by a virulent outbreak of influenza. As the film notes, more people in the US died from this outbreak than from the war.
Watching life in that small Texas town, we see the impact those terrible events had on families. Death was frequent and sudden. People hardly had time to absorb one incident before another occurred. Yet, as Mr. Foote's film points out, in the midst of all this, people kept going. It's trite to say simply that "life goes on." The film gives substance, though, to that truism. Affection and love go on. Neighborly help goes on. The needed routines of life go on. And they go on because there is an undergirding of faith that supports us in the dark hours and gives us glimpses of light.
As the film ends, a piano softly plays a familiar hymn. In this quiet, simple way, the film reminds us what it is that brings rebirth, what maintains hope and faith when we are assaulted on every side. And we would do well to keep our own favorite hymn playing in consciousness. This reminds us what help is present to support and sustain us in difficult times.
For example, these words from a hymn by Charles Wesley express an earnest prayer, which also reminds us of the help that comes from God: "O Thou God of peace, be near us,/ Fix within our hearts Thy home ..." ("Christian Science Hymnal," No. 276).
As I thought about this prayer, to feel a oneness and closeness with God, Christ Jesus' words came to thought. He told his disciples, "In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). Jesus was telling his disciples that he had proved and would continue to prove that the world and its troubles, however severe, could not deprive him of the evidence of God's presence and support. In fact, it was this sense of God with him, of the supreme authority and power of God, that enabled him to triumph over every ill, even crucifixion.
Why be of good cheer? Because his life revealed that we, too, can overcome the world - its evils, pains, and hates. He had told his disciples, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6), and he persistently urged them to follow. He explained that he was their and our great shepherd leading us all to this conscious sense of oneness/closeness with God.
In "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mary Baker Eddy writes, "Jesus of Nazareth taught and demonstrated man's oneness with the Father, and for this we owe him endless homage" (pg. 18). The world can't offer us or assure us enduring safety or peace. This is the province of divine Love. Jesus brought an understanding that the underlying nature of God is eternal, unwavering, constant, and dependable love. And he persisted in proving that we can be conscious of this great love here and now. We can have evidence of this living truth here and now. We can feel at one with God.
The writer of Psalm 139 glimpsed this fact when he wrote, "if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there." To me, this verse says that even if my life seems hellish, the moment I turn to divine Love, I find that Love is with me - and all that was hellish fades away. The consciousness of God with us restores us, renews our life, and enables us to move forward.
The world's tribulations force us to turn more readily and firmly to God. In this way, we overcome them. We can be of good cheer as Jesus urged, for we find that we, too, can overcome the pains and sorrows of this world and feel the effects of God's great love here and now.