A friend and I were discussing Iraq. She said, "I'm afraid that in the long run Iraq won't be a democracy; it will just be made up of lots of different warring Islamic factions." I responded sadly, "Well, it was probably way too optimistic of us to ever believe that democracy could work there."
I didn't think about this conversation again until a week later when another car bomb exploded in Iraq, killing 42 people. I felt bad about what I'd said. I'd given in to negativity and hopelessness, and I hadn't given my best. For myself I know that giving my best includes prayer that affirms the presence of hope and the possibility of progress.
Not stopping short in our efforts to make the world a better place can feel daunting, even impossible.
How can we hang on to hope and not give in to despair? Perhaps by being more alert to the ways that dark, negative thoughts try to stop us from loving others.
I've been encouraged recently by this statement from the Lebanese philosopher Kahlil Gibran: "It was in my heart to help a little because I was helped much."
Admitting to myself that I can certainly help a little has given me courage to rebel against feelings of inertia, and has encouraged me to be more willing to take the next step in front of me.
When I suffered from depression several years ago, the compassion I felt from my closest friends was crucial to my progress. They did not give in to futility. Not only did they have hope, but they had a vision for my freedom.
In some small way could I do the same for others, even if they're on the other side of the globe?
Praying for Iraq recently, I persisted and listened for God's direction. This idea struck me: The foundation for peace comes from the spiritual fact that each person in Iraq has a worthy mission. Each one has been created by God to express God's nature - intelligence, integrity, love, usefulness, unselfishness. And each individual can hear those messages from God that inspire him or her to contribute something constructive to the world.
Darkness has no power to prevent us from hearing God's voice and following His direction. God, being pure Love, guides His children to do something that blesses, not hurts.
Sadness has tried to convince me that prayer is impossible. I have felt that overwhelming darkness after hearing about another car bomb explosion and the resulting deaths and injuries. But I've found it helpful to ask myself some questions: Who doesn't feel sad after such incidents? And why should sadness stop me from praying, from contributing something positive right in the midst of the darkness? After all, that's when prayer is most needed. I'm finding that I always have a choice: I can allow sadness to stop me from turning to God, or I can go forward with prayer despite how I feel.
Realizing that I do have a choice - and that God is giving me the clarity, courage, and love to choose correctly - has made me more willing to persevere. Sometimes my deepest and most heartfelt prayers have come out of my severest struggles.
Our connection to God is the foundation of having a right, productive relationship to one another. This fact challenges the inevitability of violence - whether it's in Iraq or in our own neighborhood, or in our own heart.
Nothing can change the way God, Spirit, has made His children. Focusing on these spiritual truths has helped me to stop expecting people to hate one another (for any reason) and has instead made me start expecting people to care about one another.
Hope originates in divine Love. Hope insists that God's love for each one of Her children is greater than the repetition of darkness and that eventually darkness will be destroyed by this light of love.
To understand God
strengthens hope, enthrones faith in Truth, and verifies Jesus' word: "Lo, I am with you alway,
even unto the end of the world."
Mary Baker Eddy
(Founder of Christian Science)