As my husband and I looked at our dwindling bank account, stacks of unpaid bills, drastically lowered income, and this month's mortgage payment looming, our first inclination was to feel humiliated, to see ourselves as failures, and even to go into a panic. But worry only made things worse, and we couldn't see a solution.
After hearing the heartbreaking stories from the people who lost their life savings to the latest Ponzi scheme, I thought about the tough times so many of us are facing, whether swindled or not. From my own experience, I've learned that hardship will be overcome not by placing blame, taking revenge, or wallowing in self-pity, but by choosing a new perspective and resolving to do better. For me, this means cultivating a spiritual perspective, one that relies on God to see me through the difficult times.
Sometimes it can feel impossible to hold on to the hope that one's basic needs for housing and food will be met. But this is exactly what Jesus called on us to do if we want to progress. He offered a radical view. He told his disciples not to be preoccupied with getting, but instead to focus on God's giving. I've found insight in Eugene Peterson's interpretation of the passage, "Seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you" as "Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.... Be generous" (Luke 12:31, 33, "The Message").
How can we make this promise practical? If we think of God as our Father-Mother, loving us unconditionally, we can recognize ourselves as the sons and daughters of infinite Love. Then it's clear that God's promise can be trusted while we daily go about answering the divine call to love humanity.
Jesus provided additional guidance in his Sermon on the Mount. He was quoting from part of a psalm attributed to King David when he declared, "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth" (Matt. 5:5, see Ps. 37:11). Does being meek mean being a wimp, resigned to getting beaten down, or feeling humiliated? Hardly. The original Hebrew word translated as "meek" is anav, a word applied to Moses, who was certainly no coward. Its meaning includes graciousness, gentleness, and kindness, as well as decency and purity – qualities that make it possible for our lives to be God-centered rather than self-centered.
When I remember to abide in "God-reality," instead of seeing myself as a victim of a bleak economy in a cold, cruel world, I replace feelings of humiliation with humility, and surrender to God, to infinite good, with a childlike trust that all is well. I count my blessings, and then give what I can to others throughout each day – a good idea, a referral, a favor, a small gift, or a kind gesture. This goodness and lovingkindness builds upon itself, turning problems around in ways I never could have imagined.
In my experience, the choice to accept God's control has without fail always met a specific need, and no one is ever left out.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, wrote in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," "Giving does not impoverish us in the service of our Maker, neither does withholding enrich us" (p. 79). I've found this to be true countless times in my life. Our circumstances may appear beyond our control, but how we choose to view ourselves and others as we face each challenge makes all the difference.