Bitter . . . or better?

A man who was severely burned in an electrical accident told me that during the accident he felt he was dying; yet he held on to life, calling out the names of his children whom he loved devotedly. Although he suffered a great deal, today-twenty years later-he is a changed man, wise and sweet tempered. And he willingly turns to God in prayer in times of need. It could be said of him what the Bible says of Job: ''The Lord turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends.'' n1

n1 Job 42:10.

There is something about suffering that seems to make people either bitter or better. Most of us could agree that there is no glory to God or to the individual in suffering of itself. Instead, what one makes of himself, his life, and his world, as he works through periods of trial, glorifies God and elevates the human spirit.

The Apostle Paul wrote, ''I take pleasure in infirmities.'' n2 Through many trials Paul grew in the grace of God and witnessed the redeeming power of Christ , Truth. The purifying effect of the Christ-both in Paul's life and in the lives of those who were healed by him-led to remarkable triumphs over suffering.

n2 Corinthiens 12:10.

We too can see through the frightening veil of suffering. Our deep faith in God's all-power, coupled with the prayerful conviction that all His creation is permanent and good, enables us to understand that man is not a victim of unjust circumstances. Man's real, spiritual identity is maintained in unbroken relationship to God. And God's will for man is always good. Knowing this we can face suffering with the moral courage needed to bring healing.

This might seem like an abstract theory but for the fact that, today, many are turning regularly to God in prayer and are demonstrating in lives healed and regenerated that God's power is ever present. The love of God is sufficient to meet the deepest human need.

This is not to say that anyone who dedicates his life to understanding God is automatically exempt from suffering. But we can see in each experience the opportunity to prove God's tender care for His creation. Our willingness to rely on God for healing is blessed by the divine law of omnipotent good. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes, ''We all must find shelter from the storm and tempest in the tabernacle of Spirit.'' n3

n3 Miscellaneous Writings, p. 362.

A confrontation with suffering need not bring resentment or bitterness. We can trust our Father's infinite goodness and mercy and be uplifted through the acceptance of His law as the only authority governing man. Even if we have chosen to resist God's saving grace, we will be purified if suffering weans us away from materiality.

When we stand with God and diligently pray to see His will for us, we not only find the immediate answers we need; we grow in our understanding of man's true relationship to Him. Ultimately, our salvation depends upon a realization of this relationship.

The operation of divine law inevitably brings us into harmony with Truth. Yet God never requires suffering nor is He pleased by it. It is human resistance to spiritual good that so often causes suffering, and it is in breaking down that resistance that suffering may have a salutary effect. Mrs. Eddy states: ''The sharp experiences of belief in the supposititious life of matter, as well as our disappointments and ceaseless woes, turn us like tired children to the arms of divine Love. Then we begin to learn Life in divine Science. Without this process of weaning, 'Canst thou by searching find out God?' '' n4

n4 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 322.

Rather than feeling bitter or hopeless during a period of mental or physical anguish, we can seek genuine healing through prayer. It can be a time to be born again of the Spirit-to have our characters transformed and our lives made whole by humbly realizing that God is the only Life of man. Then, in the words of a favorite hymn, we will begin to see that

He holds us perfect in His love,

And we His image bear. n5

n5 Christian Science, No. 144.

DAILY BIBLE VERSE Let all bitterness. . . be put away from you. Ephesians 4:31

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