One summer day a number of years ago I was playing tennis when one ankle collapsed under me and I sank to the court in considerable pain. This had often happened, though never so severely. Up until then I had simply let the injuries run their course until things were back to normal.
But as a student of Christian Science I was learning a better way to handle problems. I was learning that one need not endure suffering or necessarily look to material remedies for help. Rather, as the Bible promises, one can look to God for help: ''God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.'' n1 So this time, as soon as I fell, and even though the pain was intense, I reached out to God in prayer. The other players kindly stood aside.
n1 Psalms 46:1.
I quietly reasoned that God is perfect and creates man in His spiritual likeness. Therefore, man's true being must be perfect, uninjured. Moreover, I glimpsed the radical truth that because God is the only creator, I was right then and there His likeness and not the injured mortal I seemed to be.
It's understandable that these ideas may sound unusual to many readers of this column. Yet in that situation they carried a spiritual authority that was far beyond human reason, and they came to me with apparently effortless clarity and conviction.
Then the thought came, ''Get up and walk.'' Centuries before, Christ Jesus once said to a cripple, ''Rise, take up thy bed, and walk,'' n2 and the man was so receptive that he immediately did just that.
n2 John 5:8.
At first I resisted that Christly idea by thinking, ''No, I can't - my ankle's hurt.'' But the thought to stand up was so persistent that I finally decided to give it a try. And the ankle was completely well. There was no pain or even tenderness, and I went right on with the game as though nothing had happened, with no fear but with a lot of gratitude to God. In the more than two decades since then, I have had no other sprained ankles.
There are probably many lessons in that little experience. Surely one of the most comforting is to know that God is always present to help us. As pleasant as it has been for me to be free of sprained ankles all these years, most readers will understand that it has been even more pleasant to have had an inner, peaceful conviction that there is a God who can and will effectively care for us. Many people yearn to know that they are not on their own in this pitiless world but that there is an all-caring God to help them.
The Scriptures teach that God is Love. And the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, writes: ''Love is impartial and universal in its adaptation and bestowals. It is the open fount which cries, 'Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters.' '' n3
n3 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 13.
But to enjoy God's care we have to turn to Him with humility and accept that He is infinite good and that man is His perfect and beloved child. If we believe that God can be cruel as well as kind or that He sometimes sends hardships for us to endure stoically as a test of our faith, have we truly come to accept Him as the everlasting and unchanging Love that He really is?
Without question, God can seem to be far less than tender Love when we have been struggling a long time with tough problems of health, finances, relationships, and so forth. But God never, ever sends lack or sickness or conflict. God's nature is unchanging, infinite Love whose care for man is natural.
Perhaps one important reason that sincere prayers are sometimes unanswered is that they are often based on the widespread belief that man is essentially physical and therefore subject to all the ills inherent in physical life. But can man truly and ultimately be physical if his creator, God, is Spirit? Spirit and matter are opposites; one can't create the other.
Jesus said, ''God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.'' n4 As anyone yields to the truth that God is pure Spirit and man is purely spiritual, his prayers more quickly prove God's never-failing care.
n4 John 4:24.
To cure a sprained ankle through prayer may be a modest healing. It doesn't compare with the towering demonstrations of God's love that Christ Jesus gave the world. But it hints at the potency of the truths he taught, truths that many in the world are very deeply searching for. So what may seem like a little lesson could for some readers be a very big one. Daily Bible Verse
Ye shall know the truth shall make you free.