A sober and intelligent joy
WE read of tragedies, of the horrors of history that seem so immense. Is it possible to live with joy in this world? When I first became interested in Christian Science and began to meet numbers of Christian Scientists, I noticed that many of them shared a quality of quiet joy. Were they living in some sort of never-never land, unaware of the barbarisms and injustices of the world around them? No, I had to admit they were better informed about the events of the world than almost any other group of people I had met.
This made an impression on me, because at the time I wasn't very joyful myself. I had grown up in a home in which an atmosphere of sophisticated unhappiness prevailed. I was implicitly taught that the only way to be responsible to all those who suffer in the world was to suffer with them.
It's true that this isn't a world which should elicit a response of complacency from us. The Christian Scientists who seemed the happiest to me were concerned about humanity. Their joy didn't appear to me to be predicated on a selfish ignorance. This also impressed me because I was very concerned about the inequities of the world. I wanted a religion that addressed them.
The very existence of the newspaper you are now reading showed me that Christian Scientists are expected to take a sober, daily look at the world in which we live. But Christian Science also teaches a kind of looking, a discernment of reality, that sees more than the outward appearance of things.
When Christ Jesus looked at people who had been beaten down by hardship or disease, he didn't simply see the same thing that those around him were seeing. Certainly he was aware of the human situation; in fact, the Bible tells how he was ``moved with compassion.'' But Jesus looked deeper; he perceived the divine reality that supersedes the evidence of the material senses.
Jesus' healing works point to the fact that he understood man to be as he is described in the first chapter of the Scriptures: very good, made in the image and likeness of God.1 Mary Baker Eddy2 writes: ``Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Saviour saw God's own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick.''3 As a result of Jesus' understanding of God and man, the evidence of the material senses yielded to the spiritual facts of being. This brought healing to the sick and reformation to the sinful.
Jesus left us this way of healing. He said, ``These signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.''4
It took me a long time to begin to understand this kind of spiritual regeneration. In fact, even after I had become a student of Christian Science I would read about an act of brutality in the newspaper or hear about it on television, and it would seem that every bit of joy had been driven out of me. Cruelty to children particularly affected me. I couldn't put it out of my mind.
I prayed a lot about this, and considered it in the light of what I was learning in Christian Science. Finally, because it was such a problem for me, I asked a Christian Science practitioner for help through prayer. I knew this individual cared deeply about the world, but he never seemed to be immobilized by its problems. I began to understand that when we see through prayer what is spiritually real about any situation -- discern something of God's absolute, perfect government of His creation and realize that this is reality, not just wishful thinking -- the situation no longer has the power to overwhelm us. Far from leading us to ignore or hide from the world's problems, such prayer enables us to help bring healing to them.
I still do all I can to be well-informed every day. But now troubles no longer make me lose my balance. I have found what you might call a sober and intelligent joy, the complement of compassion. Such private victories, and the prayer underlying them, do contribute to the joy and balance of the world. And eventually such prayer is the foundation that undergirds practical reform and healing.
1See Genesis 1:26, 31. 2The Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. 3Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, pp. 476-477. 4Mark 16:17, 18. DAILY BIBLE VERSE: The Lord reigneth; let the earth rejoice. Psalms 97:1