FOR those who are sensitive to humanity's troubles and who long to help, taking in the news can be quite a challenge these days. There's no need to itemize the stories covered by the media -- we're pretty familiar with the dimensions of war, crime, repression, poverty. How can we deal with so much that's apparently beyond our ability to help? Is it enough simply to be informed about what's going on?
Being informed is the first step toward taking effective action, of course. But each one of us needs to do more than just hear about the world's happenings. In a profound way these events relate to all of us, no matter how distant we may be from them. While we don't bear responsibility for the actions of criminals or have to suffer with the oppressed, the theological issues raised by the picture of human suffering need at some point to be addressed by everyone.
For example, are we all vulnerable to evil forces outside our control, or is there a God we can look to for help? We might ponder this if we've been inclined to assume that misfortune is an inescapable reality for some but couldn't possibly befall others. What is it that provides our safety? In the most fundamental way, it's God. We've got to deepen our understanding of God in order to place our well-being on a more solid foundation and to be of greater help to mankind.
When the news tells of starvation or homelessness, should we accept these as legitimate happenings in an unfair world, or can we instead rebel against these notions through a higher sense of divine justice? The latter is not only possible; it's a powerful, practical help.
The Bible tells us of divine justice throughout its pages. It reports the triumph of spiritual power over evil in the Israelites' deliverance from captivity, in Christ Jesus' healing works, as well as in numerous other accounts of the creator's care for His creation. The Bible tells us in no uncertain terms that there is a God -- one God -- and that He can be called upon to save us, even in the most dire circumstances. In a powerful declaration of God's supremacy, the Bible says, ``The Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us.''1
This truth is timeless and universal. And it points to an answer to the question posed earlier: How can we deal with so much that's apparently beyond our ability to help? We can deal with it in a healing way by recognizing that no circumstance is beyond God's ability to help and that if God, who is totally good, is omnipotent, then evil, whatever form it may assume, is not the immovable reality it seems to be.
While some may feel this is an empty theory in the face of the world's tragedies, our inner, intuitive sense of justice tells us that all is not -- cannot be -- hopeless. It tells us that there must be a God and that good must therefore ultimately prevail. It tells us that evil cannot, in the long run, sustain itself, because it isn't a legitimate, God-empowered aspect of life. It is, by its very nature, self-destructive.
All well and good, we may feel, but the fact remains that people are suffering in this world, and there's often very little being done to alleviate that suffering. Where is God?
God is here. He is omnipresent Spirit, as the Bible teaches, and he is Love. But we need individually and collectively to gain a better understanding of Him and of His law in order to prove His supremacy more widely and consistently. This is why the news in the global arena relates to us. It demands that we get a better understanding of our creator's care for His creation. If we believe God allows suffering on another continent, we're believing, in effect, that He could allow suffering in our own lives. If we believe that divine justice is absent in another country or in another person's life, we're believing it could be absent in our own life.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, observes, ``A selfish and limited mind may be unjust, but the unlimited and divine Mind is the immortal law of justice as well as of mercy.''2 And she also says, ``The Christian Science God is universal, eternal, divine Love, which changeth not and causeth no evil, disease, nor death.''3
The understanding of God as universal divine Love, eternally just, can be a tangible help as it underlies and impels our prayers for humanity. The Bible tells us that ``the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.''4 We can take concrete action on behalf of those in need by insisting in prayer that God is the only power and that His government of each of His offspring is eternally just. Equally important is the need to understand the true nature of man as God's offspring. The genuine selfhood of each individual is not a sinful or victimized creature of the flesh but is God's very image, His blessed spiritual likeness. While this may not seem the case, our prayers will carry more weight as we realize that all identities in God's creation are, in truth, spiritual and indestructible, safe in His care, governed by His wisdom. This pure perception of God and man was what underlay Jesus' healing works, and it's the basis for humanity's regeneration today.
Clearly, we can't, through our prayers, work out the salvation of others or prevent the suffering for sin that inevitably brings a deep desire for reform to a wrongdoer. But we can help, in a degree at least, to illumine human thought with a greater recognition of God's provision and direction. And we can help to hasten the inevitable self-destruction of all that would oppose God's impartial, loving government of man.
All is not hopeless. The news can serve to point us to the need for hope in God, whose good will for all must inevitably be done. 1Isaiah 33:22. 2Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p.36. 3Ibid., p. 140. 4James 5:16. Healing through prayer is explored in a weekly magazine, the Christian Science Sentinel.