HAVE you ever had days -- or maybe weeks and months -- when responsibilities and cares had so piled up that you were edgy and short-tempered, never knowing a moment's peace? You may even have felt like the sign I once saw on a friend's wall: ``Cheer up, things could be worse. So I cheered up -- and things got worse!'' I often used to feel like that. But I've learned that we can never be so hopeless or so deeply troubled that humble, yearning prayer to know God better won't uplift us and restore peace to us. Why? Because yielding to the Christ, the innate spiritual truth which exists within each one of God's children -- the genuine identity of you and me and everyone -- keeps us safely, permanently in the kingdom of heaven, that mental state of Godlike purity where peace and spiritual well-being prevail.
There was a period in my life when all the responsibilities of my household seemed to fall on me. And there were often times when my ability not only to make wise decisions but also simply to be patient and kind was sorely tested (and found wanting).
I would reason with myself, talk myself out of the glooms, and for a while things would be better. But it was all up and down. What little peace I could gain never lasted long. Finally I decided to get down to serious, heartfelt prayer. (Why had I waited so long!)
Prayer led me to the Bible. This time I turned to the place in Isaiah where the prophet is praising God for His continuing care: ``Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.''1
How wonderful, I thought, to be kept in perfect peace -- not just catch fleeting glimpses of it once in a while! But then I went on to ponder the conditions of this keeping -- constancy and trust. If, therefore, I hoped to find perfect -- lasting -- peace I couldn't just sit around and wish for it. There were important things for me to do -- like keeping my thinking spiritual, ``stayed'' on God, and humbly trusting Him not just sometimes but always.
So I got busy. And as I persistently stayed with God, through daily and hourly prayer, I found it more and more natural to trust Him, to seek His guidance in every aspect of my experience. And little by little I could actually feel myself become more loving, patient, and merciful (a quality I had never thought much about before). I was learning to be merciful instead of trying in subtle ways to even the score with those who made what I felt were unreasonable demands on me. And gradually what had been narrow, self-pitying, inward-looking views of my existence and my identity were replaced by an expansive and joyous concept of my real spiritual being as God's child, created in His image and likeness, as the Bible tells us.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, puts it this way in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: ``Man understands spiritual existence in proportion as his treasures of Truth and Love are enlarged.'' And further down that page she continues, ``This scientific sense of being, forsaking matter for Spirit, by no means suggests man's absorption into Deity and the loss of his identity, but confers upon man enlarged individuality, a wider sphere of thought and action, a more expansive love, a higher and more permanent peace.''2
As we turn away from obsession with material concerns (and no matter how large they loom, material concerns, by comparison with spiritual facts, are always subordinate), and strive to see ourselves spiritually, we not only accomplish more graciously whatever is ours to do, but we also find increased opportunities to move into ``a wider sphere of thought and action.'' Then the responsibilities that had seemed so overwhelming and peace-robbing cease to overwhelm us. Instead we become masters of them.
Think what it can mean in your life -- as it did in mine -- and also to the world at large, to see the results of working diligently to bring into our lives, even in small ways, every day ``a higher and more permanent peace,'' which takes form in more spiritual balance, grace, and sweetness.
Christ Jesus assured his disciples: ``Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.... Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.''3
Perfect peace? Yes, the Christly peace Jesus showed to his disciples is available today, right here and now, for you and me and everyone. What we have to do is open our hearts and accept it.
1Isaiah 26:3 2Science and Health, p. 265. 3John 14:1, 27.
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BIBLE VERSE Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.