WE sometimes talk about learning lessons from ''the school of hard knocks.'' By this is meant growing in character from going through tough situations. It is similarly possible to learn lessons about God from facing tough experiences such as sickness. Not that God ever sends sickness -but He does enable us to find and prove the same spiritual power that Christ Jesus possessed, in his unparalleled ability to heal.
Rudimental Divine Science, a book written by Mary Baker Eddy, the woman who founded this newspaper, makes a relevant observation: ''Sickness is the schoolmaster, leading you to Christ; first to faith in Christ; next to belief in God as omnipotent; and finally to the understanding of God and man in Christian Science, whereby you learn that God is good, and in Science man is His likeness, the forever reflection of goodness'' (p. 11).
What wonderful things to be learning! I recently learned more on this subject, when facing the effects of what was literally a ''hard knock'' I had taken. I had rammed my leg, with some momentum, against a pointed wooden surface. While walking home I found myself increasingly lame.
I was accustomed to bringing my difficulties to God in prayer, and I didn't think of judging the severity of my predicament by the appearance of the injury. Having previously found physical healing through prayer, I dismissed the severity of the physical condition as having any bearing on God's ability to heal me. Yet I couldn't help feeling the pain, and I couldn't disguise the clumsiness of my steps as I limped home.
That night, as I tried to get around, I prayed. In two days' time I was to attend an exhibition for my workplace, which would entail walking and standing all day. Since I was now severely challenged in both these normal activities, I knew I needed to see a change. My first line of prayer was to affirm that this ''schoolmaster'' of physical discomfort would bring me to the Christ-not Jesus himself, but the true idea of God and man that he understood and taught. In the Bible, Matthew said Jesus gave his disciples power ''to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease'' (10:1). My second line of prayer was to address my feeling of fear, which would deny the presence and power of God. This fear was that I might not be able to attend the upcoming exhibition.
I studied the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, also by Mrs. Eddy, before going to sleep that night, seeking inspiration. And I did glimpse something in Science and Health that led me to Christ. It was this: ''. . . progress will finally destroy all error, and bring immortality to light'' (p. 492). I went to sleep feeling that the next day was not about good or bad human circumstances, but was about God's power over all error. Through Truth all error can be overcome-all poverty, suffering, and unhappiness-in all lives. Christ, Truth, brings to light man's perfect, spiritual nature.
The next day was indeed a happy one. I didn't wake up immediately restored to health, but I did fully expect to experience the healing power of Christ. I continued to pray until it was time to go to work. And I felt my fear receding.
As I limped along I stopped to speak to a friend. At first the pain made me feel I shouldn't be standing around doing that! But the conversation we had was uplifting, and then I felt the physical pain and incapacity diminishing. I continued on. When I reached the office I was asked unexpectedly if I would be willing to go to the exhibition that very morning. Again, my physical condition said I couldn't go. But on the basis of the assurance of Christ's healing power, I felt I could.
I went, and with every footstep I took, my leg felt more normal. From that moment on I moved freely and virtually without pain. In a few days all evidence of the condition was completely gone.
You can certainly expect prayer to act to prevent physical problems. But if you are not well, it is good-and legitimate-to recognize any symptoms as merely a ''schoolmaster,'' leading you to trust and prove, through prayer, that you represent God's perfect man. This recognition brings healing.