When you are faced with a problem, what is your first response? Do you launch into a rehearsal of your options, the pros and cons of different actions? Oftentimes such reasoning is helpful and useful. But even the most adept problem solvers would likely admit that there are limits to what they can do in some instances.
Because it starts from a limited basis, and deals with the variables of human circumstances, reasoning alone runs into walls and runs out of resources. It is rarely able to meet everyone's needs equally and satisfactorily. So choosing the lesser of two evils is often part of people's problem solving.
Is there a better way? A small experience that I had the other day reconfirmed for me that there is. It is the way of prayer. I had inadvertently locked myself out of my office as I went to lunch. I was counting on getting a great deal of work done that afternoon. Phone calls were to come in. My thought raced through a long list of people who had extra keys, but I didn't find anyone home or reachable.
Then I remembered I should have prayed. As a Christian Scientist, I had grown up learning how to turn to God for each need, big or little. I had found direction and guidance in the example of Christ Jesus -- answers to needs for housing, physical healing, improvement in relationships, and sufficient financial resources. Why had I neglected to pray first in this instance? Probably because the problem was a "minor" one, and I figured I could handle it myself. But that attitude is really just another example of limited reasoning.
The Bible reveals God as Love, guiding His creation. For us this guidance comes through spiritual intuitions -- right thoughts. Mary Baker Eddy, the woman who discovered Christian Science, wrote of this mental guidance, "God gives you His spiritual ideas, and in turn, they give you daily supplies" (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 307). Our choices are, then, more substantially mental than physical. But this doesn't leave our human needs unsatisfied; human circumstances are brought into line with mental choices much the way a trailer follows a car.
The Hebrew patriarch Abraham found such spiritual guidance long ago (see Genesis, chap. 13). The Bible tells how he sought a place where his people could serve the one God, who he had come to see was the only God. Accompanying him on this journey was his nephew Lot. It quickly became evident that there was not sufficient room for the families of Abraham and Lot to live in the same place. So Abraham let Lot choose first the area that looked best.
Lot looked carefully for the lushest pastureland, apparently reasoning that he'd prosper and have a good life. But Abraham, listening closely to God, chose to be unselfish and faithful to God. By his choice he prospered and his family did well. Lot, on the other hand, eventually had to flee for his life and leave the land he had chosen. Abraham's actions exemplify this counsel from Proverbs: "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths" (3:5, 6).
In my own circumstance, I began to turn to God for answers. I became quiet and reached out in prayer to Him. The first thought of guidance that came was, "No matter what you spend the afternoon doing, don't lose your joy and peace." Grateful for that direction to express qualities such as joy and peace, I listened again. I heard in my thought the distinct intuition to go stand outside my office building. As I stood there looking up, a man came around the corner of the building, apparently looking for something, too. It turned out that he worked for a security alarm company and had just the right tool for my lock.
I asked him what he had been looking for, and was able to direct him right to where he could find it. As he left, I realized the efficiency and creativity of God's solutions, which had solved both of our problems.
This was a small incident in the scheme of things. But the Principle that operates to meet all needs, big and little, brought the solution. We can practice spiritual listening and find that there are always suitable answers to the problems we face.