My five-year-old son ran crying into my room late one night. He said that a character from a popular children's book was trying to hurt him. I responded as any reasonable parent would, assuring him that he had only been having a bad dream and that there was nothing there to harm him. The character was pretend, and he did not need to be afraid of it. With that assurance my son quickly got over his fear and returned to a peaceful night's sleep.
This got me thinking. Often when we begin to question our lives deeply, the possibility of an all-loving God can seem doubtful. If God is omnipotent, why does He allow evil to exist? Why does He allow harm to come to His beloved children?
The answer is that God really is all-loving and omnipotent. He never changes and He never knows evil. He never allows harm to come to His children. What's happening is an awful lot like the episode with my son. When we run crying to God with a problem-which I suppose is how some would define prayer-God can't dive into the problem with us and solve it from that basis. That would actually be like my trying to get into my son's dream to help him ward off the scary character. Instead, assurance from God shows us that we've only been dreaming. Just as I told my son there simply was nothing trying to hurt him, God reveals that there never is anything that can harm us. His love for us is uninterrupted, and He never has anything for us but peace.
This comparison of mortal life to a dream didn't originate with me. Basing its ideas on the Bible, the book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, says, "Mortal existence is a dream of pain and pleasure in matter, a dream of sin, sickness, and death; and it is like the dream we have in sleep, in which every one recognizes his condition to be wholly a state of mind. In both the waking and the sleeping dream, the dreamer thinks that his body is material and the suffering is in that body" (p. 188).
When something in life takes on the proportions of a nightmare, how can we wake up? Well, sometimes it's great to have a friend nearby who gently shakes us when he or she can tell we're struggling in a bad dream. God has provided for a friend to be near us at all times. This friend is the Christ, telling us of our constant, unbreakable link with God. The Christ is always present, gently speaking to us, lovingly helping us to awake to our true, good nature and revealing the ever-presence of God.
Jesus fully exemplified the Christ. There's an episode in the Bible, in which Jesus woke up a friend of his, Lazarus. In this instance, Lazarus had become sick and actually died (see John, chap. 11). When Jesus and the disciples heard of the illness, Jesus said, "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep" (verse 11). The disciples were relieved to think that Lazarus was just sleeping. But Jesus clarified what was going on by telling them that Lazarus was dead. Death is the ultimate manifestation of the dream that life exists separate from God.
When Jesus arrived in Lazarus's city, he found that his friend had already been dead for four days. But with complete conviction, he went to the tomb and ordered that it be opened. He prayed aloud, "Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me." And he cried out, "Lazarus, come forth." And Lazarus walked out of the tomb (verses 41-44). Jesus had raised Lazarus by understanding that God is All.
Jesus was awakening his friend from the dream that his life came from matter rather than God. We, too, can become more sensitive to the touch of the Christ, and wake up from the belief in death, which is at the root of human trouble. By learning to turn consciously from thoughts of evil, we prepare ourselves to accept the messages of truth God is sending continuously. They are always good. In the words of Paul in Ephesians, "Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light" (5:14).