A recent front-page headline in the Los Angeles Times read, "Medications Kill 100,000 Annually, Study Says." The numbers were not referring to drug abuse, overmedication, or improper prescribing - only to properly prescribed and taken medications.
My own heath care choices are made along spiritual, nonmedical lines. Nevertheless, there was no way that I as a Christian could ignore that story.
Actually, big as this issue is, it hints at a still larger one. Not just these, but all fearful statistics need to be given thoughtful consideration. Can you or I turn our backs on any discouraging statistical data just because we may live in low crime areas, have secure jobs, or whatever? I hope not.
Frightening statistics are ones to challenge, not resign ourselves to. It's not disputing the methodology of the studies that is crucial. But underlying assumptions - assumptions about who we are - need to be challenged prayerfully. Who says you are a faceless statistic? How could you or I or anyone be reduced to such a status? What could possibly grind us down to such vulnerability?
To challenge these assumptions, we might start with the biblical perception that man is the object of constant attention and love from the Almighty, who created us in His likeness, as His spiritual reflection. This love and attention is true for each and every one of us. The book of Psalms offers this wonderful assurance: "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust" (91:1, 2). The Psalmist grasped that God's protecting love and care is a fact for each of us as we rely on Him.
There is, however, what appears to be a puzzler a verse or so later: "A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee." I used to think, "That sounds good for the one reading the psalm. But bad for whoever's standing nearby." Then I realized, the Psalmist was not presenting his own frightening statistics! He was graphically portraying a common state of thought we all need to address. Even when it looks as if disaster is all around, this does not negate the constant love and attention God has for His spiritual creation. In other words, the alarming picture is not the true picture. When we understand how to challenge evil through prayer, and bring our thoughts more in line with what the all-knowing God knows, we experience God's power to keep us safe.
Alarming statistical numbers are not God's numbers, or the ones Christ Jesus reminded us of when he said, "The very hairs of your head are all numbered" (Matt. 10:30). What God, divine Mind and Spirit, knows of each of us is all there truly is to know. It is always good. As we realize this, we are praying.
The beauty of such prayer is it never leaves us where it finds us. It leads us, moves us forward, takes us to a higher vantage point, from which to see more clearly. Perhaps we've initially felt confronted with only unsure choices regarding health care, safety, employment, all with disturbing probabilities attached to them. Spiritual understanding reveals sound answers where before we saw none. "Spirit [God] imparts the understanding which uplifts consciousness and leads into all truth," wrote Mary Baker Eddy in the Christian Science textbook - "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" (Pg. 505).
If previously you've felt frozen in place by threatening statistics, that Spirit-impelled movement of thought can break the ice pack. Instead of sinking in anguish, you can learn more clearly that God maintains our safety. God is pure Spirit. You are ever known to Him as His own spiritual likeness. This describes the only God and the only you. This truth, understood, provides provable safety for each of us. As our thoughts move into a truer reckoning of ourselves and of God, we are able to chart a course with the assurance of His care and guidance.
Maybe we don't feel our own life is threatened by statistics. Prayer for our fellow men and women is still in order. By praying unselfishly, we're making moves, however small, that melt away threats. We are laying claim to safety and assurance, to proof that we forever exist in "the secret place of the most High," and never in a place of danger.