My heart was very heavy.
In a week's time, I was scheduled to leave for a trip to Bosnia to see what kind of changes had happened there in the five years since the end of a devastating civil war. I had done a lot of research for my trip, trying to understand more about this part of the world. Reading about the centuries-old ethnic hatreds and rivalries that spilled over again in the early 1990s, during the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, left me with a feeling of great despair. I began asking myself why on earth I would even want to go to such a place.
A few days before I was to leave, I went to a weekly meeting at my church, where the congregation shared inspiration and told about spiritual healings they'd had. One man spoke about how relying on God's guidance had led to the successful completion of a project in his home that had posed a variety of difficulties. His simple prayer, he said, was to know, "God is in that place, and good is going on." And then he added, "And that's true whether we're talking about Washington D.C., or Bosnia."
My spirits lifted immediately. I felt I had been given the guidance and comfort I needed to make my trip. For me, these simple words were a powerful recognition of the goodness and allness of God. During the three weeks I was in Bosnia, I prayed daily to understand that "God is in [this] place, and good is going on." Although I knew I had to honestly examine the challenges still confronting the country, I also deeply desired to be a witness to God's present goodness. I wanted to glimpse something of what the Psalmist says: "...the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord" (33:5).
I did hear many stories of loss and lingering hatred during my trip, and every day I confronted difficult reminders of the destruction of war. But I also found remarkable stories of individual forgiveness and determination to rebuild, a desire to create communities that would not easily be torn apart by war once again.
Although these hopeful signs sometimes seemed outweighed by the enormity of what the country had gone through - and is still going through - I stayed with my simple prayer, and I've continued to stay with it since my return home.
I wanted to understand that the signs or sometimes mere glimmers of goodness that I'd witnessed were more than frail human attempts to do the right thing. I saw that if goodness were nothing more than a personal attribute springing from one person's efforts or beliefs, then it would be a terribly fragile thing, subject to all sorts of limitations and obstacles.
But to see, or even begin to see, that every good word, thought, or act is actually an appearing of the presence and power of God - an indication that "God is in this place" - provides a strong foundation for prayers for the world. And that's true whether we're praying for our own neighborhood, for Washington D.C., Bosnia, or anywhere else. To use a simple analogy, understanding the relationship between the appearance of goodness and God is a little like understanding that a ray of sunlight cast across a darkened room indicates the full presence, light, and warmth of the sun itself. Even the smallest glimmer of goodness indicates the presence of God.
I know I may not see changes in the world overnight. But to deeply trust that "good is going on," and that this good is sustained by God Himself, is my prayer. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, wrote, "If God is All, and God is good, it follows that all must be good; and no other power, law, or intelligence can exist" ("Miscellaneous Writings," pg. 101).
It helps me to continually yield up a limited concept of God, which would leave room for evil to have power, and to understand that God is good and is All. In the presence of such goodness, evil must ultimately yield, just as a darkened room gives way to the radiance of the sun.
I'm still praying about Bosnia, and other parts of the world. But not with a heavy heart. I try each day to understand more deeply that "God is in that place, and good is going on."
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society