From the ads I sometimes see on TV and the books being sold in bookstores, it appears that there's a lot of stress. Millions of people attribute their insomnia and headaches to tension and pressure.
I am often helped by praying with the words from one of my favorite hymns. It's by the Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier:
Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from us now the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.
"Christian Science Hymnal," No. 49
Prayers like that lead us to the realization that what pressures us is often turmoil over our own shortcomings and self-doubts. In the Bible story of Jacob and his brother, Esau, Jacob found his peace during a stressful, restless night by surrendering to God's peace.
Years before, Jacob had been persuaded by his mother to deceive his father, Isaac. He then received Isaac's blessing, cheating Esau of his inheritance. With Isaac about to die, Jacob's mother had Jacob leave home to escape Esau's revenge (see Gen. chaps. 27-33).
Years later, Jacob set out for home, not knowing what to expect from Esau. It doesn't require much imagination to picture the strain Jacob must have felt that night. The Bible tells us only that Jacob was alone, and, in his turmoil, he felt the presence of a man who wrestled with him "until the breaking of the day." But out of this inner struggle, he gained a new sense of peace.
Mary Baker Eddy wrote about this incident in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures": "The result of Jacob's struggle thus appeared. He had conquered material error with the understanding of Spirit and of spiritual power. This changed the man. He was no longer called Jacob, but Israel, - a prince of God, or a soldier of God, who had fought a good fight" (p. 309).
Out of a night that must surely have included battling remorse over the harm he had done his brother 20 years earlier, Jacob gained some sense of God's protection, which gave him the courage to continue on to what proved to be a happy, healing reunion with Esau.
Stress of the kind Jacob experienced can express itself in many ways. It can leave us feeling restless, exhausted, and defenseless.
I have found a kind of rest that actually puts to rest the sense of stress. This rest is like a gift from God. And it comes most easily when, like Jacob, we understand the power of Spirit over the material senses - finding peace and assurance in our true identity as children of God. Nothing short of this spiritual conviction can guarantee us freedom from the pressures and worries we face in life.
A memorable phrase in "Science and Health" refers to each one of us as "the humble servant of the restful Mind" (p. 119). To think of oneself as this "servant" includes dropping egotism or self-importance. Christian Science, in fact, calls God the one Ego. Man - each one of us - is the reflection of this Ego, and by reflection includes all of the qualities of God. Claiming this identity allows us to let go of relying on our own intellect or strong will to accomplish anything.
This process involves our seeing more good in others by recognizing that they are also God's children. It means making one's aims and ambitions unselfish. It means seeing that all creation is the expression of God's fullness, and rejoicing that we can be a part of that fullness every day. It may call for a complete revision of what seems most important. Along the way, most of what seems to cause strain, stress, or anxiety, will melt away.
Whittier's poem ends with a plea that "our ordered lives confess/ The beauty of Thy peace." There's a wealth of reassurance in accepting that we all possess the ability to begin each day appreciating that it is God alone who orders our activities. And there are no conflicts in such a schedule.
Adapted from the Christian Science Sentinel.