Cherishing the hope of world peace can be frustrating. Sometimes it seems that humanity takes two steps forward and three steps back.
Frustrated disappointment is, of course, a small price to pay compared to what has been paid by those who have lost their lives, their loved ones, their homes, or their livelihoods during a flare-up of conflict, or through the debilitating effects of a chronic stand-off. Yet it's far better to feel and express care and concern than to remain apathetic.
At times, a new political player bodes of better things to come. At other times the reverse is true. Sometimes hope of progress and fear of retrogression take center-stage together in the competing aspirations of different key individuals, a feeling voiced last week by Stephen Collinson, a reporter with Agence France-Presse, at President Barack Obama's press conference. Mr. Collinson questioned whether peace between Israel and the Palestinians was "realistic," given that Israel will likely have a new Prime Minister who doesn't fully embrace "a two-state solution."
Whether political personalities seem to offer prospects for peace or the opposite, I find it helpful to pause, pray, and ask myself where I think peace comes from. Does it come from particular people and partisan policies? Or does it come from an invisible but ever-active spiritual force for good – the divine Principle, God? Over time, and through experience, I have come to favor the latter as the most deserving depository for hope. The Bible counsels, "It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes" (Ps. 118:9).
That's not to say individuals are unnecessary in peace-forging. It's hard to imagine victory in World War II without Winston Churchill's wartime leadership or to think of South Africa's smooth post-apartheid transition without the moral stature of Nelson Mandela. Nor can I consider the benefits brought to so many by the current renewal of Christian healing without the spiritual vision and labors of the founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, who once wrote: "The lives of great men and women are miracles of patience and perseverance. Every luminary in the constellation of human greatness, like the stars, comes out in the darkness to shine with the reflected light of God" ("Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896," p. 340).
If human greatness is the brightness of divine intelligence and power reflected, then individuals striving to forward peace initiatives will be best supported in their efforts by public trust focused on a higher source than their personal capabilities. Even Jesus told a man addressing him as "good Master" that there is "none good but one, that is, God" (Mark 10:17, 18).
It didn't detract from the unparalleled life of Jesus that he pointed to God as the source of all goodness. Nor does it detract from the qualities and achievements of political leaders to see that the wisdom, strength, and persistence that will enable them to face down challenges to peace needs to come from the same, ceaseless reservoir of infinite, all-powerful good.
Such discernment of the divine source of these needed attributes supports those working for an inclusive and secure peace, whether in the Middle East or in other unsettled regions. And it helps disarm attitudes on either side that could derail progressive efforts. Prayer is perceiving that good comes through the Christ – God's ever-active conveyer of healing ideas to humanity. And it will bring evidence on earth of the peace forever established "in heaven."
The truth of God's universal creation, including everyone's true being as a child of God, is utter and perpetual peace. Where events contradict this, it is not the absence of peace that is the problem but a material, mistaken sense that God is not present. In individual lives, and internationally, that mistaken view can be increasingly overturned through recognizing and proving the facts of divine reality.
Everyone working for peace – in NGOs, governments, or the media – can benefit by putting faith in something higher than personality. More dependable than personality is the understanding that a divine influence can and will guide individual and global thought toward peace. Any obstruction to hearing and following that guidance is powerless.
Such spiritual perception eases the world-watcher's frustrations with attitudes and actions that oppose peace. More important, it is prayer that will help today's leaders in their quest for practical peacemaking solutions.