Fatalism: Don't yield to it

A Christian Science perspective: "This always happens to me" or "I'm not meant to succeed" overlooks divine guidance. Failure is not predetermined.

Perhaps everyone has seen well-laid plans go awry. What’s more subtle and destructive in the long run, however, is being chronically indecisive and resigning oneself to “fate,” or being unable to make plans at all and letting things happen as they will. Fatalism is defined, in part, as the doctrine that all events are predetermined by fate and are therefore inevitable.

Accepting any future happening as inevitable is a denial of self-government and progress, and, in the long run, is harmful to our genuine usefulness. Often, fatalistic arguments are so subtle that we may not recognize them as such. For example, we may yield to failure in some endeavor simply on the grounds that “this always happens to me” or in the spirit of “I guess I’m not meant to succeed in life.” In such cases, we may well be yielding to fatalism. Instead of accepting the belief that fate instead of God rules our destiny, each of us can rightfully turn to God for guidance as we are making decisions.

This doesn’t mean refusing to learn from mistakes. Instead, we can learn what’s useful from them, and in prayer look for inspiration that will take us forward. What happened in the past doesn’t rule the future.

One story in the Bible that brings this out is the account of a man who had been waiting 38 years for healing. The pool where he lay was said to have healing properties for the first person who went into the pool after an angel had come to the water. But the man, not being able to walk, was never able to get to the water in time. After 38 years, it’s easy to understand why he might have felt “fated” to be disabled all his life.

Christ Jesus, however, had no such feelings about the man’s condition, or about fate. When he came to the man, he simply said, “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk” (John 5:8). The man was instantly healed, without having to go into the pool or wait another instant. Jesus’ life revolved around the healing Christ – the divine message of God’s love for humanity, which leads to healing, restoration, and freedom from enslavement to chance and fatalism.

One important lesson from this story may be that the real answer to fatalism lies in a recognition that God, not some other force, governs our lives. Trust in God’s government keeps us open to hope and enables us to encourage others, sometimes in very simple ways.

A young mother I know sets a good example. When her daughter refuses to do something on the grounds that she’s never been able to do it before, the mother responds, “Maybe you can do it this time. Try again!” Often the second or third try proves successful.

But rejecting fatalism takes more than trying. It means recognizing that as the child of God, each of us can trust in God’s guidance, and each answer to prayer will be specific to our needs. Failure is not predetermined. We are held in God’s loving hands.

Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, wrote, “... progress is the law of God, whose law demands of us only what we can certainly fulfill” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 233). Starting any new project or adventure from fresh inspiration frees us from the influence of past mistakes and disappointments, and opens us up to inspired direction from God.

Failure is not inevitable. The only thing that really is inevitable is goodness, and we often can find goodness even in failure, if we are looking for spiritual lessons that will help us grow. Then what appears to be failure can be turned into a lesson that produces positive results.

We can help humankind move forward into wholesome and progressive activity by acknowledging good wherever we see it. Refusing to accept a fatalistic outlook on life keeps the door open to progress. Don’t let anything slam that door shut!

For a Russian translation of this article, see The Herald of Christian Science.

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