Glimpses of heaven: from grief to comfort

A Christian Science perspective.

Glimpses of heaven are everywhere – in a friendly smile, in random acts of kindness, in forgiving or being forgiven, in music that elevates the soul, in thought as a new truth dawns. The list goes on and is unique to every person. Glimpses of heaven brighten our days by giving us hope, joy, inspiration, and even a sense of security.

There are times, however, when we want more than a glimpse. When someone you love passes on, for example, or when you read about someone passing on unexpectedly or under tragic circumstances, where can peace and answers to soul-searching questions be found?

Once I was the organist for a memorial service for a young girl and her father, who had been killed in an accident at a family outing. It was heartbreaking to see the small white coffin next to the larger one. I kept thinking of all the events she wouldn’t experience – her next basketball game, her prom, and her high school graduation, not to mention career, marriage, and starting a family.   

While I was playing the prelude, I prayed for strength and comfort for all present. I realized that everything that is meaningful on earth is so because of the Godliness it represents, because all good originates in and emanates from God. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, explained, “Pure humanity, friendship, home, the interchange of love, bring to earth a foretaste of heaven” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 100).

At that very moment I could understand that the young girl wasn’t experiencing loss or remorse, but rather, peace, love, and immortality. In John 14:2, Jesus lovingly comforts his disciples, saying, “In my Father’s house are many mansions... I go to prepare a place for you,” where, we can be assured,  earthly suffering is not even a distant memory. In that setting, all is well.

As comforting as that knowledge is, it might not be enough to completely restore peace of mind for someone who is grieving. I know it wasn’t enough for me several years ago when a dear woman who was like a mother to me – a best friend and a spiritual mentor – suddenly passed on. Despite the spiritual truths I had learned, weeks passed, and I hadn’t overcome the grief. I felt very much alone.

Then one night at a testimony meeting at my church, I heard a healing message: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: .... Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). It dawned on me that even though I could no longer see my dear friend day to day, God’s peace (like the peace I felt when she was with me) was still present. I was not alone or abandoned; God’s angels (thoughts) were still there to comfort and guide me. In fact, the nurturing and guiding my friend had done was possible only because God had been guiding both of us.

Furthermore, I realized that heaven is not just a far-off place I would experience someday. Jesus said, “[T]he kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). An individual who took up the study of Christian Science elaborated on that idea and wrote, “I never could understand how heaven could be a place with gorgeous fittings, but I think I can and do understand how it might be a spiritual (or if you please mental) condition” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 468). Whatever attributes we ascribe to heaven – peace, love, truth, joy, Godliness – can be experienced here and now. With practice, glimpses of heaven become easier to notice and to share with others, replacing loneliness and grief with comfort and peace. 

Mary Baker Eddy wrote: “As a drop of water is one with the ocean, a ray of light one with the sun, even so God and man, Father and son, are one in being. The Scripture reads: ‘For in Him we live, and move, and have our being’ ” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 361). How comforting it is to know we all live together forever in God and have a wonderful God-given purpose: to see and express heaven on earth.

It is only natural for an organist to finish with a song:

We expect a bright tomorrow,
All will be well;
Faith can sing through days of sorrow,
All must be well;
While His truth we are applying,
And upon His love relying,
God is every need supplying,
All, all is well.
(Mary Peters, adapted © Christian Science Board of Directors, “Christian Science Hymnal,” No. 350)

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About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

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The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

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