Worrying about symptoms?

A Christian Science perspective: Consider how to best handle signs of trouble.

Symptoms are popularly thought to be evidence that trouble may be approaching. As a society, we’ve gradually been increasingly educated into watching for such signs.

If we move in financial circles, we may have our eye on a number of economic indicators so that we’ll know just where the economy may be headed. An uptick in unemployment would be considered a symptom of bad things ahead for the economy. For those who have a strong interest in the environment, there are growing numbers of studies enabling them to focus on symptoms that indicate whether our Earth, water, or atmosphere is developing problems. A diminishing number of bees is regarded as a symptom of trouble ahead for plants.

But even closer to home, the media bombard virtually everyone with descriptions of symptoms on or in the body regarding our health. Some, we’re told to take in our stride. Others, we’re encouraged to be alarmed about.

I recall several years ago reading a Boston Globe account of a medical study suggesting there certainly are times when patients may do better to look away from the body than to dwell on the symptoms. The study seemed to reconsider how to best deal with symptoms, not to ignore them.

My study of Christian Science has shown the importance of taking an active, even aggressive, approach to handling symptoms. In terms of challenges with the environment or any other large-scale world issue we face, one doesn’t have to look beyond this newspaper to see how problems can be confronted and dealt with in a constructive, helpful, and even healing way.

Christ Jesus certainly didn’t ignore symptoms of sickness, disease, and invalidism. While being compassionate toward people’s suffering, he looked beyond their misery – never dwelling on the material circumstances – and discerned the perfection of God’s beloved spiritual child in everyone. He saw that our existence is created and maintained by God, Spirit, and that what is spiritual is eternal. Jesus wasn’t mesmerized by the symptoms of a disease. Instead, his prayerful insight as to who we really are brought healing. Instead of worrying about, dwelling on, and fearing symptoms, he faced them fearlessly and saw that they had no power to usurp God’s pure and perfect creation. In the face of the ailing material senses, Jesus discerned the Science of being, which reveals the spiritual nature of everyone, forever maintained by God.

The founder of the Monitor, Mary Baker Eddy, asked, “Who remembers that patience, forgiveness, abiding faith, and affection, are the symptoms by which our Father indicates the different stages of man’s recovery from sin and his entrance into Science?” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896” p. 100). I like to think of “sin” here in the original Greek meaning of “missing the mark.” As we hit the mark by prayerfully cherishing our true, spiritual, flawless nature, symptoms of disease can give way to patience and forgiveness, abiding faith and affection, bringing our spiritual reality to light.

This is a powerful way to pray: Discern spiritual wholeness right where we see disruptive material conditions. Symptoms on the body are projections of thought – uneasy, fearful thoughts. Prayer based on spiritual understanding is a natural way to destroy fearful thoughts, because spiritual understanding brings peace. Such prayer brings a healing calm. It transforms our consciousness by revealing the presence of God’s perfect reality.

By prayerfully entertaining the divine reality as it is described in the first chapter of Genesis, for instance, we can gain a glimpse of our true spiritual identity as the likeness of God. That mental state can shift symptoms from those that trouble to those that bless. Prayer that discerns the true cause of our being works powerfully to dissolve fear and worry, and bring health and peace.

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