Recently I was looking at some old photo albums with pictures going back to my childhood. Many of the people in the photos, including family members, are no longer with us. I used to feel a kind of melancholy when I looked at those pictures and thought of happy times that couldn’t be recaptured.
This time around, however, I had a different response. I was appreciating the reminder of those times and glimpsing something of the fact that while that chapter was past, good can never really be lost. Individuals may have passed from our view; circumstances may be quite different now from in years past. But all the genuine good we associated with those people and times had a divine source: the one infinitely loving God. And God’s goodness and love are just as present today as yesterday. As the Bible’s New Testament says,“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17).
Good is a timeless quality of God. Therefore it isn’t really confined to a period in human history or to particular individuals. Infinite Love can’t be squeezed into a time frame, and each one of us is actually inseparable from Love, inseparable from God, our creator.
Sometimes divine goodness may seem hidden from view. It may seem that God is distant and that the outlook for oneself or others is bleak. Yet Christ Jesus showed in so many ways through his works that even during difficult circumstances, God’s love and the spiritual completeness He is always expressing in His spiritual image, man, are constant. We can follow Jesus’ example and prove, even in small ways – through prayer that’s inspired by this spiritual truth – that harmony can be restored where it seemed to be absent. Many people today have experienced a turnaround in health, employment, relationships, and other situations through prayer.
A lot of people may feel that there are few happy memories to appreciate, that there’s little to discern of the continuity of good, and the sometimes harsh nature of material existence may appear to confirm this. Jesus’ teachings inspire a shift, or transformation, of thought. They encourage us to cultivate a higher, spiritual sense of life. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, writes, “Spiritual sense is the discernment of spiritual good” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 505).
Spiritual sense is inherent in everyone, but it’s more readily exercised when we’re willing to look beyond a surface view of people and events to the things of Spirit, God; beyond a focus on matter – as though it were man’s authentic, enduring identity – to the reality of man as God’s immortal image. Our spiritual sense is also sharpened through greater purity and humility.
It’s not always easy to discern the larger picture of God’s loving care when the snapshots of human life may depict fleeting happiness or little happiness at all. But this illuminating statement by Mrs. Eddy from her work “Unity of Good” can be greatly encouraging: “All that is beautiful and good in your individual consciousness is permanent. That which is not so is illusive and fading” (p. 8).
The demonstration of this truth comes step by step, but it provides a wonderful basis for hope and progress. I like to think of its healing implications for so many whose lives have been affected by war, oppression, abuse, poverty, or anything contrary to good.
Because God is infinite good, the one divine Mind, and man is His likeness – as the Scriptures imply – our true consciousness and life can include only good. This spiritual fact may seem abstract or unrealistic from our current perspective, but it’s the actual authority in our lives. It’s what endures. It means that despite sometimes persuasive evidence to the contrary, good is right now the uninterrupted reality of being, not just a thing of the past or perhaps the future.
It was reassuring to discern a bit of this reality when I looked at those old pictures. I also felt a conviction that those who were no longer here are very much in God’s care, expressing in tangible ways even more of their true individuality. Every glimpse of spiritual truth is of great value to us – and to humanity – as we go forward.