Stress is not inevitable

A Christian Science perspective: How can we handle stress prayerfully?

I remember when people didn’t talk much about stress. Over the last few decades, however, it’s become more or less considered a given that human circumstances are just plain stressful; that there’s no getting around it; that that’s just the way life is.

For example, when I first met with my real estate agent regarding the sale of my condominium, she looked me in the eye and told me very emphatically, “Selling a house is very stressful.” I’m grateful to be able to say, though, that instead of feeling stressed, I felt an abiding sense of inner calm, trust, and joy during the entire process.

It wasn’t, however, because the home sold quickly and everything went smoothly that I had been stress free (there actually were a few glitches that had to be worked out). It was because, on the basis of some fundamental spiritual truths I’ve been learning through my study and practice of Christian Science, I had silently and decisively dismissed the notion that negative circumstances were inevitable, or could control my state of mind and sense of well-being. I knew that through prayer I could be mentally at peace.

I knew that harmony would prevail because God has exclusive rights to the government of His creation, and that His government is entirely harmonious in every detail. In that regard, it’s become clearer and clearer to me that human circumstances in and of themselves cannot cause stress. It’s what we consent to as having authority over our thinking – be it God or human circumstances – that determines our mental poise or lack of it, as well as the actual outcome of the circumstances.

Christian Science turns our thought to the consideration of man’s (everyone’s) immortal identity as God’s spiritual image and likeness. The realization of our true, immortal identity is a tremendously expansive and empowering point of view. Take this statement by Mary Baker Eddy in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”: “Man is more than a material form with a mind inside, which must escape from its environments in order to be immortal. Man reflects infinity, and this reflection is the true idea of God” (p. 258). So man is certainly more than any material circumstance. You and I have the ability and authority to reject the belief that our thinking can be determined by our circumstances – and we can refuse to allow it.

Circumstances cannot put stress on, impair, or kill our ability to know who we are as God’s reflection, or keep us from putting our complete trust in God’s omnipotence and harmonious government. Our happiness (or mental poise and calm) cannot be batted back and forth like a tennis ball by our circumstances. And we can disallow that by consenting to God’s supreme authority.

The Bible relates that Christ Jesus commended Mary for putting aside worry over material preparations in order to listen to his message; and he rebuked Martha for asking him to tell Mary to leave off listening to him, and help her prepare dinner. He said to her: “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41, 42, New Living Translation).

Jesus certainly wasn’t recommending that worthwhile and needful human activity should be neglected, but that we should prayerfully seek the spiritual consciousness of being and take that consciousness with us into our activities. In other words, that we should greet our responsibilities and circumstances with Christ-like dominion. That’s the positive way to keep from being stressed; we can meet any unpleasant circumstance as a welcome demand for mental reformation, letting spiritual Truth govern our thoughts and actions.

Circumstances that may seem difficult don’t have to become stressful. Challenging circumstances only give us the opportunity to progress spiritually, to experience Truth’s reforming and renewing power, and to bring healing to those circumstances. This encourages me to consent only to God’s government, and never consent to the possibility of becoming stressed.

This article was adapted from an editorial in the Oct. 5 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.

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Dear Reader,

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.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

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.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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