A recent Upfront Blog on CSMonitor.com talked about post-traumatic growth – a term coined by a couple of psychologists at the University of North Carolina. The article stated that post-traumatic growth is “the flip side of post-traumatic stress.” Research is showing that many people actually receive a “bounce forward” from stressful situations, and researchers are striving to identify what might make the difference in how people experience progress instead of debilitation from stress (see “Adaptation and bouncing forward,” CSMonitor.com, May 8).
This really caught my attention because I’ve been praying a good deal lately about post-traumatic stress disorder. The perspective I have gained from my study of Christian Science, which was discovered and founded by Mary Baker Eddy, has helped me to see even beyond positive thinking that would turn lemons into lemonade. I’ve learned instead something about the natural spiritual law that operates on behalf of everyone impartially as we learn to yield to this law. It is Bible-based and starts with the idea that man and woman are created in the “image” of God to be “very good” – like God (see Genesis 1:26, 27, 31). Being created in this image and likeness means that we inherently reflect the good that comes from God; it is the law of reflection that causes man to be the harmonious expression of God. As we begin to understand this, we find ourselves able to overcome difficult circumstances; we experience healing and gain the confidence and strength to meet whatever comes our way, just as Christ Jesus taught.
The Bible is full of individuals who triumphed over very difficult circumstances and even made wonderful progress through these situations. Joseph, for example, was dumped into a pit by his jealous brothers, sold into slavery, and imprisoned for something he hadn’t done. But through it all, he stayed very close to God in his prayers. This understanding of his closeness to God enabled him to turn each adversity into a blessing. Joseph didn’t ask, “Why me?” He just kept trusting in God’s care. Doing so helped him out of the pit; it blessed him with great responsibility in Potiphar’s house; it enabled him to interpret Pharaoh’s dream, prevent starvation during a famine, and reconnect with his family – forgiving them.
It was as if Joseph knew that the real story was not the episodes of one difficulty after another, but God’s endless loving care (see Genesis, chaps. 36-50). Surely Joseph was living proof of this promise from the Bible: “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Joseph moved forward as he kept close to God in his prayers and was obedient to the guidance he was getting from God. The awareness of God’s omnipotence and omnipresence gave him courage, protected him from harm, and provided for his needs.
We, too, can experience progress by seeing something of our oneness with God as His image and reflection. God is as ever present and omnipotent for us as he was for Joseph. Our real experience, after all, is as the reflection of God, or God’s expression of Himself. From this we can begin to deeply consider our relationship to God and see that God gives only good. Goodness, mercy, wisdom, and so on come from God and are inherent in us as His children – natural for us to express. Instead of being buffeted about by the human sequence of good and bad events, we can cling to our understanding of good and strive to express these qualities in every circumstance – empowered by an understanding of where we each truly come from. This in turn allows us to conquer adversity, helping us grow and progress.
A loved hymn sums it up this way:
I look to Thee in every need,
And never look in vain;...
Thy presence fills my solitude;
Thy providence turns all to good.
Embosomed deep in Thy dear love,
Held in Thy law, I stand:
Thy hand in all things I behold,
And all things in Thy hand.
Thou leadest me by unsought ways,
Thou turn’st my mourning into praise. (Samuel Longfellow, “Christian Science Hymnal,” No. 134)
The more consistently we identify ourselves as the expression of God, the more consistently we will find that we are able to overcome adversity and move forward.