In a recent research report, two Princeton University economists noted that since the early 1990s long-term stagnation in wages and incomes has “bred a sense of hopelessness” in many men, especially those without a college degree (“Mortality and morbidity in the 21st century,” by Anne Case and Angus Deaton). This sense of hopelessness has led to what they call “deaths of despair.”
Our hearts go out to anyone who is in such despair that alcohol and drug use, or suicide, seems like the only answer. The devastation felt by those unable to provide for their families and with few job prospects is understandable. Like many others, I yearn for those in such circumstances to feel comforted, to know that they are not alone, abandoned, and without hope.
We can take comfort in the idea that even in the depths of despair, God’s help is always close at hand. For instance, as the Bible states, “I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you’ ” (Isaiah 41:13, New Revised Standard Version). This is not a vague, distant, judgmental God who heeds only those who have lived model lives. This is a God who knows each of us not as mortals but as the sinless, spiritual creation of the Divine. A God who cares for us and loves us beyond measure. A God fully capable of meeting all our needs.
The Bible also talks about people who received an answer when they turned to God with all their hearts. Men and women who found sustenance, satisfying companionship, purposeful work, and hope for the future.
For instance, there’s Job. He lost everything – his health, family, and wealth. But despite all that Job endured, he remained faithful to God; and after much mental wrestling, all that he had lost and more was restored to him. Moreover, he gained something that could never be taken from him – the assurance of God’s unending love for him, and the certainty of God’s ever-presence and all-power. He tells the Lord: “ ‘I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.... I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you’ ” (Job 42:2, 5, NRSV).
Like Job, we may struggle at times to feel close to God, to have a deeper faith in Him. We may feel unworthy or unable to hear Him. But God is as close as our thoughts. In fact, even if we tried to do so, we could not distance ourselves from God, who created us as His reflection. And God, divine Mind, is always communicating His infinite love to us. We hear His loving messages, comforting and sustaining us, as we are humble, willing to listen and to surrender human will.
The individual who proved this more than anyone else is Christ Jesus, who knew that nothing could separate any of us, as God’s children, from our loving Father-Mother. Through his healing works he showed that this understanding can heal sickness, discord, and lack.
Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, explains that man – a generic name for all of us – is “God’s image, His idea, coexistent with Him – God giving all and man having all that God gives” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 5).
God gives all, and we have “all that God gives”! There is not a more loyal, accessible, generous, or loving Parent than our heavenly Father-Mother. So we need not despair. Step by step, as we come to see that we reside in the sanctuary of God’s infinite love and put our trust in God, we feel less trapped by an anxious and uncertain state of mind, and more full of hope. A verse from a loved hymn in the “Christian Science Hymnal” illustrates this expectation of the divine good that both meets our human needs and leads us to a conscious awareness of the closeness and love of God:
Green pastures are before me,
Which yet I have not seen;
Bright skies will soon be o’er me,
Where darkest clouds have been.
My hope I cannot measure,
My path in life is free;
My Father has my treasure,
And He will walk with me.
(Anna Waring, No. 148)