Helping those who feel cut off from love

Today’s article includes an account of how one woman’s prayers inspired her to know how to help a child who felt his life was no longer worth living.

Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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Everyone longs to feel loved and embraced by good. But sometimes this sense of peace can seem out of reach. When someone we love feels that way, it can be hard to know what to do or say to help. How can we help others find hope and healing, even at overwhelming times?

In wrestling with this question, I’ve been inspired by an experience a friend shared with me that took place some time ago, when a student in her Sunday School class, whose mother had recently died, sadly and firmly said that he wanted to go be with his mom. The depth of his yearning for her company was understandable, but the way it was surfacing was clearly troubling.

My friend wanted to give her student an answer that would go beyond simply trying to console him about the loss of his mother, as needed as that was. So she did something she’d found helpful in other situations: She paused a moment in prayer to hear the inspiration she needed. She was listening for the Christ, God’s comforting, healing message of limitless goodness and love for all, which underlay the many healings accomplished by Jesus.

This teacher then felt impelled to read aloud to the class the Bible story of Joseph. Joseph’s father, Jacob, loved Joseph deeply and showered him with affection. This stirred up jealousy and resentment in Joseph’s brothers. When the teacher came to this point, she stopped reading. Turning to the class, she said, “You know, I think that if Jacob had known his other children as well as he knew Joseph, he would have loved them just as much.”

My friend understood from the teachings and example of Christ Jesus that God, our heavenly Father, knows each one of us as His loved, cared for, and worthy child. At the heart of Jesus’ remarkable healing ministry was the idea that the presence and power of God are here for everyone right now; He never abandons us. The love of this divine Parent lights our lives in the way that sunlight does: It shines on everyone. God’s love for us simply is. Accepting this helps us see beyond a sense of preference for some and not others and know all as God knows them.

My friend had never seen the story of Joseph in this light before, so she felt that her prayer for inspiration had been answered by this idea. And so it proved. It freed the boy, who had been especially close with his mother, to share his feeling that his dad seemed to love his brother more than him because the two of them had always been quite close. Now he realized his father just needed to get to know him better. His face shone for the remainder of the class. He sat up straighter, as if some great burden had lifted. After class, the teacher spoke with the boy’s father, who was deeply moved by what she shared. He quietly responded, “Thank you.”

The next Sunday, the boy walked into Sunday School hand-in-hand with his dad. He was effusive with joy. He spoke of all the things they had done together during the week. They went on to have a close relationship, and in the boy’s remaining two years in my friend’s class, he made no further mention of wishing he were no longer alive. Today he is a healthy, happy, and confident adult.

When we’re yearning to help someone feeling cut off from love, kind words can help and comfort; but they are even more powerful when they spring from an understanding of divine Love’s invariable care for every one of God’s children. The healing Christ reaches past pain, doubt, and fear even when they suggest that death holds an answer. Even in the midst of our struggles, God’s love can be felt. It leaves no one out.

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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.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.