When life defies our efforts to plan

When her “on-track” life took an unexpected turn, today’s contributor panicked. But through prayer she came to realize that “when we humbly listen for God’s direction, the voices of fear and doubt are quieted, and we come to see the future as not a void of uncertainty but a promise of abundant blessings.”

Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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I’ve always been someone who likes a plan. The problem? Encountering many experiences that defied my efforts to plan. And often these changes in plans weren’t just inconvenient; they were a source of overwhelming anxiety.

This came to a head several years ago. My life seemed to be “on track.” My husband and I had a comfortable home. He had a good job; I had taken steps to pursue a career path that I loved. Our young son brought joy to each day.

One day, however, my husband unexpectedly told me that he felt called in a new direction professionally. The path was one that would require several more years of school, demand that he be away from home more frequently, and hold a future that would be, it seemed, defined by uncertainty.

I panicked.

It was tempting to dig my heels in and refuse, but I respected my husband’s sense of calling, and it didn’t sit well with me to stand in the way of that. While I was uncertain of this new direction, one thing I knew for sure was that I could not continue to be crippled by fear each time things seemed to go off course.

Through my study of Christian Science, I have seen the value of turning to prayer whenever I feel afraid or in pain, so that’s what I did. The kind of prayer I’m talking about is not pleading with God to fix a problem but instead acknowledging God’s ever-presence and desiring to understand and feel it more clearly in my life.

As I prayed, I thought about the Bible story of Christ Jesus on the eve of his crucifixion. Knowing what was to come, he first prayed that he would be spared from going through that experience. But on the tails of that plea was this humble statement: “Nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).

Although I longed to feel this sense of surrender to God’s will, I squirmed at the thought of it. I realized that the anxiety I felt was rooted in the concept that I was at the mercy of forces that were maybe good, maybe not so good. This would mean that either God was not all-powerful or that God was not, by nature, good.

Christ Jesus’ teachings and healing ministry, however, proved both of these premises to be untrue. He knew that he was the dearly beloved Son of God and could trust this all-good God to meet his every need. He assured people that they too were the loved children of God, worthy of wholeness and freedom. It’s not surprising, then, that Christ Jesus could trustingly pray “Not my will, but thine, be done” as he faced the crucifixion.

While Jesus would not avoid the experience of the crucifixion, it did not prove to be the end of his life’s work, but instead his resurrection was the highest possible proof of life as spiritual and inseparable from God – the spiritual fact of being for him as well as everyone.

Needless to say, the circumstances in my life were nowhere close to what Jesus experienced. But I found a really helpful lesson in this account. It helped me be resolute in my conviction that God is good and that divine goodness is inevitably expressed in me and everyone as God’s divinely loved sons and daughters.

In “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” a book that offers an inspired spiritual sense of the Bible and Christ Jesus’ teachings, Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, writes, “To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, to-day is big with blessings” (p. vii). This idea of a God who blesses all, together with Christ Jesus’ prayer before his crucifixion, constantly inspired my prayers.

Over the course of the next few weeks, my fear gave way to a calm, steady trust in the promise of God’s goodness inherent in each day. My husband and I did decide to go forward in this new direction, and along the way we have encountered so much good and had exactly what we needed, even in the more trying times.

I still love to have a plan. But through this experience and others since, I’m learning to trust God’s unfolding of good more than my own plans. When we humbly listen for God’s direction, the voices of fear and doubt are quieted, and we come to see the future as not a void of uncertainty but a promise of abundant blessings each step of the way.

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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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