Emerging from negative expectations

Here’s an article inspired by one man’s experience breaking out of a downward mental spiral at work. It considers a spiritual basis for expecting good in our lives – one that goes beyond positive thinking and opens the door for meaningful change.

Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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Cynicism and despondency can seem the order of the day, especially when things aren’t going the way we’d like. A string of disappointments may lead us to wonder what disaster awaits just around the corner. On the other hand, even if things are going well, we may be convinced a big letdown is inevitable. Either way, we’re harboring a negative expectation, a sense that good in our lives is undependable, unsustainable, or unattainable.

Years ago I had the need to challenge that. I worked at a large bank selling financial securities. Although I labored diligently, my performance was very poor, and the rest of the group was not faring much better. Morale sank very low, and it was easy to come in day after day with a poor attitude.

I knew I needed to break out of this downward mental spiral, and I’d seen before that a spiritual perspective could help. Acknowledging God as the provider of all good is a sound foundation upon which to build and has proved to me to be a much different and more powerful approach than mere optimism. So that’s where I began, with an assurance from the Bible: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17).

What a great promise! Even if storm clouds seem to be gathering, we can affirm that God is not an arbitrary distributor of good, but the source of perpetual good, without any variation in quality or quantity. The Divine does not bestow good at some times but not others, in some places but not others, or on certain individuals to the exclusion of others. Goodness describes the very nature of God.

Knowing this brings about change in our circumstances. As we come to understand God as infinite, all-loving, all-powerful good, we start to see more of His goodness in our experience – reflected in better health, greater fulfillment in our careers, more abundant supply, satisfying companionship. In her revolutionary book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, captured the essence of this idea: “Good is natural and primitive. It is not miraculous to itself” (p. 128). If good indeed characterizes God, isn’t it logical, then, to expect good in our lives, rather than its opposite?

The apostle Paul saw the source of this goodness. He called us “heirs of God” (Romans 8:17). As heirs of God, good, what is our inheritance? It must be good. This birthright can’t be diluted or divided, can never be taken away or used up. Each one of us, each spiritual son and daughter of God, shares equally and infinitely in the goodness God bestows. Even past mistakes cannot disqualify us; rather, God’s goodness impels redemption.

We do, however, have to claim, or accept, the good that’s ours. We do so by correctly identifying ourselves as God’s spiritual offspring, created in God’s image and likeness, and by living in accord with the qualities that implies.

Since God is good, and is infinite, good is infinite; so it’s vital for us to keep our thought wide open to the evidence of good in our lives. This may require yielding our preconceived notions that things must work out in a certain way, at a certain time, or with a certain person. Yielding to God’s goodness gets us beyond the concept that there’s only so much good that can come our way. It opens the way for God’s plan, which includes boundless goodness – more than we can imagine on our own – to be seen in our lives.

Back at the bank, these ideas helped me approach my work every day with a confident, spiritually based expectation of good. A very short time later, I was offered a sales position at another firm, which provided greater opportunity for success, and I enjoyed many productive years there. And over the next few years, everyone in my former sales group at the bank also found success in new jobs. To me, this was further proof of God’s all-encompassing good.

We can maintain an expectation of good that’s so much more than simply a positive attitude or hoping for the best. Expecting good because God is good, along with understanding the true nature of our relation to Him, opens wide our experience to the touch of His goodness.

What do you expect?

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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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