Testing times: Opportunities for progress and grace

Responding gracefully to even minor trials is an important step in spiritual growth.

Who doesn’t prefer days when things cruise along smoothly to days when disruptions such as arguments, flare-ups, and heavy demands vie for our attention? But I’ve come to realize that it’s the challenging days that can lead to spiritual growth if we decide to face those difficult times with grace. 

The Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, makes it clear that we need to continually grow spiritually if we would practice the loving laws of God, and progress in our lives. I’ve had some wonderful demonstrations of divine power, including protection during car accidents, a healing of broken bones, and recovery from a severe illness. Each healing required me to deepen my understanding of God’s presence in my life, and this led to strong spiritual growth and a new understanding of God. But recently I’ve come to see that the demand on us is to keep growing spiritually, and responding gracefully to even minor daily trials is an important step in that direction. 

Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, explains in its textbook that we are saved from mortality, or the problems and limitations of the belief of life in matter, by finding a deeper understanding of our relation to God, who created and cherishes us. This salvation comes through Christ, the holy presence and true idea of divine Truth, Life, and Love. The book doesn’t say that we are to find life and comfort in matter. It points out that our salvation is in Spirit, God, and that to find and work this out we must practice the divine laws of spiritual healing every day. It says, “Universal salvation rests on progression and probation, and is unattainable without them” (p. 291).

One definition of the word probation in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “a period of testing and trial to ascertain fitness.” Another dictionary indicates that it can also be understood as testing to ascertain and prove what is true. This reinforces the understanding in Christian Science that spiritual growth depends on proving our faith by demonstration. In this light, whatever tests our faith—our trust in God—becomes an opportunity for proving, through God’s grace, what is true about Him and about us as His perfect creation. As Paul writes, “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves” (II Corinthians 13:5).

As we practice grace in our lives, moments that test us become opportunities for spiritual growth, healing, and progress. Being patient with others, meek in our response to annoyances, and more universally loving, and refusing to be caught up in preconceived notions of how a day should go—these unselfish practices make our days smoother, more meaningful, and more satisfying. 

Bit by bit, I’ve begun to welcome these tests of daily life, such as how to respond when another driver does something thoughtless or unkind. Wouldn’t we prefer to triumph over discordant situations by letting the universal presence of God, Love, fill our hearts rather than by reacting to those situations with agitation?

The next time you’re faced with a discordant note in your day, take it as an opportunity to practice more grace and grow spiritually. Then see how your day turns around in proportion that you prove this grace through your living of it. If our spiritual growth seems to have become stagnant, or we feel we’ve plateaued in our practice of Christian Science, this just may be the way to kick-start our progress to a more spiritually enriched life with healing for ourselves and others. 

In reality, our spiritual growth can never stagnate, because progress is God’s law. Science and Health says: “Every day makes its demands upon us for higher proofs rather than professions of Christian power. These proofs consist solely in the destruction of sin, sickness, and death by the power of Spirit, as Jesus destroyed them. This is an element of progress, and progress is the law of God, whose law demands of us only what we can certainly fulfil” (p. 233).

No matter how small or seemingly insignificant the daily irritations we face, through grace we can use them as opportunities for spiritual growth. Eddy notes the deep significance of these daily opportunities. She speaks of “the spiritualization—yea, the highest Christianization—of thought and desire,” and says that this “begins with moments, and goes on with years; moments of surrender to God, of childlike trust and joyful adoption of good; moments of self-abnegation, self-consecration, heaven-born hope, and spiritual love” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 15).

NEXT IN THIS ISSUE
How I found Christian Science
I wanted our children to know God
November 14, 2022
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