Stopping the loop of distressed thinking
On a pleasant spring evening earlier this year, I was walking around my neighborhood with a heavy heart. Full of concerns about national and local governments struggling with difficult decisions and taking different and sometimes opposite approaches to addressing issues, I felt anything but peaceful. Disturbing news clips of public figures verbally attacking those who disagreed with them played in my head in a stressful loop.
I could see both sides of the issues and understand the viewpoints backing them. I also appreciated those sincerely endeavoring to find a middle ground from which to move forward. It was the tone of hate and vitriol that was so distressing.
I do my best to follow wholeheartedly Christ Jesus’ teaching to love one another, but sometimes that can be tested. I have family, friends, and neighbors whose views differ from mine, and constructive interactions with them and others are important to me. Relationships take a high priority. This requires a lot of praying. Prayer to a loving, caring, and always-present God has been my foundation for resolving relationship, financial, and health issues over many years.
Loving universally, as Jesus taught, does not mean condoning bad behavior or hateful words. It does mean learning to separate evil actions or words from individuals and to recognize each one’s true spiritual identity as God’s man—as the idea of God.
In her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy boldly explains that “God’s man, spiritually created, is not material and mortal” (p. 306). And furthermore, that “a mortal sinner is not God’s man” (pp. 475–476). What a relief to know we’re not meant to love a sinning mortal who exhibits disturbing behavior and expresses hurtful thoughts.
Instead, Jesus asks us to go higher, to acknowledge and love “God’s man, spiritually created,” right where the material senses are preoccupied with sinning mortals. There is a choice to be made. And the choice is between the material senses’ interpretation of people and events and the spiritual understanding that—despite whatever seems to be going on—sticks with trusting God’s presence and power and each individual’s innate inclination to be and do good. Holding to that in thought supports it coming forth in our experience.
Dismayed or hateful thinking doesn’t exist in God’s creation.
The book of Hebrews reminds us, “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see” (11:1, New Living Translation). Faith carries us through the things that are tough to deal with, that sometimes feel overwhelming. Faith shows us there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Faith promises “the reality of what we hope for” before we can tangibly see it.
So to get back to that evening walk when I was struggling, I finally stopped in my mental tracks. Desiring to be free of that negative thought loop, I asked God, “OK, Father. What do You know? What are You doing? What are You causing?”
Almost before I had finished came an answer so quick and short that I nearly brushed it aside. It came in words God spoke to Moses when instructing him to go to Egypt to demand that Pharaoh release the enslaved Hebrews: “I AM THAT I AM” (Exodus 3:14).
But I listened and, yearning to understand, my heart asked, “OK, what does that mean today? What does that mean right now?” The answer I heard was, “I am All. I have this. I govern people and nations. You don’t have to shoulder this burden.”
To me that meant to trust divine Mind, God, the creator of the universe, who saw all He had made as “very good” (Genesis 1:31) and didn’t create anything that’s not good. That brief message, to my perception, did not mean to stop praying or to stop caring; it meant to turn consistently to God to understand how His omnipotent goodness is what is really going on, truly governing His entire creation, regardless of what often appears as chaos and disunity.
I accepted this message immediately and continued my walk with a light heart. The distressing loop in my head just quit.
Back home, I reconnected with Mrs. Eddy’s “Prayer for Country and Church,” which begins: “Pray for the prosperity of our country, and for her victory under arms; that justice, mercy, and peace continue to characterize her government, and that they shall rule all nations. Pray that the divine presence may still guide and bless our chief magistrate, those associated with his executive trust, and our national judiciary; give to our congress wisdom, and uphold our nation with the right arm of His righteousness” (Christian Science versus Pantheism, p. 14). For me this guidance means to:
- Pray for the security and well-being of the country.
- Pray for the government and all governments—that their actions embody justice, mercy, and peace.
- Pray that the “chief magistrate” and those who advise and serve him or her be guided by the divine presence, Principle, Love, the universal cause.
- Pray that the judiciary be guided by the impartial divine wisdom.
- Pray that legislators behave wisely and enact laws that are just.
- Pray that the government and all governments be governed by the power of God’s infinite goodness.
I have found that whenever I am tempted to be anxious or to shake my head in disbelief, that’s exactly when I need to be praying—turning away from the chaos that we so often hear about in the news, including the newsfeed on my phone. I need to be actively affirming divine Mind’s harmonious government of man and the universe and our innate desire and ability to move in accord with this intelligent and all-wise government.
Interestingly, within a couple of days, someone on Facebook sent an anguished comment to a mutual friend regarding that friend’s post on a hot political issue. I was surprised, then incredibly grateful, to see the one who wrote the original post reply with moderating grace, “That’s the wonderful thing about our country. We can disagree and still be friends.” Yes!
The potential for an unpleasant, opinionated, and escalating exchange had been stopped before it started. For me it was a confirmation that because God is always active, I don’t have to be stuck in and weighed down with great concern about what I see going on at times. It brought me to this demand and promise: “At all times and under all circumstances, overcome evil with good. . . . The cement of a higher humanity will unite all interests in the one divinity” (Science and Health, p. 571).
This uniting is God’s job, God’s nature; it’s what He is and does. It’s how He made His creation. In fact, dismayed or hateful thinking or egregious actions don’t exist in God’s creation. And we see this “higher humanity” more clearly as we fulfill our part—overcoming the temptation to react emotionally by choosing to step back mentally in order to find and hold to the spiritual view, the divine reality. This enables each of us to more effectively fulfill our role in the infinite good that brings about healing and progress for all.