God's inspiration—always "at hand"
Recently I made a commitment to complete a project, and although I thought a great deal about it, I was unable to get a clear idea as to how to proceed. I prayed and listened for divine direction, but I only found myself becoming more and more confused. I felt as though I had fallen into a pit of mental darkness; inspiration felt a million miles away. One night I felt so low that I found myself literally on my knees pleading, "Father, where are You? Why can't I feel Your presence and inspiration?" Suddenly a verse from Jeremiah came to mind: "Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off?" Jer. 23:23 .
In this verse, Jeremiah shows God as rebuking His people for losing sight of His infinite nature. But like so many Biblical passages, this one cuts two ways. It also served to awaken me to the fact that God is always "at hand"—immediate and available. Until then, I had been acting as though inspiration were an infrequent flash of light, and as if I were just going to have to wait for a ray to land on me.
I also remembered a statement by Mrs. Eddy from the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health, which although referring to sickness, seemed directly applicable to my need. It reads, "A mere request that God will heal the sick has no power to gain more of the divine presence than is always at hand." Science and Health, p. 12 . I began to see more clearly that God is always present, expressing His love, His power, His truth—even during times when we don't consciously feel the divine influence. God's presence isn't subject to human circumstances or endeavors. It's an unchanging reality—a spiritual fact to which man bears witness. As I understood this, I not only got many useful ideas for the project, but I felt a renewed joy in everyday life.
An earthbound, materialistic view of things sees life as an endless string of moments, with the object being to plod through the unpleasant moments in order to get to the good ones, and then to hold on to them as long as possible. This narrow view gives rise to nostalgic feelings about the past, constant pleasure-seeking in the present, and daydreams about the future. All of these attitudes share an underlying assumption that the fullness of life belongs to certain moments that come, or will come, and then go.
But when we read many of the Biblical accounts of people's lives, a very different picture emerges—not one of wading resignedly through life's events with goodness always just out of reach, but one of constantly and consciously living under God's control. Mrs. Eddy writes, "Understanding the control which Love held over all, Daniel felt safe in the lions' den, and Paul proved the viper to be harmless." Ibid., p. 514 . Such lives show what it means to live in God's kingdom—a kingdom that Christ Jesus referred to as "at hand." This kingdom doesn't consist of moments of then, now, and later. God's kingdom includes only now, eternally. The kingdom "at hand" may have meant "around the corner" or "someday" to some of Jesus' listeners, but to others these words meant—and continue to mean—"experienceable," "immediate," "upon us."
During times when we can't seem to discern any spiritual light, or when we've made a decision to rely on spiritual means for healing and the healing isn't quick in coming, we can catch ourselves from falling into the trap of thinking we have to wait for a particular moment to be healed. Nor should we fall for the notion that inspiration is something that only happens as the result of a human effort to bring it about.
Here is where Christian Science offers a startlingly different insight into the nature of inspiration. First, it shows us that the source of all genuine inspiration is God, not clever humans. Second, it reminds us that because God is infinite, His presence can never be restricted or confined. It must by nature be ever present—present everywhere and at every moment. Third, it enables us to see that God's creation—the sons and daughters of divine Mind—can never be outside God's ever-presence. And finally, it points to the fact that we all have the God-derived ability to feel and acknowledge God's ever-presence and love—to feel inspired.
Inspiration, or the manifestation of God's guidance in our lives, is as close at hand as the air we breathe. Worldly thinking would have us gasp for inspiration either by holding us mentally underwater or by suggesting we have to achieve a kind of "spiritual high" to triumph over sin or sickness. But as we daily insist through prayer that the Christ, the universal divine influence, is within us, defining our being and animating our actions, we take in deep breaths of spiritual vitality. This invigorates us. It wakes us up to see the reality of man's perfection, which was at hand all along. St. Paul says: "Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand." Rom. 13:11,12 .
Regardless of how distant from God we may feel, the affirmation of our ability to feel God's presence at hand is a step in the right direction. There may be times when it feels as if a great deal of time passes before we experience God's ever-presence, and inspiration may be won through hard-fought battles. But we never have to capitulate to despair. The Israelites wandered for forty years in the wilderness, not because they lacked God to guide them but because they lacked spiritual discipline and obedience. God was and is always at hand. As we patiently insist on this fact, we begin to feel His gentle, powerful presence and to experience the harmony that's inseparable from it.