The truth about trials
No matter how difficult trials can seem, God’s great love right here with us is so much bigger. And He will show us that, until all we take from the experience is its blessings.
My first reading of the Christian Science textbook—Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy—started from sheer curiosity. That curiosity soon turned into a genuine interest in Christian Science. As I continued to read, my interest became an eagerness to share Christian Science, then an earnest study to understand it, and finally a dedication to its practice. All along the way, I couldn’t help noticing that God was providing waymarks—ones that either assured me I was on the right path or corrected me if I strayed.
How well I remember one such corrective. It was when my “earnest” phase was advancing to my “dedication” phase—when the Christ way had become for me the only way. I had a deep, diligent desire to practice Christian Science in every detail of my life. Then, on page 462 of Science and Health, I noticed this: “Whoever would demonstrate the healing of Christian Science must abide strictly by its rules, heed every statement, and advance from the rudiments laid down.”
I’d read this before, but this time, “heed every statement” stood out. Whoops! Suddenly I saw I hadn’t been doing that. I’d been picking out all the comforting passages but avoiding ones that seemed troublesome. Earlier that very morning, I’d opened Science and Health for an inspiring thought to start my day and saw, “Trials are proofs of God’s care” (p. 66). Now, I was in the midst of several trials at the time, and I immediately closed the book and blurted out, “God, that’s the meanest thing You could’ve shown me. If You’re here, and if You’re Love” (I paused there, being pretty sure of both of those, then continued), “You’ll make sure I don’t have any trials.”
I picked up Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, another book by the same author, looking for something more warm and fuzzy, and soon saw this in a letter Mrs. Eddy had written to a pupil who was apparently going through deep waters: “Yes, my student, my Father is your Father; and He helps us most when help is most needed, for He is the ever-present help” (p. 157).
That I liked, and I quickly decided to hold on to it all day and to forget that pesky “Trials are proofs of God’s care” statement.
But “heed every statement” was definitely a directive from God. It spoke to me all day long, as “Trials are proofs of God’s care” kept coming back to me. I knew that God, being all good, doesn’t send trials, so I didn’t get how they could possibly be proofs of His care. But now, trying to heed that statement, I soon began thinking about the author’s own life. “How could she say that trials are proofs of God’s care, considering all those trials she faced herself?” I wondered. The answer came: Because her thought was never on the “How dark is my tunnel, how deep is my pit” side.
No matter how severe or how many the trials besieging her, Mrs. Eddy’s thought was always on the “How great is God’s love right here with me” side. Keeping her whole thought on the side of God’s ever-presence, all-power, and constant care —no matter how challenging any trial seemed—brought her victories again and again. I don’t remember ever reading that she would pray not to have trials. One biography notes her description of her early morning prayer: “that the divine Lord give me grace, meekness, understanding and wisdom for each hour of this day . . .” (Robert Peel, Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Authority, p. 487).
Also, the Bible doesn’t show that Christ Jesus, the Way-shower, prayed never to have trials, and he had many. Nor did he teach, “Follow me, and you’ll never have any trials.” Wouldn’t that be like saying, “Follow me, and you’ll never have to use these teachings”? He instead told his disciples, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). I was realizing that he didn’t promise a rose garden, but he did equip us well.
By that evening, I’d begun to see two things:
1. “Heed every statement” was an important lesson straight from God, showing me that the statements “Trials are proofs of God’s care” and “He helps us most when help is most needed” are essentially saying the same thing—that no matter how difficult trials can seem, God’s great love right here with us is so much bigger. And He will show us that, until all we take from the experience is its blessings. “All things work together
for good to them that love God,” Paul put it (Romans 8:28).
2. Every statement in Science and Health is essential. Inspired by God, the author felt God gave every single statement to her as a “scribe under orders” (Miscellaneous Writings, p. 311).
By the time I went to bed that night, I was so grateful for God’s “Heed every statement” correction in my journey Spiritward. Not only did it correct my misconception of a vital precept of Christian Science, but it also strengthened my spiritual resolve, deepened my spiritual understanding, awakened my acknowledgment and appreciation of Mary Baker Eddy and her life and work, enlarged my love for God and man, and showed me that obedience to God is the only way.
Science and Health states: “There is but one way to heaven, harmony, and Christ in divine Science shows us this way. It is to know no other reality—to have no other consciousness of life—than good, God and His reflection, and to rise superior to the so-called pain and pleasure of the senses” (p. 242). Rising superior to the senses’ pains and pleasures, I saw, is the doing or proving of the knowledge that only good—only God and His reflection—is real. And this good can’t be diminished or left out.
So, whereas earlier that morning “Trials are proofs of God’s care” had seemed the meanest thing God could have shown me, by the end of that day those six words had become for me a truly inspired idea, and the one I needed most to understand at that time. It got me on the side of “Thank you, God, for being right here, right now, with me, and for showing me that.” And the trials I seemed to be deep in at that time? Each was quickly resolved, naturally and necessarily.