Finding refuge and rest in God
It seems like everywhere we turn, we hear about the increasing stress of demands placed on us: on the job, in our families, sometimes even on vacation. The joy of accomplishment, the satisfaction of a job well done, and kudos from the boss may not seem to stave off stress—especially when we feel personally responsible for all the work. Advertisements promise relief from health issues associated with such anxiety through physical exercise, artistic expression, special seminars, and the use of drugs to calm and control—at least temporarily—our stress.
But these kinds of measures aren’t intended to get rid of stress entirely, just to manage it. Is merely coping the best we can hope for?
Christ Jesus, who faced a great deal throughout his life, found his strength and energy in an entirely different source, in the understanding of his real selfhood, or Christ—even in the face of constant demands from multitudes of people to teach and heal. In fact, Jesus called everyone to the Christ, the Truth he taught and demonstrated. The Bible records him saying: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28–30).
Those multitudes of men and women were burdened with the demands and beliefs of the world. Jesus sought to free people from these material beliefs and impart to them a truer idea of God and our relationship to Him, and he expressed the utmost tenderness and love, offering everyone refuge in Christ.
The Christ is eternal, here with everyone, all the time.
This gives us a hint of what gave Jesus such authority to meet the needs of so many. The Master knew he wasn’t personally responsible for everyone else. He was actually turning thought away from himself as a man and toward the divine idea, Christ, which heals. His teachings revealed that his refuge was in God; his source of renewal was spiritual, not material. Further, he taught that the Christ is eternal, here with everyone, all the time.
At a time in my life before I began studying Christian Science, there were demands at work that threatened to be more than I could handle. I started having anxiety attacks and couldn’t find a sense of peace anywhere. Finally, in desperation, at my company’s required annual physical exam I conferred with the doctor about the stress and growing anxiety, which were also affecting my sleep. She prescribed sleeping pills, and I had the prescription filled on my way home.
Oddly enough, since I’d thought this was what I wanted, having a possible escape from anxious, sleepless nights quite literally in my hands didn’t feel right. I knew the pills wouldn’t bring actual healing, and I found myself thinking, “You don’t need a dodge—you need a real solution.”
When I got home, I still felt unsure that those pills held the answer, so I just put them in the cabinet. I needed time to reconsider my approach. The thought came to me to read one of the copies of the Sentinel I’d picked up at a nearby business. The truths I read in the articles and testimonies of healing in that Sentinel helped calm my thought. They reminded me of what I’d learned at the Christian Science Sunday School I had occasionally attended as a child, making me think maybe those lessons were more valuable than I’d appreciated before. I have to admit, up to that point I had never considered prayer as a way to solve my anxiety and sleep problems.
As I read, I felt my thought being uplifted, turning in a new and more spiritual direction. I read about people who seemed just like me and were finding solutions to their daily challenges by turning to God. I was really impressed that these folks weren’t merely acting on some blind faith in God. They really were striving to know God more each day, and understanding that He cares for all His children. They also talked about the Christ, God’s power and presence, which meets human needs.
In that moment I saw that I did know God, that I had always known Him, because He is omnipresent.
Boy, did I want to know God and have confidence in His care for me! For the next several days, I left the pills alone and kept reading copies of the Sentinel. I also found and started reading my childhood copy of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, the textbook of Christian Science. I felt spiritually fed as I continued to read.
One night, when I was especially anxious and feeling so vulnerable, some of Mary Baker Eddy’s words, set to music in the Christian Science Hymnal, came back to minister to me: “O gentle presence, peace and joy and power; …” (Poems, p. 4). I had remembered these lines from my time in Sunday School, and I felt as though I could actually hear the words being said. I realized that this “gentle presence” was God. And in that moment I saw that I did know God, that I had always known Him, because He is omnipresent. I felt so safe and no longer felt alone.
That was a turning point. I threw away the sleeping pills without ever taking a single one, slept soundly, and experienced no more of the fear or intense stress. This occurred many years ago, and the persistent sleeping difficulties, ongoing feelings of intense stress, and anxiety attacks have never returned.
I have since learned that the voice of comfort speaking to me in the night was the healing presence of the Christ, reassuring me that God is always here and able to help. It was the same Christ presence I had felt when the thought had come to hold off on taking the pills and to spend time reading the Sentinel instead.
As we become more awake to God’s ever-presence, realizing that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalms 46:1), we find our true refuge and rest.