I work as a senior advisor to several different account teams at a marketing communications boutique. One of my teams had worked together congenially for a year when, out of the blue, a team member began to act hostilely toward me. What began as subtle snubs escalated to chronic verbal bullying. Our small company has no human resources department where one can file a formal complaint. As unsettling as the situation was, however, I felt confident it could be resolved through prayer, since I’ve witnessed many healings of discordant relationships over a lifetime of studying and practicing Christian Science.
I called a Christian Science practitioner for prayerful treatment to support my own prayers, and she assured me that my only responsibility at work was to love. This might sound like a radical idea, given the circumstances. It was my responsibility to love someone who was acting so unkindly toward me? But I knew from my study of the Bible that this idea was based on Christ Jesus’ teachings, including, “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44). This would be difficult if it meant that I had to muster up this love myself, or that I needed to love another’s unloving behavior. It would also seem impossible if it meant dismissing my colleague’s actions or making excuses for the behavior. But from my study of Christian Science, I knew it didn’t mean any of these things.
Instead of feeling daunted, I felt empowered, knowing that this love comes from a divine source—God, divine Love. This source is infinite, and therefore vast and deep enough to meet even the unfair treatment I was facing. And it’s powerful—powerful enough to protect me and to dissolve hatred. By making sure my own thinking and behavior were motivated by divine Love, I could feel more of the presence of Love, no matter what was going on.
I realized that truly loving my colleague meant praying to see this individual as God knows and loves each of us—as spiritual, made in Love’s image and likeness, and therefore incapable of evil. Here’s an analogy I’ve found helpful over the years: Unloving or unlovely behaviors are like a mask; they may appear to temporarily change or hide one’s true appearance, but they can’t ever alter the original. My colleague’s ability to express love came from God, who is unchanging divine Love, and so it had to be a permanent element of this coworker’s identity.
As the practitioner and I prayed, I better understood that no situation is dependent on human authority for correction. As I consistently acknowledged God’s control of the situation, and felt more of an assurance of that control, the overt bullying stopped, and the colleague and I developed what I considered to be a professional working relationship.
Several months later, my boss invited this colleague and me to lunch. I anticipated that this would be a celebratory meal. Instead, I was stunned to hear a lengthy list of offenses I had apparently committed against my colleague. Most of the issues involved miscommunications that my colleague and I had discussed when they occurred, and which I had considered resolved.
God’s care became bigger to me than the lingering issues at the office.
Afterward, my boss assured me the complaints wouldn’t go on my permanent employment record because she had dismissed the charges as untrue. While I was relieved by this bit of grace, I was disappointed that the situation hadn’t been resolved as I thought it had been. I prayed to align my view of the situation with God’s perspective so I could move away from shock and hurt and begin to perceive spiritually what was really going on.
The divine insights I received in prayer resulted in a deeper, firmer understanding that no child of God could be an instrument for anything other than good, because God is good, and therefore, all of His children express goodness. Regardless of what seemed to be going on at work, there could be no displacement of this fact, because it is based in divine law and is therefore permanent.
With these new insights, I no longer felt concern about how this colleague might behave when we were in meetings together, and I felt confident that peace would be restored. Still, I found myself occasionally wondering why the difficulty appeared to be prolonged. Since I had already dealt with this problem in my thought, shouldn’t I be done with it and the suffering it seemed to bring?
When I prayerfully asked God these questions, the answer came to me as a gentle prompt to consider the experience of the three Hebrews who were unjustly punished by being cast into a fiery furnace (see Daniel 3). As I reread this beloved story, I understood in a way I never had before that these faithful young men, who refused to worship the Babylonian king’s golden idol—and then faced the consequences—weren’t spared the ordeal of the fiery furnace, despite their devotion to God. This opened my eyes to the need to reject the subtle suggestion that as someone who was striving to live her life with a similar devotion to God, I should have graduated from trying experiences—or that somehow I was doing something wrong because I still faced trials in my daily life.
Swiftly on the heels of this realization came the reassurance that it was apparent to the young Hebrew men—and to those outside the furnace—that they didn’t suffer from the experience. Rather, they walked about freely in the furnace, accompanied, to the watching king’s astonishment, by a fourth figure who appeared to him to be “like the Son of God.” They didn’t have to wait to be protected; they were protected. The fact that God’s expression of care was with them everywhere, even in the scorching furnace, preserved and blessed them, right then and there. On their release, the Common English Bible says, “The fire hadn’t done anything to them: their hair wasn’t singed; their garments looked the same as before; they didn’t even smell like fire!” (3:27). As I considered these ideas, my perspective regarding my own situation shifted, and God’s care became bigger to me than the lingering issues at the office.
The ultimate resolution at work came naturally and without fanfare. The charges were never brought up again. I became convinced that our relationship had normalized when my colleague began asking for and following my professional advice, and I reciprocated by asking for insights from my colleague. Our working relationship continues to be professionally friendly today.
If you are looking for resolution to a protracted trial that appears to be outside your control, take heart. Through humble prayer, we can continually grow in our understanding that God, Love, is always present and in control. In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy assures readers: “Through great tribulation we enter the kingdom. Trials are proofs of God’s care.… Each successive stage of experience unfolds new views of divine goodness and love” (p. 66). Trials never deny us God’s care, but rather give us opportunities to experience more of it.
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