The night of December 20, 2012, I was reading a book for a school assignment. It addressed human trafficking and slavery issues in America today. As I read, the book became increasingly disturbing. Finally it brought me to tears, and I shut it angrily, wishing that all the people who had done horrific things could be removed from this world forever.
As my thought was foggy with storm clouds of fear and hate, thoughts of the elementary school shooting that had occurred one week prior in Newtown, Connecticut, also poured in. I began to feel even more afraid and hopeless, wondering how God could have “let” people do terrible things to each other. If God is good, I thought, then why is evil so rampant in our society? I knew there had to be a solution to my questions, but I wasn’t sure what it would take for me and for society to forgive the kind of people who commit horrific acts.
I looked over at my bedside table and saw the Christian Science Hymnal and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. I remembered reading countless healings from people who had read from these two books and immediately felt comfort. For once, I felt as if I wanted to pick them up and read them, not because I was obligated to, but because I needed to hear the “still small voice” of God through the storm (see I Kings 19:12). I exchanged the book on slavery I was reading for the Hymnal and randomly opened to Hymn 148. The verse that stood out to me was:
In heavenly Love abiding,
No change my heart shall fear;
And safe is such confiding,
For nothing changes here.
The storm may roar without me,
My heart may low be laid;
But God is round about me,
And can I be dismayed?
(Anna L. Waring)
Immediately, my mind was calmer. I was not going to be caught up in the storm. It could “roar without me.” I realized my inner peace and society’s inner peace were protected by God, divine Love, “… yesterday, and to-day, and forever” (see Science and Health, p. 2).
I felt surrounded by God’s loving embrace. But I was still seeking a solution for this question: How could I live happily while vicious people looked to hurt others?
Fear and hatred only close our thoughts to God when we most need to hear Him.
I picked up my Science and Health and started on page 1. As I began to read, the same encompassing love filled my heart. This favorite line stood out to me: “Desire is prayer; and no loss can occur from trusting God with our desires, that they may be moulded and exalted before they take form in words and in deeds.” Right away I knew my desire to feel peace and to find a solution would be greeted with a wholesome and healing answer. I continued to read, my heart reaching out to God, when I stumbled across another passage: “God is Love. Can we ask Him to be more? God is intelligence. Can we inform the infinite Mind of anything He does not already comprehend? Do we expect to change perfection?” (p. 2).
Right then, an answer came to me. I realized I had wanted to change criminals into more loving and considerate human beings. But how is that possible when God’s love is already infinite and His work is already complete? The solution was not to change the image and likeness of God (see Genesis 1:26), but to see that evil tries to manipulate people into doing things that are unnatural to their true spiritual nature. I needed to guard against hate and anger in my own thoughts, and to forgive.
Expressing infinite intelligence and love by forgiving sin, just as Jesus did, I realized, is the answer to a more wholesome and peaceful society. This can’t be accomplished by merely tossing around the words “I forgive you.” No, we must truly desire to see everyone as God’s child and reflection. Then, awareness of spiritual identity will replace the mask of evil. As this realization dawned on me, all the fear and hatred I’d been feeling melted away. The “still small voice” of God had broken through the storm, and I began to feel a sense of forgiveness, not only in relation to world issues, but also for the people in my life who had hurt me or had been inconsiderate of my needs. Love for God’s creation took the fear away and I went to sleep peacefully.
Although it is often challenging to forgive friends or family, let alone criminals, it’s OK for us to take up the challenge and consider it a “work in progress.” I have learned that fear and hatred only close our thoughts to God when we most need to hear Him. We can start consciously choosing to love rather than to hate.
Claire is a sophomore in high school in Wisconsin. She loves dance, choir, and participating in DiscoveryBound's National Leadership Council (NLC).