Untangling feelings of loss
Recently I read again the account of Christ Jesus overcoming temptation after his forty days and nights of prayerful fasting in the wilderness (see Matthew 4:1–11). Each time I read this story I get something new out of it, based on the current circumstances of my day-to-day experience. This time it had a special message for me of how to address loss in all its forms through prayer during the coronavirus pandemic.
The first suggestion the tempter made to Jesus was that he should turn stones into bread. Having fasted for so long, Jesus was hungry. Lack of supply, loss of nourishment, and loss of needed strength threatened. But Jesus met the temptation with this response: “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Jesus lived with the knowledge that man, as God’s, Spirit’s, offspring, is the spiritual idea of God, who is the one divine Mind. He knew that the Word of God supplies, strengthens, sustains, and supports God’s spiritual creation, and that knowing this is what brings God’s infinite, daily supply into our human experience. Jesus knew his need for sustenance would be met—but not by abusing the power given to him by God.
After taking Jesus “up into the holy city, and sett[ing] him on a pinnacle of the temple,” the tempter made a second suggestion to Jesus: that he jump off the temple to test the promise in the ninety-first Psalm that God’s angels would always protect him from harm. Having just prayed for forty days and nights, it might have been tempting to Jesus to see if all of that inspiration was just theory or if it could really be trusted. Loss of faith, loss of safety, loss of confidence, loss of spiritual grounding, and even loss of life threatened. But Jesus met these threats with the calm reply “It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” Indeed, Christ Jesus lived with the assurance that man’s protection is based on divine Principle. Because God is man’s divine Father and Mother, man lives and moves and has his being in God. Man, then, is always as safe as God is. We are safe because there is no power but God—no opposing force, law, or cause to threaten—so no need to test God, since His care is the only possibility.
Finally, the devil suggested that if Jesus would bow down and worship him, then he would give Jesus all the riches, glory, and power of “the world”—of materialism. Jesus was just about to begin his public healing ministry, and he knew that mortals are so often more drawn to materiality than spirituality. Could he fulfill his divine mission more effectively—appeal to more people—by yielding to the tempter’s offer? After all, the Jews were looking for fulfillment of the prophetic promise of a Savior, who they thought would be a great earthly king. Would material wealth and power be more convincing than humility and meekness? Loss of opportunity, loss of position, loss of comfort, loss of satisfaction, and even loss of purpose threatened. But Jesus dismissed this temptation summarily with “Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”
We can no more lose any genuine good than we can lose God.
Christ Jesus was able to dismantle the entire claim of loss because he was so conscious that matter, with its finite nature, cannot be the source of anything—that God, being infinite, All, is the source of everything right and good. Mary Baker Eddy explains, “Wholly apart from this mortal dream, this illusion and delusion of sense, Christian Science comes to reveal man as God’s image, His idea, coexistent with Him—God giving all and man having all that God gives” (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 5).
As I thought about these various threats of loss that Jesus faced, I saw how similar they are to some of the threats we are facing in this pandemic, which could be boiled down to loss of supply, loss of safety, loss of comfort, and loss of satisfaction, as well as loss of health and even life. And yet there is really only one threat of loss—and that’s the suggestion that loss is inevitable and natural. Sure, from human experience that suggestion may appear pretty convincing. But the provable fact remains that substance is Spirit, God, and therefore eternal and indestructible. God is not a God of loss but of permanent and abundant good. Mrs. Eddy explains, “It is impossible that man should lose aught that is real, when God is all and eternally his” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 302).
The threat of loss in all of its forms can be seen as a temptation to believe we could lose God—to doubt the oneness and allness and omnipotence of God, good. God doesn’t just ward off or help us recover from loss; God lifts us up and shows us that true substance can never be lost, because He is All. And because all of our thought and knowing comes from God, Mind, in reality we actually always have the spiritual awareness of God’s allness; that is, we reflect the divine Mind’s awareness of itself. We can no more lose any genuine good than we can lose God.
I saw this demonstrated in a practical way the very week this inspiration came. A friend called and asked me to pray with him about the threat of loss to a large international organization he heads up. They stood to lose a huge down payment they had made to a hotel to hold a conference there. The event now needed to be canceled, and the hotel had refused to give a refund.
My friend wasn’t asking me to pray that the organization would get a refund, but rather to help him see more clearly that God’s all-power and love enfold all parties involved, and that all would be infinitely blessed by expressing God’s unselfed love for all. I shared the inspiration I had been gaining from the story of Jesus overcoming temptation in the wilderness, and we both felt love for all involved and freedom from fear of loss. A letter that carefully laid out the reasons for rescheduling the conference until the following year—reasons related to obedience to state mandates, consideration of others, and wisdom—was sent to the hotel, and this letter was met with an immediate and cordial response and a full refund.
As we hold fast to the assurance of God as the infinite All-in-all, we can, as Jesus did, face down every disguise of the devilish temptation to believe that our experience should be one of constant loss. Mrs. Eddy writes, “Nothing is lost that God gives:…” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 111). That which is right and good—from God—can never be lost. And as we acknowledge this, we will see this spiritual fact evidenced in having our need for supply, safety, and satisfaction met in our day-to-day experience. This is the evidence that points to the all-embracing love of the one infinite God, good.