Why believe in God?
Michelle Nanouche, C.S.
What and who is God? In the midst of pain and darkness, why should I believe in God? How do I hear God—and how can I be sure it’s God talking? Why do bad things happen to good people? How do I help my child understand God’s nature?
Michelle answers these and other questions by helping listeners understand the need to change perspective. Instead of focusing on the problem and managing it, she encourages listeners to challenge conventional thinking about God’s nature and His willingness to help and heal us.
Drawing on anecdotes and personal experiences, Michelle conveys an image of God as all good, and says that regardless of our differing beliefs, everyone has a connection with and a love of spirituality and goodness.
spirituality.com host: Hello everyone, welcome to another spirituality.com live question and answer audio event. Our subject today is, “Why believe in God?” And our guest is Michelle Boccanfuso Nanouche, who has been a Christian Science practitioner for many years. She’s also been a Christian Science lecturer, a Committee on Publication for New Jersey, and a writer and speaker for the Christian Science Publishing Society’s magazines and radio program. She currently lives in France.
Michelle, do you have some thoughts to get us started?
Michelle: Well, just as I’ve been thinking about this topic of “Why believe in God?” I’m realizing that pretty much every major crisis point in my own life has come down to that fundamental question. What is this God that I believe in? Who is God to me? Why do I believe? What do I believe? Conventional wisdom tells us that when you’ve got a problem you go to the problem. You work on that problem and then eventually maybe you start working on yourself, and then as a last resort you turn to God, or worst case scenario, if nothing’s really changed, you blame God or declare that there must be no God if things haven’t turned around.
But what I’ve learned through my work in and study of Christian Science is that when we start with God and let that lead to an improved view of ourselves and the universe and how it all operates, ultimately that search for God—that recognition of the underlying structure of what we believe in and why we believe in it—deals with the problem.
spirituality.com host: So you’re really reshifting, you’re redirecting your thoughts completely toward omnipotence, toward the power of God and how that changes the whole perspective on things?
Michelle: Exactly. And perspective is really important. When problems seem too big or complicated—personal hardships, genocide, environmental degradation, world issues as well as private—it usually indicates that we’re way too focused on the problem.
Looking into the nature of God, the nature of good, really, the Principle that’s governing all things and holding all things at the point of perfection, we begin to learn better our own relationship to God. Mary Baker Eddy, in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, talks about unwinding that snarl of complication. She talks about how Christian Science “shows the scientific relation of man to God, disentangles the interlaced ambiguities of being” (which is just a lovely way to describe complications), “and sets free the imprisoned thought.” It gives us a different perspective rooted in spiritual reality that brings a sense of balance and power to our prayer. It can really facilitate the change that’s needed in order for healing to occur.
spirituality.com host: That’s really helpful. I’m thinking of how overwhelming it can be just to think about one major problem like Darfur. But if you’re approaching it from the standpoint of God’s presence, even if God is evidenced only as the order that gets people fed that day, that still is some evidence of good going on. Is that kind of where we’re going here?
Michelle: Yeah, it really is. We can focus on the problem and it just breaks up into thousands, millions of potential negative possibilities, or focus on the simple solution of the omnipresence, the all-power, the all-understanding, all-knowing of God in that situation. That there is no one in a state of disconnect.
spirituality.com host: That’s a nice idea. That’s a wonderful transition to this question from Melissa and Collette, who are in Ann Arbor, Michigan. They say, “How do you hear God’s voice and how do you know when it’s God that’s talking to you?”
Michelle: When I think of conversations with God, you know the whole concept of God, we’re talking about infinity here. We’re talking about something much, much larger than the human mind may be able to capture just in one conversation, in one connection with it. In our conversations with God, what we’re really talking about is our constant, eternal connection to good. So the form in which our connection to good occurs—if you think of God in those terms, as this universal, divine presence and power of good controlling everything—then it takes the sense of hearing God’s voice out of just one narrow track of “I need to hear the words.” Or even just simply the narrow track of “I need to see the evidence of a particular event to occur.” It allows us to broaden to the sense of feeling good, seeing good, smelling good, embracing good, being aware of good. Maybe just having the intuition that all is well—all of that is a connection with God’s voice.
spirituality.com host: Different ways that God would communicate.
Michelle: Yes, and different ways that we are receptive to the voice. We think of prayer as a conversation with God. And oftentimes I think a conventional viewpoint is that prayer is a one-sided conversation where we’re letting the universe know, letting this universal presence of good know our long list of the things that we need or the things that we want. When in reality, those types of prayers are great warm-ups for a conversation with God.
But the most powerful form of communication is when we shut our own mouths, and kind of shut down the list-making of our own personal, private wants and desires, and are really open to let our awareness of good grow—our awareness of the presence of good ideas, good thoughts, good experiences, however it may be manifest at that particular moment; to realize that that is the divine communication. It’s more important what Good is communicating to us than that we make a list of the good things we’d like to have.
spirituality.com host: That is great. This is from Scott who says, “Sometimes when things seem darkest and we are in pain it’s easy to doubt the existence of God. Did you ever have such a period in your life? And how did you get out of it?”
Michelle: Oh, I wouldn’t narrow it down to one period. I would say that on this spiritual journey I’ve probably had lots of peaks and valleys as far as really feeling that consistent sense of the presence of good. Things happen. I’ve had illnesses, minor as well as major illnesses that I’ve contended with. I’ve lost loved ones in my experiences. And honestly, these are some of those crisis points where I’ve since realized I’ve needed to refocus my energy into understanding who God is and what God is to me.
One experience is when my husband passed on just very suddenly and caught everybody by surprise, but me probably more than anyone else. And in the early days, I went through some of the early stages of mourning, which included a pretty intense anger with God. As I was dealing with these issues, I wasn’t particularly dealing with them well, but I was trying to deal with them privately—because being a practitioner of Christian Science, you try to be ready to help and support others—and I tended to not want to allow that to drag anyone else down. But I opened up to a good friend one day and told her that frankly, I was pretty angry with God over this turn of events, and I wasn’t quite sure where we go from here.
And her response to me was so powerful and so redirected my thought. She said, “Do you mean you’re angry with good?” And I realized after struggling with this fresh perspective for a bit, that I was flawed in my anger. I was probably pretty justified, it was reasonable and probably right for me to be challenging the conventional thinking about God as some anthropomorphic guy sitting on a throne who just snatched my husband from me and turned my life upside down. It was a flawed sense of God that I was angry with. But in fact, I loved good. I wanted good, I craved good. And I needed good in my life. And with that simple redirection of thought, it sent me off on a very fast-paced search for, and finding, and renewed sense of the God that I believe in—which basically came down to my worshipping of good. My love of good.
You know, we all worship something, and whether or not we think of it as a God to us—for some of us we invest all our time and energy in family, and making money, and fame and our bodies, and the food that we’re eating, or the friendships that we have, but the question that we have to ask ourselves is, “Is this investment, is this worship in this god bringing us satisfaction and healing?” And, “Is it making you a healer? Is it allowing you to be more of a contributor in your own family or community, or on the world scene—bringing healing to situations?” If not, we need to reexamine what we’re making our god, what we’re making our focus, and what we’re allowing to be our guiding principle.
spirituality.com host: Yes, that’s one thing I thought we maybe want to clarify. When we talk about worshipping good we’re not talking about worshipping like a high definition television, which for some people might be pretty good. But really, the spiritual sense of good and a relationship with ourselves as spiritual beings, related to an infinitely loving God.
Michelle: There you go. If you’re open to the idea of God as actual good, as the Love that we love, the Love that embraces all, as the Principle controlling the movement of the planets, controlling just the harmonious movement of all ideas, it expands our sense of God’s goodness and allows us to begin to glimpse a little bit of how we, in our own experience, are not only seeing this good, but are able to express this sense of good ourselves.
spirituality.com host: Truly in California says, “How do you explain to others when bad things happen to good people? If God is all good, then how can evil exist or even be allowed?”
Michelle: You know, what often happens when a challenge comes up, there’s that tendency automatically to focus on that problem, it becomes the overwhelming reality to us, and as I mentioned before—the tendency is to blame God or declare that there is no God.
But I think when that question comes up, “Does God even exist if these problems continue to appear to us?” that it’s reasonable and appropriate, it’s a right—a human need and a divine right—to challenge conventional thinking about God and the universe. Is our concept of God so narrow that God is seen merely as a fallible dictator? A dictator who also goes on vacation and is not very competent at caring for His creation? To me that’s a very narrow, anthropomorphic kind of man-god sense of what God is.
When I’m talking to someone who doesn’t believe or who is questioning the existence of God, often it comes down to a question of vocabulary. It’s less important to me that a religious sense of God as something to be worshipped come across than that our friends find that link to universal good as a powerful influence for change and for security. It’s important to use vocabulary that connects. And here’s where divine Principle of good or universal Love, the power of love to affect change, where one may not be able to see a kind of a human dictatorish type god as able to effect change.
There’s often openness, just because of our own experiences, that love has the power to affect change. And if it can do it on an individual, small scale, it’s capable of accomplishing that on a larger scale. Of course the spiritual vocabulary or Biblical vocabulary can be helpful because it enables one to have access to more resources to Scriptures and to the wealth of writings by people who experienced that sense of being open to God. But when it comes down to talking to someone who’s belief is challenged, often what’s needed is just that comfort in the sharing, that comfort that comes from expressing and helping them to know that there really is something in control, bigger, than the human mind, perhaps, is able to see.
spirituality.com host: Karen from Florida, in a way is moving us right along in that direction because she says, “Many people who study the physical sciences seem not to believe in God, attributing all to material causes and not to spiritual. How can I help them to find God when studying the material and physical?”
Michelle: It is a human need, a divine right, to know God, to have that sense of ongoing conversation. I would suggest that rather than thinking of creating that conversation, or helping to create that connection for someone else, it helps our communication if we start by knowing ourselves that that communication is already intact. In fact, I think that’s what Mary Baker Eddy was referring to when she spoke of the Christ as, “the true idea voicing good, the divine message from God to men speaking to human consciousness” being that. It is the life link between God and man, that ever-present power that is voicing good all the time to everyone.
The language of the Christ may be different from person to person. But that communication is going on. And if we can start there, if we can start by acknowledging that in spite of the “I don’t believe in God” vocabulary, which often comes from “I don’t have the words to explain what I haven’t yet seen,” once you’re aware that everyone has, on some level, a connection with and a love for good in their experience, a connection with and a love for, or a need for being loved, then that relationship is already intact. And where we go with our individual conversations, if we start from that position of already operating on the same plane, then we’ll find that the appropriate words will come.
spirituality.com host: Crispin from Lucerne, Switzerland says, “How would you describe the difference between believing in God and knowing God?” That’s an interesting distinction.
Michelle: It is an interesting distinction and it’s one actually that Science and Health very early on takes up as a subject. The words “faith” and “belief” are defined in the two directions that they tend to go. When we are believing in something we’re either trusting it—it’s kind of a blind faith where we don’t really know the details of what it is we’re believing in, but we’re placing out confidence that there’s something out there operating—versus knowing God, which gives you sort of a confidence (which is a very different kind of faith) to be able to go out and do something with this understanding.
Even the word “understanding” is interesting in that its original root is meant literally, “to stand under something.” And I found that really helpful in thinking about believing in God. Am I simply trusting that there is something there that will take care of me or am I willing to, in every aspect of my life, in every aspect of my thinking and doing, align myself (the way I would align myself with an umbrella) with its purpose and then, in that case, allow it to take care of me?
spirituality.com host: You know, I’m thinking of the Book of Job, where the beginning part is where Job loses everything and his friends come and provide fairly unsuccessful comfort by basically saying that he was obviously wrong and that’s why all those things came on him. And then at the end where they are all confronted by God Himself, in His full glory and actuality, and Job said, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.” And in a way it’s like when you’re reading the Bible and it’s just words on a page, but when you have that experience of God, whether it comes of being healed of a physical difficulty, or gaining a sense of peace or confidence that things are going to work out—something that really changes your thought—then in a way, you’re starting to know God face to face, aren’t you?
Michelle: You really are. And in that Job experience what I love is that little bridge between those two events of the unsatisfactory conversations he had with his friends and the ultimate conversation with God directly. There was another conversation, another friend that kind of came in at the eleventh hour and that friend didn’t try to take the responsibility to convince Job of who God was or even to go into any depth about explaining to Job what it was that he needed to know or do better. But simply affirmed for Job that he had the capacity to hear for himself. That there was a spirit in man that enabled him to hear God’s voice, to have that communication, and to have his healing. And then that friend left Job to it. He left Job to that conversation, but didn’t try to step in, intervene, convince. The best gift he gave Job was he shut his mouth.
spirituality.com host: Yep. And basically said, “You can do this.”
Michelle: Exactly. He said, “Look, the conversation’s going on. It’s been going on. But I’m leaving it to you now to open your ears and hear it.”
spirituality.com host: And then of course a very dramatic change occurred.
Michelle: Yeah, exactly. A total restoration. In fact a restoration plus.
spirituality.com host: That’s right. Blessed more than he had been in the beginning.
spirituality.com host: Ron from Holland, Michigan is sending a question about the Book of Psalms. He says, “In the Old Testament, Psalms 103 gives us three of God’s benefits: forgiveness of sin, promise of eternal life by redemption from death, and healing of all disease. The healing of disease is the one promise that can be realized right now as a proof that there is a God. Can you comment on this promise?”
Michelle: On the promise of healing. When you get to know God—and when I’m talking about getting to know God I’m taking it beyond just a kind of mindless acceptance that there’s something, to a mindful commitment to grow in your understanding, every day to see another aspect of infinity—healing isn’t a choice. There is a transformation that takes place in perspective, in yourself, in the way you express yourself and see others, and so in this search for good, this awareness and enhanced view of the presence and power of good, ultimately healing is the natural byproduct because you have a better view of yourself and you have a better view of your surroundings. It’s not (and this is an interesting perspective that only Christian Science offers) that an understanding of God changes things and that’s healing. But it’s that an understanding of the nature of God and your capacity to reflect that goodness in your life aligns you more with the eternal reality that all is well because it has always been well. And that sense of disease, that sense of disharmony, whatever it is in that situation that needs to be healed, goes—because it has no more sticking power in your life.
That’s something that I learned when I was healed of a lump, a growth in a breast. It was my hot pursuit for understanding the nature of God better, simply because I needed to know who I was as spiritual and not just as having a spiritual side, but as being 100 percent spiritual, that allowed me, essentially, to have my entire human history rewritten. All of the things that one would attribute disease to, to have my sense of self as being material, of coming from a gene pool that would permit cancer, or having committed a sin that would leave me vulnerable to illness—my hot pursuit of knowing who I was through knowing who God was, ultimately led me to get a sense of my eternal being, before the possibility of a problem could ever originate anywhere in matter or in behavior. And it rewrote my history for me to the extent that I was healed of the growth in the breast—it disappeared. But that disappearance seemed way small, it was a little byproduct off to the side, by comparison to the major spiritual growth I experienced in getting to know who God was, and therefore who I was, better.
spirituality.com host: And that’s a sort of essential knowledge to have for the practice of Christian Science.
Michelle: Well it is essential because you’re really up a creek without a paddle if when somebody calls you for help you believe that you’ve got a problem that somehow you’ve got to fix through prayer. You’re really in a bad situation there if you don’t have a better starting point. Early on, in fact in the very first chapter of Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy makes the distinction between praying to solve problems versus praying to realize the solution. And boy this work is a joy when you realize that every call for help is an opportunity to immerse yourself in all the answers to the problem—rather than to get caught up in all the symptoms of the problem.
spirituality.com host: And this ties in a little bit with a question we have from Katie who’s in Indiana. She says, “Is Christian Science the only organized faith that teaches that God is only good? Meaning by this that God does not know or allow evil, and God is not both good and evil combined, but omnipotent good.”
Michelle: I wouldn’t be able to say whether or not it’s the only faith. Because there are thousands. Tens of thousands. Hundreds of thousands of different organized faith practices. So I wouldn’t be able to comment on that. But I will say that of the faith practices that I’ve ever been familiar with, Christian Science articulates that point the most clearly and the most consistently.
spirituality.com host: Now this is from Jesse in Angers, France who says, “I find it hard to hear God. Even when I’m praying I feel I have trouble getting still enough to listen for an answer. Any suggestions?”
Michelle: I’m going to suggest that it’s likely you’re hearing more than you realize. Even in the desire to feel that sense of presence and that sense of connection, that’s not just random. That’s not just coming from nowhere. That is actually the call of the Christ. It’s the Christ in your consciousness, that ongoing communication that God has with you that produces that sense of desire, that sense of need. As far as becoming still enough to feel like one is really, really hearing, there are lots of things that one can do humanly in order to quiet thought. I’ve often found that simply turning to the psalms and turning to some of the modern psalms that we have in hymnals (most church denominations have hymnals and the Christian Science Church has a hymnal as well), and allowing yourself to be centered, to become focused on what it is that’s doing the communication, helps. That can often still thought enough for that sense of openness and the sense of peace to come that allows you to begin to feel like it’s not just a one-sided dialogue of This is what I need, this is what I want. But where you’re actually feeling the presence of gentle ideas come to you. When we talk about hearing God I’m not talking about particularly a voice, although I have to say there are individuals, and even myself, where I’ve felt or heard the voice of God very clearly as if somebody was speaking. But often that communication just comes in a gentle sense of presence, a gentle sense of peace, an awareness in that moment of harmony, and don’t be limited by the material sense of what hearing something is. But be open to your spiritual senses being receptive to the presence of good even if it’s not a direction of “move to this house” or “take this job.” Just that sense of awareness that there’s a presence in control and that you can be at peace—that is tangible, and powerful, and that is the presence of God’s voice.
spirituality.com host: And sometimes it is very much an intuition, it’s almost a step-by-step thing. In other words, you don’t necessarily get the whole answer all at once. But you could get an intuition like; right now for example, you should go home. Or some simple thing and that leads to the next thing and the next thing.
Michelle: I heard a great analogy once. If you’re in a car at the top of a hill and you’re looking down the hill at a series of traffic lights, and almost all those traffic lights down the hill are red, if the one in front of you is green, you keep going. And by the time you get to the next one, you’ll see that the light changes. A lot of times I think we feel if we don’t get the whole picture, if we don’t see green lights all the way to the very end, we just don’t even bother to get started. But any green light that allows movement, and allows us to move forward, is just part of that divine support system that’s leading us to the next answer. It might unfold light by light by light.
spirituality.com host: That is a great analogy. I love that. Michael from London has sent this question: “Einstein said that if perception was reality we would not need science. Isn’t this at the heart of Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health?”
Michelle: Yeah, it really is. It’s also at the heart of one of my favorite Bible stories that, to me, speaks to perspective. What perspective is it that we’re holding of what is real? Because it really can tend to define our experience. It’s interesting that this story is also featured in this week’s Weekly Bible Lesson that one can have access to, I believe, through spirituality.com. It’s also available at biblelesson.com.
It’s an interesting story that’s often referred to as the “swine” story. Which kind of, in a way, makes the very point of the story. In reality, it’s a story of healing. A very simple story of Jesus meeting up with a man, having a very short conversation, in fact, it’s only recorded that one actual sentence, one question, was spoken. A man who had had a severe problem, we’re not sure whether it was mental or physical, but severe enough that he was an outcast from the city, was living in tombs outside of the city bound up in chains. This problem was resolved very quickly and he was, as Scripture tells us, “sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind” in a matter of moments. But the story seems to be buried under a completely different perspective that was held of the healing. And here’s where the swine story description comes in.
There were a group of swine herders who were out there tending their flock on the hills, in the fields, around the tombs where this man was. And so for quite some time as they were out there taking care of their animals, they were aware of this man and they were aware of his problems long before Jesus came to town. In fact, it was pretty likely they were witnesses to his behavior and that it would’ve made a strong impression on them. When I read this story I see the role of swine herder as role of problem watcher or symptom watcher. Just that tendency to be overwhelmed by the repeated appearance of the symptoms of a problem. And I can imagine in their place that I would feel pretty helpless, pretty afraid, if there was a guy bound up in chains where I was working.
So, we’re told that this man had an array of problems; in fact it was named legion, which is the Biblical reference to an army of two thousand or more. And it makes me think, when one’s focusing on a problem long enough, isn’t that often what it seems like? A big, complicated mess? Maybe with two thousand variations on the theme and no apparent solution. But in reality, what was going on was very quiet and very simple. Jesus came to this man, had a very simple conversation with him, asked him what his name was, and he was healed. And yet what we’re told, is that the swine herders, invested in the symptoms and what they had seen, had a completely different experience. They were horrified by what happened. As it turned out, of those 2,000 symptoms, each one of their pigs seemed to kind of take on the insanity, the characteristics of this man, and took a wild, crazed leap off the side of the mountain. To me, it’s the sense of, if you’re looking for a complicated solution, then you’re going to get what you’re looking for. It was like each symptom got its own little pig sacrifice.
Did they even notice that the man was sitting and clothed and in his right mind? It didn’t look that way from the story because they ran to town and told everybody the horrible thing that happened to all of their pigs, and they completely missed the healing. That wasn’t part of their reporting at all. The investment was in the problem, and the solution was just so complicated and overwhelming and impressive that they missed the healing. And yet for Jesus and for this man, it’s almost like two stories being told from two completely different perspectives.
Over time perhaps they’ve blended together, but it was really a very quiet scene of focusing on what is the reality; what is your name, what is your spiritual nature, who are you as God’s man? And of course this is me elaborating on a story that’s had a lot of meaning over the years, but it’s taught me some lessons. I ask myself when challenges come up, am I going to be a swine herder or am I going to represent the position of the Christ? Am I going to focus on the solution here, cut to the chase, keep it simple, acknowledge, recognize the presence and power of God to heal and to be reflected, to be manifest in man and let the events unfold? Or am I going to be invested in and impressed by problems to the point where that perspective of problem dictates what I see, dictates my reality to me?
spirituality.com host: That is really helpful. And really quite inspired to tell you the truth. But I wonder if you would just talk a little bit about the Christ as compared to Jesus. Just to clarify that. We’ve been talking about the Christ a lot, but now that we’re also talking about Jesus it might be helpful to some of our listeners.
Michelle: Oh goodie. I’d love to. When I think of Jesus, I think of him as the wonderful example that we’ve been given of how to express the Christ in our own lives—how to experience the Christ healing. When I’m speaking of the Christ I’m talking about the understanding and the power that was behind what Jesus knew and what Jesus was able to do. The Christ was Jesus’ link with God. It is today, for each one of us, that ongoing sense, that ongoing manifestation of God’s activity and power that’s accessible and is communicated in a language or a form that we can each understand. So for Jesus, he healed through the power of Christ. He healed through his understanding of God and his recognition that he, as God’s son, as God’s reflection, as God’s creation, possessed all of the power of that Christ himself, to be able to express, to be able to heal, to be able to effect change.
spirituality.com host: Thanks. We have kind of a different question from Randy in Boston. But I thought that we might want to try to answer it if we can. It is, “Why can the darkness kill me in a spiritual way and in a material way and get away with it without having the same thing happen to it, for breaking the law or the Ten Commandments? Isn’t Love reflected in love?”
Michelle: In reality, it can’t. There’s that simple analogy that darkness cannot displace light. Light always displaces darkness. The power isn’t in the darkness. The darkness is the belief of a void of light. It’s not an actual presence of something. It’s the misunderstanding or the belief of something being missing. Just because someone is believing that something is missing doesn’t mean that it is. Even at those moments when we’re feeling just such a profound sense of mental darkness, that darkness itself doesn’t have the power that it claims to have. It’s not a positive energy that can inflict itself on us and often just the simple awareness that the light of the Christ, even if we’re not sure how it operates or where it’s operating, has more power over that darkness than the darkness has the ability to push out the light—it can make a difference. It can open thought just that little crack to shift perspective to what it is that has more power.
spirituality.com host: And I think that one of the things that I would say, and I’ve said this before, is look for good, however tiny the good is. Whether it’s the color of the sky or the fact that the pavement you’re walking on isn’t broken. It doesn’t matter what it is. But I went through a suicidal depression many years ago and the way I got out of it was climbing on sometimes the tiniest tendrils of good. But each one led me higher into the light and out of the darkness. Darkness cannot kill you. It cannot do it.
Michelle: It cannot.
spirituality.com host: And as you’re thinking about this, every morning just get up and say, “Darkness cannot kill me. I live in the presence of light. Light is where I am.” I don’t want to make it sound like a formula. But really affirm the presence of light and just refuse to give the darkness power. It has no power. “In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.” And that word is the word of light. You know in the Bible it says, “And God said, let there be light.” God didn’t say “let there be darkness.” God is omnipotent and He does love you and you can feel that love and that presence.
Michelle: Thinking about the question relating to the Ten Commandments—those can seem so much like a demand. Like a list of things that we’re yet supposed to practice and to achieve. And it can feel quite oppressive when you’re already feeling buried under mental darkness or under whatever the problems are, to see yet another to-do list, like divine requirements, in order to be allowed to feel well. Yet we’re not limited just to the vocabulary of the King James translation of the Bible and the way that it puts those commandments down as commands. I’ve heard of other translations rather than thinking, Thou shalt not do this, thou shalt not do that, it’s really, thou canst not. You can’t have any other God but the one God. You cannot kill, you cannot be killed. You cannot steal, you cannot lie. It’s not a part of your nature to defend the darkness. It’s not a part of your nature to have to perpetually do battle against the darkness. But it is your nature to be good, to be open to good, to love good, to be aware of good, and to feel good.
spirituality.com host: And to live in the light.
Michelle: And to live in the light.
spirituality.com host: Daniel from Nashville, Tennessee has a question for us. He says, “Do you believe that everything happens for a reason, good or bad, to teach us certain lessons in life that God wishes us or needs us to learn?”
Michelle: I do believe that as our understanding of spiritual law and divine governance grows, that we can find answers to every question. And oftentimes that question is “Why did that happen to me?” “Why did I go through that experience?” I remember once when I went through a particularly challenging time, maybe for a period of two years I was praying over a problem and it wasn’t budging, the healing wasn’t coming. And then one day, on a day when I wasn’t particularly praying about that situation, suddenly everything turned around. And I was pretty burned up. Because I was looking at cause-effect, you know, prayer-response kind of effect to follow through. And I remember speaking to someone about that and saying, “Now, why today does everything change?” And very wisely she said to me, “You know Michelle, you may not get the answer to that question today. But if you continue to pray, if you continue just to live your life to express your divine being and grow spiritually, there’s going to come a point where you’re going to have an answer to that question.” And sure enough it was maybe six months down the road and I had a better perspective, not being in the heat of the battle and in the middle of all the events, to look back at the unfoldment that was going on, the gentle changes in thought that were adjusting experience that ultimately led to that healing.
So yes, I believe that there is an answer to every question. I don’t attribute it to a sense of an anthropomorphic god who sees us as unruly, ignorant little beings that have to keep being taught lessons. But it’s kind of like a rose unfolding. There’s great beauty there but we don’t always capture all of it in its bud form. Sometimes just through experience and unfoldment we have to wait and watch as it continues to open to get the fullness, the full explanation for what we did learn. You know, why were we learning this? What was the perspective that needed to open up and fall away for us to be able to see the healing?
spirituality.com host: That’s such a great answer. I’m sure that’s also happened to others of us where, as you say, you’re praying and praying and then suddenly out of the blue there comes the answer.
Michelle: Yes. And not on the day when you’re praying.
spirituality.com host: Exactly. Just think about Moses and the burning bush. There he is going home to supper and, surprise!
This is from Carolyn in Southern California. She says, “I try to explain to my 7-year-old daughter that God is everywhere and isn’t just a big guy watching over everyone and everything. But lately she’s been trying to figure out how to get a more full sense of who God is. How else can I help her understand who God is?”
Michelle: Not very long ago someone shared with me a conversation that they had with their very, very young child who was asking a similar question. She said, “How could God make everything if He has no hands?” And this completely stumped the mom. She didn’t know where to go with this question. So she figured if the child had enough intuition to come up with the question, she probably had the ability to pray herself and get an answer. Which I thought was completely brilliant of the mother to not feel that she had to take on every theological question that came up.
So she went back to her daughter and said, “I think that’s something that you should pray about with God.” A short time later, I’m not sure how long, the little girl told her mother, “I got my answer. God answered my prayer.” And the mother inquired and the little girl said, “God told me I didn’t make everything, I am everything.” And she was just enveloped in this sense of God as all instead of God being busy making all, creating all. As though God and all are something separate that need to be manhandled, that need a hand that extends to reach and take care of. I found that to be really helpful.
I would say to Mom, number one, encourage the questions because they’re fabulous. But a lot like Elihu, that friend of Job’s who sent Job back to the source to get his answers, we want to support our children in their ability to find these answers, to have these answers suitably responded to in a language that they can understand.
spirituality.com host: And it doesn’t hurt if they have to think a little while till the answers come.
Michelle: It doesn’t hurt at all. In fact, I think we could all use a little more practice in that. We’re kind of accustomed, well with the Internet for instance, to having a quick and ready answer to all questions. If you’ve got a question, Google it, you know, go to askjeeves.com. Just the patience to allow an idea to really unfold in our own language allows us to really lay claim to that answer as a direct communication instead of maybe something that was meaningful to someone else but loses its power. One thing that I’ve always held to—I’m willing to work through any problem, I’m willing to meet the challenges in my own life, and I’m willing to be uncomfortable for a period of time while I’m doing that, if, in the end, I have a good story to tell.
spirituality.com host: That’s a great way of putting it!
Michelle: Because I expect that if I’m going to work through something I’m not just doing it for me. It’s going to have a further reaching effect. I’m going to be able to help someone else with it. But believe me, it’s not worth going through it if I don’t have direct clear communication and unfoldment that allows me to then articulate that story later.
spirituality.com host: Oh, that’s a great idea. Dan from Milford, New Hampshire says, “Jesus relates in Luke 13 a case of bad things happening to good men when a building fell on them. He said that in order to avoid this we must repent. Why? What does repent mean?”
Michelle: My understanding of the word repent, is to rethink, is to change perspective, perhaps to change our perspective in these cases of disasters. If we’re really carrying around a sense of an angry God, and consequently, an angry creation, it wouldn’t be unusual to see or to expect to see combustion going on around us. Bombs going off, destruction, the shake up of the earth, earthquakes and things like that. I don’t think we realize how mental these events are. And yet, what has more power and the power to affect change is a growing awareness of the power of the real source of good “who holds the ‘wind in His fists’” and holds and maintains and supports the earth and all those that are on it to manifest good.
There’s a quote in Science and Health, “The universe of Spirit is peopled with spiritual beings, and its government is divine Science.” And that’s the kind of perspective that if we hold that perspective, if we rethink our sense of what has the power—is evil truly the most powerful force in this universe? Does it always win? Does it have the ability to set the agenda for a day, or for a religion, or for a country? Or is good and the presence of divine Love the overriding power that is what makes us spiritual? It’s the spiritual power that we all have within us that must get out into the atmosphere.
spirituality.com host: This is from Marie in Arizona. She says, “How have you learned to know God more, as in the example of cancer that you gave?”
Michelle: When that problem appeared, for me I realized it was a life or death moment. I could either consent to that disease and get sucked under or I was going to be in hot pursuit of what real life was. And I chose the second path. In choosing that path I used the tools that were available to me at the time. One was when I was afraid or overwhelmed, I would call on a friend or colleague to pray with me, to pray for me, to help kind of clear my mental slate of that fear so that I could begin engaging again in my conversation with God.
I had some questions. I had some deep questions. Where did I come from? If I’m eternal, why can’t I remember where I was before I was three years old—before my parents claimed I was born on a particular day? I had some sincere questions and deep questions, but they weren’t going to be answered just by talking to someone. I needed to get this straight from God. So I used the tools available to me. I had someone praying for me from time to time when I was afraid, and I researched the Bible, particularly the New Testament, the Gospels that recount Jesus’ healings, and I also picked up Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, started at the beginning and decided to read it differently than I’d ever read it before. I decided to read it as a conversation I was having with God. It seemed to me that divine Love was aware of my questions and that at any given point on any given day, wherever I was, I could find an answer.
So as I read the book and as I continued reading it through, it was several chapters later that my thought was really open to hearing the message from God that had always existed, and that although my human memory of my eternity might be flawed, might be limited, that my spiritual memory was found in my intuitive sense that what I was reading in Science and Health was the truth. There’s a chapter in that book titled “Creation” and it goes into our spirituality, breaking through the limits, the material barriers that constantly say, this is as far as we can see, this is as much good as we can experience, and tell us to break out of that shell, to look out and up. That there’s a lot more going on in the universe and more going on in our own being than we’re aware of.
And as I was engaged with that idea I became aware that I was allowing that particular chapter, “Creation,” to serve as a reminder to me of where I’d always been. Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I am.” I really connected with that because I realized that before Abraham was, I am as well. That I’ve always existed and would always exist, and boy, that just unwound the snarl of a human history of events that could cause disease as well as a human gene pool that could produce disease. It gave me a more direct route to my divine source and helped me realize that I was spiritual—100 percent—through and through and had no cause to fear.
spirituality.com host: That’s really helpful. And we’re just about at the end of our time, but we have two questions so I thought we’d do those last two ones if that’s okay with you?
Michelle: Great, yes.
spirituality.com host: This one doesn’t give us a name or a place but it’s addressing the subject that many people have thought about, “Why does there seem to be so much suffering since God is good and is all?”
Michelle: It comes down to perspective. It’s almost hypnotic really, the sense that evil is a power. Just like the sense that the absence of light, called darkness, that it’s something, when in reality it’s just a suggestion of something being absent.
spirituality.com host: I think that’s true. I think the other part of it also is again getting back to what God is. Because you have various groups believing in God as sort of a warrior god who believes in taking places by storm and that killing that way is okay, and other people believing that God authorizes certain things to be done to people they think of as enemies and so forth. When you have that kind of thinking going on, it sometimes gets very difficult to perceive who God actually is.
Michelle: That’s true. But I think what’s behind that question is the question, So where did that originate? Where did those mistaken concepts originate in the first place? If this is the reality why don’t we just start there and therefore stay there?
I’m thinking of a checkbook, to tell you the truth. I’m thinking of how when I’m properly applying the principle of math in my checkbook, I feel a great sense of security because my balance matches the bank balance and I know all is right with the world. But if on occasion I make a miscalculation in my checkbook and suddenly my balance is just completely out of whack, if I’m feeling insecure, if I’m feeling fear, if I’m experiencing that as a problem, it’s simply a miscalculation. It’s not changing the reality. The reality is that what’s in that checkbook has always been in that checkbook no matter how it is that I’m accounting for it.
When you’re applying the principle of math there’s only one principle. One plus one is always two. And it’s never going to be anything else—even if we make the occasional mistake and call it three from time to time. There’s no real power in that mistake. And there’s nothing lasting that can stick with it, and there are infinite mistakes, there are infinite misstatements of the fact that one plus one is two. But none of them are real. None of them have actual staying power. So when we’re seeing these challenges arise, yes, it’s a perception of a miscalculation, but right where that problem appears to be, the spiritual balance, the spiritual reality, the law of God, of good, is still there governing. And even if we’re uncomfortable for a time under that misperception, reality hasn’t changed.
spirituality.com host: Well that’s very helpful. I think that’s a very strong statement of what the reality is.
Michelle: And also of our ability to keep returning back to, What is God? Who is God? What do we believe in? What is this principle? What is it that we’re depending on to govern things? And when we reestablish our connection with that principle and then work out from that point we’re going to see a more accurate balance. We’re going to see a more accurate view of what’s really going on in our own lives as well as in the world.
spirituality.com host: I think that’s really right on. And this last part that you’ve added brings it really tightly into focus because, again, it’s what we’re accepting as the nature of God and then what we do as a result of what we accept.
Michelle: Exactly. And we have that responsibility, again, as I mentioned earlier. We really have to examine what God is to us. What are we allowing to be that primary influence, that guiding principle in our lives? And ask ourselves if the overwhelming focus of my attention during the day, for instance, is enabling me to be healed? Is it enabling me to feel good? To be doing well? But more than that is it enabling me to be a healer, to make a contribution in the world? Is it changing the world because the world has to adjust to my sense of reality? And our sense of reality always goes back to our sense of God.
spirituality.com host: Our last question is from Alexander in San Francisco. He says, “How do you move from a point where the readings from the Christian Science Sentinel,The Journal, and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures transform from a good feeling at the time you read to a constant sense of peace and direct connection to God that protects you from the carnal mind?”
Michelle: I guess if the question is, “Do we ever get to stop feeding ourselves?” I would say, no. A steady diet of good ideas has never done anybody harm. But I do understand that sense that we sometimes have of feeling like if we’re not constantly inhaling these good ideas that something is missing. When, in fact, we need to exhale every once in awhile. We take in these good ideas, but we need to have that experience as the questioner articulated, that experience of being able to exhale, of being able to relax and know that these ideas are continuing to be expressed in our lives.
For me, a great aid in digesting the ideas that I read in the Sentinels and Journals and in Science and Health is to not allow any idea to remain “out there” as the author’s idea, for instance. But to really connect with, if I’m reading it at this moment, and if it’s ever been true for anyone, it’s true for me and about me right now. So these aren’t just random ideas that I bump into—some which stick and others that don’t stick. But each idea I engage with is part of that conversation that God is having with me. It’s meeting a specific need. It’s addressing my thought about me, about who I am, and about my universe, where it is that I’m operating, so that what I’m discovering is me and I carry me with me when I put that book down and walk out the door. These ideas then become a part of who I am. And when I make those demands on what I’m reading I often find that the ideas aren’t quite so detached or over my head or not relevant—the different arguments that come up that suggest that we’re not getting anywhere in our study or that it’s not making a connection. It’s all about you. Everything that God is saying at any time and anyplace, it’s about each one of us. And we can claim the full power of these good ideas and get out there and use them.
spirituality.com host: Well, I said I was only going to take two more questions. But could you take one last one, but we have to do it fairly quickly.
spirituality.com host: It’s Marie from Arizona and she says, “What if you live with people who do not support and who counter all the claims of God, good?”
Michelle: Oh Marie, I just honestly don’t think that that is possible. I understand that it can be challenging if somebody’s expressing negativity and you’re trying to think positively and express your sense of spirituality. I understand that it can be a challenge. But it’s a challenge that’s actually good for us because in those instances it requires us to unself our sense of spirituality, maybe to break out of the box a little if we’re finding that our words are being resisted. Sometimes we have to allow simply our expression of good to be the communication tool, the link. At the same time, if we’re looking for others’ spirituality simply in the vocabulary they’re using we sometimes have to broaden our perspective to realize that the inherent love for good absolutely must be expressed by everyone in some way at some time. And it can be a real adventure to stay alert to look for it, to not allow yourself to be broken down. It’s your case for healing. It’s your case for changing your viewpoint of those that are around you to allow yourself to see that the Christ is communicating and that everyone hears it, even if they’re hearing it in a language you don’t understand.
spirituality.com host: That’s very, very helpful. And I just wondered, Michelle, do you have a concluding statement, anything that you feel we haven’t covered that you wish we had?
Michelle: Boy, have we ever covered a lot. You know, what comes to thought is a wonderful passage from the King James Version of the Bible in Psalms, “O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.”
Citations used in this chat:
Science and Health
King James Bible