Fiction: “If I read the Christian Science Bible Lesson, go to Sunday School, and pray regularly, then I shouldn’t have any problems.”
Fact: I used to have an underlying belief that I was exempt from the kinds of problems other people faced because I was a Christian Scientist. Maybe it was because I’d had a pretty problem-free life growing up. Maybe it was because most of the problems I did have were dealt with fairly quickly and easily through my parents’ prayers. Maybe it was even the things I’d heard from the adult Christian Scientists in my life—about being perfect as God’s child.
But I was wrong.
When I was in graduate school, I was hit with successive personal and family tragedies. It didn’t make sense; this wasn’t supposed to happen to me. I prayed; I followed all the moral rules; I even went to the Christian Science Reading Room on a regular basis. Also, I’d had Christian Science class instruction! And still, my life was a mess.
After a while, I started counting the tragedies. When I got up to number seven, a friend who knew the whole sad story said, “You know, the hymn says, ‘From glory unto glory’—not from tragedy unto tragedy” (Frances R. Havergal, Christian Science Hymnal No. 65 , adapt. © CSBD).
I knew the hymn she was talking about, and I lived with that song for a while. Its words rang true. I loved the opening line—the one my friend had quoted—but it was the last lines of the first verse that gave me hope: “What wisdom is revealed to us, / What freedom we may know.” I felt the power of that hymn telling me that there was a way out. And for me, that way out was understanding my relationship to God better. I couldn’t just know Him intellectually. I needed to actually feel His presence and power.
The second stanza of the hymn says:
The fullness of His blessing
Encompasseth our way;
The fullness of His promise
Crowns every dawning day;
The fullness of His glory
Is shining from above,
While more and more we learn to know
The fullness of His love.
It dawned on me that I didn’t just want the problems to go away. I genuinely wanted to feel “the fullness of His love.” I found I cared more about my salvation in a holistic sense than about just checking problems off a list and being done with them. I craved a deep feeling of connection to God, because in spite of the tragedies, I maintained a conviction that God was good, and that I could wake up to this goodness in my own life. As I did, the series of tragedies stopped. I was able to navigate difficult circumstances as I listened closely to God’s direction. And I experienced freedom from pain and loss, just as the hymn had promised.
I learned something big from this experience: I probably wasn’t going to live a problem-free life. Jesus didn’t. Neither did Mary Baker Eddy. But while I might face the same problems that everyone else does, I realized that I’d be dealing with them differently, because I had Christian Science. And Christian Science doesn’t just make the bad things bearable; it actually allows us to get to the root of issues and find deep and lasting freedom and healing.
Whatever struggles we deal with in our lives, they are no measure of our “success” or “failure” as Christian Scientists. They are struggles that everyone has to face as we confront false concepts about life and existence and learn more about who God really is. The assurance we have is that we are cared for and safe in this journey, because God’s full blessing truly does accompany our every step.