When life isn’t easy

I used to think that if I prayed really hard, and really well, and if I did all the right things like going to Sunday School and reading the weekly Christian Science Bible Lesson, then life would be easy. Other people would face challenges and have emotional lows and highs, but not me.

Then, in college, when I did have some struggles, I felt confused and even a little resentful. I was doing everything “right,” so why were things going so wrong? I assumed it must be my fault, and if I were just better at praying, these things wouldn’t be happening. I swung between peaks of feeling happy about my life when things did seem to be going well, to deep valleys when it seemed like nothing was turning out the way it was supposed to.

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I was doing everything “right,” so why were things going so wrong?

One valley came shortly after college when my best friend moved away from the new city where we were both living and I felt completely abandoned and alone. Why was this happening? Didn’t God love me?

In despair, I turned to the Bible Lesson and was startled when my eyes fell on this passage: “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 10:7).

I blinked, looked at it again, and a feeling of hope surged within me. Was it possible that I’d had it wrong all this time? I’d been looking at the disappointments and challenges in my life as proof that what I thought I knew about God wasn’t true, or that through my own shortcomings I could somehow separate myself from God’s goodness. 

But this passage offered a different viewpoint. It told me that God’s kingdom, the enduring presence of God’s love and care for each of us, was already here. I didn’t have to wait to find it again in the future when things changed and I made new friends. I was always comforted and companioned because God, divine Love, was the reliable source of everything good in my life.

I realized that I’d been looking at things from the wrong direction. I’d been staring at the problems and trying to figure out why they were happening and why God wasn’t there. But that wasn’t how Christ Jesus did it. Day after day, he saw people who were sick, struggling, and hopeless. And yet he still taught his followers to believe in the presence of the kingdom of heaven. “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” was the fundamental fact of his ministry: that in spite of everything they seemed to see and hear, God’s saving power was actually the reality, and it was right there.

Jesus didn’t ask, “Where is God?” or, “What am I doing wrong?” Instead, he knew so clearly what God is and what God does—that God is the irresistible, ever-presence of good, protecting and governing all of us—that this pure understanding brought light to even the darkest situations. People were healed. Problems were solved.

Jesus didn’t ask, “Where is God?” or, “What am I doing wrong?”

I was healed of my feelings of loneliness and friendlessness that day as I felt in a tangible way that Christ Jesus’ promise was for me, too. I was always in God’s kingdom and no circumstance could interrupt my connection to divine Love. And even though I didn’t make a new close friend for a few months after that, I was amazed to discover that I never felt lost or alone. I actually felt totally secure and happy.

The bigger takeaway for me, though, was in the way I looked at challenges. I’ve realized since then that instead of asking “Why is this happening” when a problem comes my way, blaming myself, or assuming God must not love me after all, I simply need to approach the problem from the other direction. To believe in God more than I do in the disappointment. To have such a clear perception of God’s presence and power that fear or pain seems less compelling—and ultimately, powerless. To get off the roller coaster of emotional highs and lows as I realize the steadiness and constancy of living in God’s kingdom.

Sure, I still struggle just like everyone else. But I’m also seeing a lot more healing in my life—as I realize that the storms we face are nothing in comparison to the mighty power of divine Love, and then wake up to that fact.

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