“I’m firing off a load of applications and just hoping that one of them sticks somewhere,” a friend told me recently. He went on to explain how uncertain, insecure, and grim he felt the job market to be—with more and more highly qualified people chasing fewer opportunities, the odds are stacked intimidatingly against the job seeker.
I was glad to be able to share with this man a different perspective—one grounded in my own experience. I told him that my study of Christian Science has had a profound and positive impact on my career.
As a young man, I had been out of work for about nine months after resigning from a small business where my co-director and I were no longer seeing eye to eye on some important issues. I had tried to start up a couple of new initiatives, but they had not succeeded. The economy was in recession; I felt my optimism draining away and my career expectations collapsing. My applications for various jobs were producing nothing. It was depressing.
I was familiar with the Bible accounts of individuals who knew God as their heavenly Father—always loving, always resourceful, always available.
But I was familiar with the Bible accounts of individuals who knew God as their heavenly Father—always loving, always resourceful, always available—and who humbly and trustfully prayed for guidance when facing crises. They understood divine wisdom not as some ethereal, obscure quality, but as concretely present, accessible, practical, and effective. In the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy describes God as infinite Mind, and the source of all intelligence, not selectively made available to favored people in a bygone era, but always ready to be called upon, and more than equal to any challenge we might encounter. Like those individuals in the Bible, I knew that this was how I, too, was going to find answers.
At first I thought wistfully about the Bible account of the Apostle Peter’s rescue from prison in the book of Acts, chapter 12. His teaching and healings threatened the established order, and he had been locked up. I too felt hemmed in with no obvious exit route! But thanks to the prayers of Peter’s fellow Christians (and undoubtedly his own), “the angel of the Lord came upon him.” We can think of this angel as an inspired, purposeful, and powerful idea from God, for “he smote Peter on the side,” and “his chains fell off from his hands.” And then “the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me.” How I wished such an angel would appear for me, too, saying, “Come on, get your coat, let’s go!”
But Peter was, quite clearly, in a far more receptive state of thought than I was. I decided to contact a Christian Science practitioner and ask for help. I knew there needed to be a shift in my thought onto more productive lines. I will never forget the practitioner’s bright and brisk response, which emphasized the need to trust God first and foremost, and follow divine leading, rather than trusting my own willful efforts to find work. She instructed me to read Hymn 148 from the Christian Science Hymnal; and she told me to stop worrying!
I read the hymn several times, and I gradually felt a sense of divine Love’s tender reassurance and an expectation of guidance. Every single line seemed to speak directly to me—for example, “He knows the way He taketh, / And I will walk with Him” (Anna L. Waring). From that day to this, that hymn has never been far from my thought.
We can take comfort in knowing that God’s children are never left without divine direction and guidance.
The practitioner also urged me to see myself differently. I could see I needed to reject the material concept of myself as an inadequate, impoverished mortal victimized by environmental conditions, and value my usefulness as a son of God. I also gave thanks for my qualifications and experience, knowing that they would enable me to help others wherever I found myself.
I began to realize that, as a part of God’s spiritual creation, each of us occupies a unique place where we express those qualities that are ours as the spiritual offspring of our heavenly Father-Mother. How could an all-wise, all-loving God not provide the opportunity for His creation to express that wisdom, that love? And I saw that I should expect such an opportunity. How things were going to work out, I did not know. But I gradually became confident that God was providing everything I needed, furnishing that opportunity to make my unique contribution; and I trusted that sooner or later I was going to find it.
I did have some ideas about what I was good at, and even had an “ideal” job in mind. But—and this is important—I could see that I should not try to outline what that place looked like. God most certainly did not need my advice on that point, or indeed on any other points!
I did some more job research, in a greatly improved state of mind, and sent my details off to a division of a large telecommunications company. What happened next still fills me with wonder and gratitude. A few days later, on a Sunday evening, I got a call from the personnel manager of the division, inviting me for an interview. At the interview he described a job that I had never imagined doing, but that represented a superb fit for me and a great opportunity to learn. He also said that the same day my CV landed on his desk, he had received a request from the hiring manager asking him to look outside the company for someone with a fresh view of things, as nobody quite right could be found within. Two further interviews followed immediately, and I was offered the job—a rewarding position that effectively relaunched my career.
“God is All-in-all,” writes Mary Baker Eddy in Unity of Good. “Hence He is in Himself only, in His own nature and character, and is perfect being, or consciousness. He is all the Life and Mind there is or can be. Within Himself is every embodiment of Life and Mind” (p. 3). That is a radical statement of absolute truth. But it connects directly to our experience, because beginning later on that page, the book states: “Now this self-same God is our helper. He pities us. He has mercy upon us, and guides every event of our careers.” And that guidance continued to direct me in unexpected ways throughout my career.
We do need to be alive to the possibilities Mrs. Eddy writes about in Science and Health, such as this one: “Each successive stage of experience unfolds new views of divine goodness and love” (p. 66). And on page 454: “Love inspires, illumines, designates, and leads the way.” It can take a great deal of humility and trust to abandon our own preconceived ideas about what our job should be, where, or with whom and be alert to divine guidance.
I experienced an unexpected new view later in my career, when I was employed by a large multinational firm. At one point I was seeking a new position within the firm. I was supporting my search by asserting my God-given right and duty to express more insight, more strength, more compassion—those qualities that are innate in each of us as men and women made “in the image of God” (Genesis 1:27). I also strove not to see myself as scrabbling in a competitive and complicated environment for more status and salary.
I had a number of exploratory conversations with senior managers about possible openings, but none seemed right. At the very end of one such meeting, we had agreed that this manager’s team wasn’t the place for me, and I was halfway out the door when he suddenly recalled a conversation he had had earlier that week with a colleague who had a need. One thing led to another, and I ended up working for that colleague in one of the most exciting and enriching jobs I could have imagined. My new boss was exceptionally able, and I learned a huge amount from him; through that experience I was able to make substantial contributions to the firm’s business ethics agenda until I retired—and moved on to new challenges.
As we look at today’s rapidly changing world, when the difficulties can sometimes seem overwhelming and the opportunities unfathomable, we can take comfort in knowing that God’s children are never left without divine direction and guidance. We may pass through challenging and unexpected phases, but as we trust our wise and loving Father-Mother God to guide us, we can learn, and grow, and make a unique and valuable contribution at every stage of our career.