To Know God Is to Fear Not

 

Betty Ann Ridley, C.S.B., of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,

The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts

 

One day, as an inexperienced passenger in a small aircraft, it was my job to close and lock the exterior door which was located on my side. As we took off, there was a rush of wind and I realized that apparently the door wasn't completely closed when I turned the lock. Fear gripped me. I reached for the hand-hold in the armrest and struggled to keep the door closed. It took all the strength I had. I'd been instructed never to talk to a pilot while taking off as there is much to think about, so I waited, petrified with fear, until we reached cruising altitude.

By then my fingers were aching from the intense effort to hold the door closed. I informed the pilot of the problem. Calmly he reported to the tower by radio that we'd be returning to the airport. Still, I held on with all my might, certain that our safety - our very survival - depended entirely on my strength, my ability to keep the door from flying open. I had terrible mental pictures of being sucked out.

Just imagine the relief when we touched down on the runway! I was told to let go of the hand-hold so the door could be closed, but it was as though my fingers were frozen there and had to be pried loose, one by one. The door was properly secured and again we took off. When we reached cruising altitude, I asked what would have happened if I couldn't have held that door closed. The reply was: "Nothing! The pressure of the wind keeps it closed." I thought of those seemingly endless moments of needless terror! There was nothing to fear. It was my ignorance of aerodynamics that had produced the panic!

The world seems to be full of fears. There are fears on an individual level: fear of loneliness, failure, poverty, fear of accidents and tragedies, disease and death. Aren't we taught by "experts" to be afraid of the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, or of not getting enough exercise, or of getting too much or the wrong kind?

Besides individual fears, doesn't our hi-tech world present fears on a global level to a degree mankind has never known? Through the years, terms such as "ecological peril" and "doomsday clock" have emerged - referring to contamination of our environment or the possible extinction of the human species by nuclear explosion. The plague of AIDS looms as a global threat, and terrorism - senseless slaughter of innocent people to prove a political or religious point - is becoming more of a common occurrence.

Sometimes, isn't it tempting to feel overwhelmed by the perpetual - often desperate - search for solutions to the problems and fears, as mankind struggles to sustain its hope of someday conquering the many threats to our existence. Let's take, for example, one of the world's greatest fears in regard to health. Just mention of the word "cancer" usually rouses fear in people's thoughts. Millions of dollars and years of continuing effort are poured into study and research on the basis that it is our ignorance of cancer - its nature and what causes it - that's responsible for so much suffering and death.

The expectation is that when we learn enough about cancer to cure it, we can then stop being afraid of it. But history shows that when fear of one disease is eradicated, another disease, and consequently another fear, immediately takes its place. The fact that searching for solutions for centuries on a merely human level hasn't eliminated fear or disease on our planet, could indicate that mankind may be looking in the wrong direction. Shouldn't we at least consider the possibility of a radically different approach?

 

The example set by Christ Jesus

What would happen, do you think, if the intensity of attention focused on material means for healing were suddenly diverted to devoting thought entirely to studying, researching, and living the example set by the Master Christian? When you think about it, wasn't he the great problem-solver of all time?

The Bible records that Jesus healed all kinds of diseases, and yet there's no Biblical record of his studying disease or setting up research programs in order to figure out how to heal it. Instead he spent long periods - often all night - communing with God. He spoke of God as his Father and said: ". . . I know him, and keep his saying" (John 8:55). Aren't we compelled to conclude that Jesus' healing power - his fearlessness - was irrevocably linked to what he knew of God and His law? Didn't Christ Jesus prove that God is the great Physician?

Can we even imagine what would happen if every laboratory set up for the study of disease were suddenly converted to the study of God's nature and of His law? That may seem a startling thought, but if we're to be followers of the Christ and do the healing works Jesus did, as he said we could and should, what is required of us? The Master's instructions are clearly stated. They're emphatic and simple. He says: "Fear not . . ." (Luke 8:50); and "Be not afraid . . ." (Mark 5:36). Does this indicate that fearlessness is a basic element in Jesus' method of healing? The expression of fearlessness characterizes the Christ. Jesus demonstrated - thus setting the example for us - that a consciousness without fear can overcome any adversity.

But how is it possible today to "fear not" when worldwide communications report disasters, diseases, and threats of war on a twenty-four hour basis? Don't we have to ask ourselves whether Jesus' simple instruction to "fear not" applies in the face of twentieth century burgeoning threats? Perhaps we could use our opening illustration - the fear I felt in the airplane - to see the basis of fear and how to eliminate it and thus be obedient to the Master and follow his example of fearlessness. Just as my fear resulted from ignorance of the principles of aerodynamics, could it be that the fears which beset mankind in regard to their lives and safety stem from ignorance - a misconception or at least a limited awareness - of the underlying protective Principle of the universe?

Our concept of God is the very foundation of our lives. Our concept of God, whatever that may be, has a great influence on our lives because it determines everything we think, say, and do. It determines not only our view of the world we live in, but also whether we conquer fear or just learn to live with it. That's why devotion of thought to the study of God's nature and law deserves to be our top priority.

In a book, notable among other things for its ability to stir people's thinking, there is this thought-provoking statement: "It is our ignorance of God, the divine Principle, which produces apparent discord, and the right understanding of Him restores harmony" (S&H 390:7). The book is Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Its author is Mary Baker Eddy, whose discovery of Christian Science proves that spiritual healing as Jesus practiced it has a method anyone can learn and follow.

 

The example set by Mary Baker Eddy

There's an inspiring fact about Mary Baker Eddy's life which compels one to think deeply about what she writes. She was a healer - in the same sense that the early Christians were healers. Mrs. Eddy says of her discovery that it ". . . promises nothing but blessings to every inhabitant of the globe" (The Christian Science Journal, June 1887, "Mind-Healing History," by Rev. Mary Baker G. Eddy. p. 116).

It is recorded that Mrs. Eddy healed instantaneously a cancer that had eaten its way to the jugular vein. How does such a healing occur? According to a biographer, the sight was so awful that Mrs. Eddy "turned away and knew in the most positive way that God knew nothing of such a thing" (Robert Peel, Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Trial [New York: Holt. Rinehart and Winston, 1971], p. 140).

Mrs. Eddy describes in detail the state of thought which resulted in the healing. She writes: "When I have most clearly seen and most sensibly felt that the infinite recognizes no disease, this has not separated me from God, but has so bound me to Him as to enable me instantaneously to heal a cancer which had eaten its way to the jugular vein" (Un. 7:8). What living proof of her statement that the right understanding of God restores harmony!

 

Fears and problems stem from misconception of God

Mary Baker Eddy credits the Bible as basic authority for the ideas proposed in her book, Science and Health. Study of the Scriptures reveals to the searcher that one of the great lessons the Bible teaches is that our fears are founded in a misconception - or false concept - of God, which produces whatever discord appears in our lives.

Think of the story of Job! It's virtually a microcosm of the thoughts - the fears vs. hope, doubt vs. faith - contending in the human consciousness. Job is described in the Bible as a "perfect and upright" man (Job 1:1), and yet he lost his family, his livelihood, possessions, and eventually his health. Perhaps many of us have felt we could relate to Job with problems multiplying, sorrow upon sorrow, pain added to pain, threats on every side. Maybe we've even echoed Job's words: ". . . the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me. . ." (Job 3:25).

Such adversity impels one to ask deep questions concerning the meaning of life - questions concerning the presence and nature of a Supreme Being, or one universal creator, God. And so it was with Job. It's not unusual in the midst of all that hardship and suffering for Job to conclude that God gives and at the same time takes away. Job asks the question, ". . . shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?" (Job 2:10). Doesn't this question reveal Job's concept of God? And doesn't this question symbolize much of the world's unthinking concept of God?

To believe that we receive both good and evil at the hand of God implies belief in a God who is a dual nature of good and evil, or at least, a God who is good but not all-powerful because He permits an evil force to exist. The attempt to worship or trust such a God results in confusion and fear. How can we believe and trust God to be good and pray to Him with confidence if we believe that He causes or permits evil?

It's really not surprising that many people just learn to live with fear. They go about the business of living but with an underlying uncertainty of the future and what it may bring. Before learning of Christian Science, I didn't know there was any other way to think and live.

As a teenager, I lost my parents. At the time my mother died, a well-meaning friend of hers attempted to explain her untimely death as the will of God. She said God always chooses the loveliest flower in His garden and had taken my mother to be with Him. In the natural way a child reasons, I wondered who wants anything to do with a God like that - a God who would take a fourteen-year-old girl's mother? How could we trust a God who does both good and evil?

Not long after the loss of my parents came the loss of my health. There were years of medical treatment to no avail. I could relate to Job's multiplied adversity, the struggle with self-pity signaled by the questions which come to one's thought: "Why me?" "Have I sinned and am being punished?" "Is God teaching me a lesson?" Or, "Has He forgotten me?" Even, "Why was I ever born?" I could say with Job, ". . . the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me."

 

The Bible and Science and Health reveal God's true nature

I didn't realize then what my concept or misconcept of God had to do with my fears and my problems. A radically different view of my relationship to God was needed if I was to learn to silence fear. This view came through the book I mentioned earlier, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy.

With the gift of that book came the advice of the giver: "Don't try to make what you've ever believed fit with what you read here. This book is alive with ideas - spiritual ideas. Don't argue with them. Read until you find one that makes sense to you, then close the book and use the idea." What excellent instruction for one beginning to read this book, Science and Health, for the first time.

One of the first sentences that virtually leaped off the page for me was, "It is our ignorance of God, the divine Principle, which produces apparent discord, and the right understanding of Him restores harmony" (S&H 390:7). "Is it possible," I wondered, "that ignorance or an unenlightened sense of God's true nature has something to do with my accumulating human problems, and the right understanding of God would restore harmony to my life?" If so, who is to say what is the "right understanding" of God, and how does one gain it?

In a chapter called "Glossary." I found a definition of God. Think of that! Who could know God so well as to define Him? People talk about God and write about Him, but to define Him? Nothing I had ever read before zeroed right in and told precisely what God is - and in such simple, non-contradictory, terms. I thought, "Who is this woman, Mary Baker Eddy, that she, in a few incisive words, can define God?"

I understand now what I didn't know then - one of the reasons Christian Scientists speak of Mary Baker Eddy as their Leader. Her writings lead the reader back to the Bible where Mrs. Eddy found the terms used to define God. She's quoted as saying: "It has always been my desire and expectation that my book should encourage more and more people to read the Bible" (William Dana Orcutt, Mary Baker Eddy and Her Books [Boston: The Christian Science Publishing Society, 1950), pp. 61-62). Her inspired book, Science and Health, is simply the "key" to understanding the spiritual intent - the spirit - behind the words of Scripture.

There in the Bible, clear as crystal, I found God as Mary Baker Eddy defines Him - in such terms as Love, Truth, Spirit: God as all-knowing, all-seeing, all-wise, all-loving. How perfectly logical! God, whom the disciple John describes as Love, would have to be all-loving. Just think of the implications of that!

 

Knowing God as infinite good eliminates fear

I began to feel a confident sense of God's infinite goodness. I learned that the words "God" and "good" are synonymous in at least twenty languages. I reasoned this way: "If God is good, can He do or cause or permit anything contrary to His nature? It would be impossible for an infinitely good God to allow His children to sin or to suffer!"

Isn't this the lesson Job had to learn? He asked a searching question (and this is from The New English Bible translation): "Would he (God) exert his great power to browbeat

me?"  His answer shows a great change taking place in Job's thought: "No; God himself would never bring a charge against me" (Job 23:6, The New English Bible). What is this verse saying to us? Perhaps this is the Bible's way of teaching us that God would never make man, His child, capable of sin and then punish him for it.

Job's long struggle finally brought him to the recognition or right understanding of God as only good, the only power, the only doer. He said finally, "thou canst do all things" (Job 42:2, The New English Bible). This right understanding of God as the only presence, the only power, the only doer, restored harmony to Job's life. The story of Job illustrates the Biblical basis of Mrs. Eddy's statement, "It is our ignorance of God . . . which produces apparent discord and the right understanding of Him restores harmony."

The idea of God caring for, instead of "browbeating," His children had the same effect on my life as it had on Job's. A correct view of God's nature as infinite good dissolves fear much as understanding aerodynamics would have prevented my being afraid the door would fly open in the airplane.

The years of believing that disease and suffering are an inescapable concomitant of life began to give way to the sweet assurance of divine Love's ever-presence. This change of thought about God's nature eventually and inevitably changed my concept of man. I began to see the male and female of God's creating - the image and likeness of a perfect Father-Mother God - as stated in the first chapter of Genesis.

When we think of God as ever-present Love, the loving Principle which creates and governs the universe, isn't it impossible then to fear that God's creation, man and woman, can be uncared for, out of control, or in trouble? These ideas were extraordinary to someone like me who'd never thought of myself as anything but a mortal, made out of matter or dust as in the Adam and Eve story, born into a material world and destined from birth to die. That certainly is the appearance, isn't it? And if we know no other way, appearance is what we judge by.

But the teachings of Christian Science compelled me to re-think my identity according to the Bible's opening chapter, which describes man and woman as made in the image and likeness of God. And Christian Science shows us, first through reason and logic and then by proof, that this description of man and woman is a relevant present-day fact. That spiritual fact has little meaning, though, until one begins to know precisely what God is. One cannot know an image until he knows the original. The nature of the image cannot be different from the nature of the original.

Thinking deeply on this subject demands that one question the origin and validity of disease. If God is good, if He is Love and loving, He cannot make disease, that is, something contrary to His nature. Identifying oneself as the image of God, how could one have a disease or the effects of a disease when the nature of the image cannot be different from the nature of the original?

If this seems difficult to comprehend for anyone accustomed to believing in disease (as I was), we have only to ask ourselves where in the ever-presence of divine Love could disease exist? As astounding as this thought may be, contemplating it had an immediate effect on my body. The residual damage of the debilitating disease called "polio," which the best of medical men had pronounced permanent, was gone. That was my first encounter with what I learned later is called "Christian Science treatment."

I didn't understand the method by which I'd been healed. All I knew was at that moment I felt safe and close to God. Aren't such experiences proofs that God is knowable by man here and now as the Bible promises? The Scriptures say, ". . . they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord . . ." (Jer. 31:34). And don't such experiences prove that "the right understanding of Him (God) does restore harmony, as Mary Baker Eddy says in Science and Health?

This healing opened a whole new way of life for me. Not only was I able to move about freely again - without pain and with vigor - but the great import was I'd begun to see that when we really understand God to be infinite good, we cannot be afraid. It's only when we have a misconception of God as a combination of good and evil, or as permitting evil, that we're inevitably afraid, and our fears act like magnets attracting that which we fear. Job said, "The thing which I greatly feared is come upon me."

It was important to me to learn the method by which I'd been healed. We had three small children and wanted for them the very best. What could provide better protection and healing for our children, as well as ourselves, than the method Christ Jesus demonstrated?

With the "key" Science and Health gives us, the Scriptures become a veritable textbook by teaching the Christ-method of healing - the principle, rules, or Science of Christ. It all depends on understanding God and man's identity as God's child. What a thrill to discover that spiritual healing as Jesus practiced it is learnable - actually demonstrable - by us today!

Remembering my friend's advice to immediately put into practice what I read as the best way to learn, I found this sentence in Science and Health, "God is everywhere, and nothing apart from Him is present or has power" (473:8). That idea arrested my attention. It made me aware of how unconsciously contradictory my opinion of God had been! We give lip service to the word "omnipresent," but do we carry its meaning to the only logical conclusion? If God is all-presence, the only presence, then it follows, ". . . nothing apart from Him is present or has power."

Earlier I might have accepted that statement as merely a lovely theory. Now, because of my healing, it was so much more - a consistently provable fact. And the opportunity for proof came in abundance!

Our three-year-old daughter tumbled down a flight of steps one day. I heard the scream and ran to her. She'd fallen on her arm and couldn't move her fingers or elbow. My immediate reaction was fear. We'd been studying Christian Science such a short time. Did we know enough to heal what appeared to be a broken arm? Then those words from Science and Health came to my rescue: "God is everywhere, and nothing apart from Him is present or has power."

In a crisis don't we turn to whatever we trust? Even if we're just beginning to understand that God is the only presence and power, don't we naturally turn to Him - to the only power there is - in time of need?

I look the child in my arms, and we sat in our favorite rocking chair. I spoke to her of God's presence and power and His love for His children. In spite of the pain, she became calm. We talked about the possibility of having the arm set. It surprised me a bit and certainly fortified my courage when she said firmly. "No, I just want to trust God." That little one had probably been in the Christian Science Sunday School only a dozen or so times, and yet how spontaneously and with what confidence the purity of a childlike thought turns to God!

Together we prayed. We'd been learning in Christian Science a higher and more meaningful, more powerful, sense of prayer than we'd ever known before. And yet it's so simple. Prayer isn't asking God to be God or to be good. It is first understanding that He is infinite good - the one all-powerful, ever-present creator. Then, secondly and just as important, it's being consistent in our thinking, that is, acknowledging the goodness, the perfection of God's creation - in this case, the perfection of our daughter.

This concept of prayer requires us to have more confidence in what we know about God than we have in what our eyes see. Is this perhaps what Jesus meant when he said, "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24)?

What a precious time this was for a mother and child to search the Scriptures together! The Bible provides endless inspiration, encouragement and specific rules to follow. Isaiah quotes God as saying, "Fear not." How often those words are repeated in the Scriptures authorized by a "Thus saith the Lord"! God's words, "Fear not: for I am with thee . . ." (Isa. 43:5), are not only comforting, they are divine law to be lived.

When the disciple John speaks of God as Love, he says, "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear . . ." (I John 4:18). According to this Biblical definition, fearful thoughts indicate ignorance of God as ever-present Love.

The expression of God as Love, without fear, is the Christ. Isn't Christ what Jesus was exemplifying when he said with authority to a parent whose daughter was reported dead: "Fear not; believe only, and she shall be made whole" (Luke 8:50)? There's the compassionate Christ-approach to the care and healing of children. In our vastly complex technological world of today, does this sound like too simple an approach to raising the dead?

By Jesus' own definition his words are divine law, and divine law does not change. If obliteration of fear was primary to healing the sick and raising the dead in Jesus' time, then it's primary to healing today. And Christian Science treatment or prayer follows the Christly method: "Fear not: believe only."

Mrs. Eddy states, "The Hebrew and Greek words often translated belief differ somewhat in meaning from that conveyed by the English verb believe: they have more the significance of faith, understanding, trust, constancy, firmness. Hence the Scriptures often appear in our common version to approve and endorse belief, when they mean to enforce the necessity of understanding" (S&H 488:7).

A consciousness full of the understanding of God's nature as Love is full of faith and trust and cannot at the same time be afraid. Isn't this true prayer as the Master taught it -  no element of doubt or fear but complete trust in God?

The Christ - the expression of God's love - heals today as it did in the time of Jesus and as he promised it would for all time. Very quickly our daughter's arm was normal, and the little girl was playing freely on the jungle gym. There was proof of God's care we would never forget.

But spiritual healing - that is, healing through dependence on God alone - is always so much more than just seeing an injury or a disease healed. It's a by-product of the right understanding of God and His creation and obedience to His law. Such experiences are opportunities to prove that there's no reason to be afraid, as we discover within ourselves the faith that is natural to God's children - faith in God's ever-presence. And God's ever-presence means He's never absent. So there's never a moment when one of God's children is outside or cut off from the love and care of God.

What greater privilege and duty does a parent have than to teach his child to know and to feel God's love and His healing power! A child learns quickly that the right understanding of God silences fear and points to the solution of problems. There were to be many more proofs of healing in our family through the years. Asthma, heart murmur, acute appendicitis, broken bones, and much more - all were healed through prayer -through Christian Science treatment.

 

Knowing God as Father-Mother eliminates fear

Still deep down, there remained an unhealed hurt over the loss of my parents. There was a vacant feeling like something was missing in my life. Don't we long to feel that sense of belonging that human parents represent? What we learn is that human belonging, sweet as it sometimes may be, is nevertheless only a hint of the joy that is ours when we understand God to be our Father and our Mother.

Mrs. Eddy's writings indicate God's Motherhood is no less significant than God's Fatherhood. And what a sense of our own completeness we gain - a feeling of security and fearlessness - when we are aware that God is our Father and our Mother.

Mary Baker Eddy stands out among Bible students as one who recognized and proclaimed to the world the profound fact of God's Motherhood as well as God's Fatherhood. But Mrs. Eddy's term for God, Father-Mother, isn't original with her. Its dynamic spiritual fact is firmly rooted in Scripture. Isaiah says, ". . . thou, O Lord, art our father . . ." (Isa. 63:16); and just three chapters later, he quotes God, "For thus saith the Lord . . . As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you . . ." (Isa. 66:12,13).

Ignorance of God as Father-Mother produces feelings of loneliness and fear of having no family. The right understanding of Him as Father-Mother restores harmony, that is, a sense of one's identity as the beloved child of God forever inseparable from his Father-Mother and cared for without interruption. This understanding gives us a perpetual warm feeling of belonging.

When parents have a clear sense - a conscious awareness - of God's Fatherhood and Motherhood, children are then taught their true identity as sons and daughters - each the image and likeness - of God. So when they're confronted with challenges, whether at school, home, or even a physical emergency - a crisis of some kind - they know how to turn confidently in prayer to their true Father-Mother as Jesus did and find solutions to their problems.

 

 

Knowing God as the only substance eliminates fear

One winter day our younger son was adjusting the chain of a dirt bike while its engine was still running. His gloved hand caught in the chain and pulled two of his fingers in, destroying them to the first knuckle.

Even though there had been many opportunities through the years to learn lessons in fearlessness, still, in this case it was a challenge to silence the fear. But what were Jesus' words to the parents whose child was reported dead? "Fear not: believe only," and then Jesus promised the child would be made whole. The loving Master would never have told us to fear. Nor would he have told us to "be not afraid" if that wasn't possible or if it wasn't the most natural and effective way for God's child to think and to act.

Mrs. Eddy says in Science and Health, "Christian scientific practice begins with Christ's keynote of harmony, 'Be not afraid!' " (410:29). But how is it possible not to be afraid when the injury looks so frightening? Remember Jesus' command, "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment."

There's no formula for the way individual Christian Scientists will approach any problem to solve it, but their prayer - their treatment - will always be in accord with the method taught and practiced by the Master. It will be on a Biblical basis of what God's nature is. To the degree that we understand the nature of God - to that degree do we know the nature of man as God's image. That is "righteous judgment." And in this way only can we master fear.

If ever we feel we don't know where to begin, we can always look to the Bible for reassurance. I could remember reading that the multitudes came to Jesus, ". . . having with them those that were lame, blind, dumb, maimed, . . . and he healed them" (Matt. 15:30). The maimed healed! What an encouragement to us when faced with that injured hand!

The appearance was that our son had lost some of his substance, specifically a considerable portion of two fingers. The fear was that the substance of those two fingers couldn't be restored. But Jesus gave his word that those who believe (understand) him can heal as he did. And Christian Science reveals the Science or specific rules with which to prove that the Christ is present to heal today as it did in Jesus' time.

As we talked about these Biblical promises, the fear and the shock began to subside. At a time like that, one thinks through again where he's going to put his trust. This young man had a decision to make. For twelve years, ever since infancy, he had learned to know and trust God. When one's faith in God is well founded in understanding God's nature, healing through prayer is the most natural approach to solving every problem. And this was his choice.

The immediate need was to clean the grease out of the wounds. We prayed earnestly for God to show us what to do. Because we'd never had such a need, I didn't know much about Christian Science nurses except that they're trained professionals, skilled in meeting the human need healing. We soon came to appreciate the great service they perform.

Within thirty minutes of receiving our call, an efficient uniformed nurse was at our door. What a sense of courage and joy that dear woman brought into our home. Without medication, and with no fearful diagnosis or prognosis, the hand was quickly and thoroughly cleaned and bandaged. The boy missed only one day of school. The Christian Science nurse came each morning at 7:00 a.m. for several months. While she changed the bandage, my son and I sang hymns, read the Bible and Science and Health, and prayed earnestly.

Through our study of the Scriptures with the "key" Science and Health gives, we were expanding our understanding of God - learning that substance is an aspect of God's nature. It's one of the words Mrs. Eddy uses to define God and can be thought of as a synonym for God. We reasoned this way: Because God is good and ever-present - because He is Spirit - then it follows that true substance is spiritual, not material. Because man is the image and likeness of God, of Spirit, then man's substance - specifically in this case, our son's substance - is spiritual, not material, and it cannot be injured or lost.

It is ignorance of God - of what true substance is - that produces the fear and the appearance of mangled substance, and the right understanding of God as the only true substance restores harmony. This was proved when one morning, about six months after the accident, the nurse interrupted our hymn singing to announce. "I see signs of progress." Some months later, when she removed the bandages, the two fingers had grown to their normal length. However, there were no nails.

We persisted in our daily, hourly efforts to understand the nature of God, Spirit, as the only substance. Every time the mental picture of that accident came to thought, we would replace it with what we were learning about true substance. Eventually the nail beds formed and new nails appeared. The healing was complete and has remained permanent to this day.

Of course we were all deeply grateful that the hand was restored to normalcy, but so much more than fingers had grown through those months. Challenges force us to expand our understanding of God, and the healing that results is a victory over fear and a strengthening to the individual forever. This healing has been a continuing inspiration and law with infinite ramifications which extend to all human problems.

Just think of the implications in regard to what some call the ultimate of all fears - that of a nuclear holocaust. One author labels the nuclear problem "an urgent threat to our whole human substance" (Jonathan Schell, The Fate of the Earth [London: Pan Books Ltd., 1982] p. 222). The fear that the substance of our earth and its inhabitants can be destroyed, never to be restored, is the same threat on a global level as our family faced on an individual level with our son's injured hand, the fear that a portion of his substance was irretrievably lost. The divine law which was demonstrated on an individual level can be demonstrated on a global level.

There are those who assert there's no solution to the nuclear problem because the bomb cannot be disinvented. They claim that even if we were to achieve international disarmament, the know-how would still exist. So mankind must live with the fear forever. It's no wonder many people are left with little hope for world peace.

Perhaps the solution is so simple it escapes notice. The Bible as the Word of God holds the ultimate solution to all human problems, and Christian Science awakens us to see the striking simplicity of Scriptural rules. For example, "Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace . . . " (Job. 22:21). Can we conclude that the Bible's recipe for world peace is

to know God - "Acquaint now thyself with him" - and of course, to live according to His law? When we see how our problems and fears are related to our concept of God, this gives us a clear and certain Biblical direction for solving problems - both individually and collectively.

Right this minute as we begin mentally to sort through the fears we want to see healed for ourselves and our world, we can be encouraged by the fact that the simplest, childlike understanding of God as our loving Father-Mother, as ever-present, infinite good, the only substance - begins to dissolve fear and can heal the most threatening circumstance.

We don't have to just live with fear. We don't have to struggle to get rid of it. We just need to know the nature of God and our relationship to Him. That's not a one-time thing we do, but rather an ongoing ever-expanding process. As our understanding of God expands, and in proportion as we live what we're learning, our feeling of safety and assurance expands. To know God is to fear not. And there's no other way.

 

[1985.]

 

 

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