The poor suffering heart needs its rightful nutriment, such as peace,patience in tribulation, and a priceless sense of the dear Father’s loving-kindness.
Mary Baker Eddy
(Science and Health 365:31)
The influence and power of good never die
By Richard Bergenheim
From the November 4, 2002 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel
THAT’S PROBABLY a strong statement to lead off with, but over the years it is the key lesson I’ve learned when I’ve had to deal with the passing of people who have been close to me.
I’ve been thinking about this more than usual, because the practice of observing the anniversary of people’s deaths is increasing. Along with this trend is a tendency to relive the events that led to someone’s passing, rather than focusing on the substance of their life.
Whether we are talking about a public tragedy or the passing of a family member or friend, there is little question that death challenges us. Grief and the feeling of loss often strike hard. In most cases, family or a community of friends pulls together to give support. But sometimes, long after this gathering of support slows down or ends, the spiritual need, the need for comfort and wholeness, remains. Often we wrestle not just with the passing, but with the ideas about death that have been shared with us. Several times this year when I’ve spoken with friends about the unending nature of God’s love, they’ve replied, “Don’t talk to me about that.”
Probing carefully, I’ve found that some people are angry with God. In several cases, friends had shared the common idea that “God needed him or her” or “God took them.” And their reply has been, “Well, I needed him more.” These well-meaning thoughts from friends need to be looked at a bit more closely.
Some people have found comfort in this idea, but others are angered by it. To me, it raises the question, Does divine Love cause death? That seems impossible. Throughout his ministry Jesus delivered people from death. He didn’t tell a frightened and grieving father, “God needs your daughter now.” He brought her back to life and restored her to her family.
Jesus emphasized the point that God’s love and power are with us all, now. That we are in His presence, now. In so many ways, Jesus brings out the point that God doesn’t take us, but that we are already God’s and can feel and experience the power of His love here, now.
Should we be angry with God for something He has not done? St. Paul learned from long experience that nothing can ever cut us off from the great divine Love that is God. He is the giver of good, and He never withdraws His goodness from us.
Death does not bring us closer to God. A sense of life in and with God does this. As we pray earnestly to overcome the effects of death, which Jesus called an “enemy,” we discover that our unity with God, and our friends’ unity with God, continues uninterrupted.
It’s possible to wake up from grief and loss—to discover that the goodness and love between close friends remain. They really are never lost. There’s no question some days I wish I could sit down and talk with friends who have passed away, or just be with them as I was in times gone by. But while I have lost their physical presence, I have learned that their goodness, their love, their example, remain a strong presence in my life. Death has not robbed me of this. It cannot do so.
Mary Baker Eddy emphasized this point when she wrote about the passing of a public figure, Pope Leo XIII, in 1903. She wrote: “I sympathize with those who mourn, but rejoice in knowing our dear God comforts such with the blessed assurance that life is not lost; its influence remains in the minds of men, and divine Love holds its substance safe in thecertainty of immortality” (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 295).
Observing the anniversary of death—be it a day, a week, a year, or any amount of time—can actually limit your release from grief.
Our friends’ good influence remains, and their immortal life is safe with God. There is much comfort in this.
Observing the anniversary of death—be it a day, a week, year, or any amount of time—does not bring lasting comfort. It can actually limit your release from grief. This passage from Mary Baker Eddy’s book Science and Health illustrates this point: “Time-tables of birth and death are so many conspiracies against manhood and womanhood” (p. 246). Why is this? These observances insist on the materiality of life. Christian Science brings out a key point in the Bible: that we are actually spiritual in nature, made in the image and likeness of God, who is Spirit, These important words in Psalms also bring this out: “I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness” (17:15). Observing the anniversary of death only delays this wonderful awakening. It insists on loss. It interferes with our awakening to God’s constant love and care that are irremovable from our lives.
We may say that we believe in life after death, in immortality. But grief is built on death, not life. How can we believe that someone is immortal and dead at the same time? An anniversary of death tends to make us think about what was, rather than what is. Science and Health gently urges us to move in a different direction: “Life is eternal. We should find this out, and begin the demonstration thereof. Life and goodness are immortal” (p. 246). What a wonderful reassurance. And God’s great love brings this realization to all of us.
The Bible says that Enoch, after 365 years of close communion with God, was “taken” by Him (see Gen. 5:24). But Enoch did not die. He simply outgrew a mortal, material sense of himself. The Bible doesn’t say that God caused him to die, but to live on a higher plane.
My friends who have passed on have not stopped living or loving. They have never been cut off from good. They live in the blessed assurance that God is with them, always. I cannot grieve over this. I remain grateful for the good they brought into my life. And it still has an important impact on my life. But I’m deeply grateful to have discovered that the source of this goodness and love is God, and that God continues to pour blessings into our lives.
Today, friendship, guidance, and love appear in my life in new and wonderful ways. New friendships in no way replace my former friends or their place in my heart. But now I see that it is God who is always bringing the qualities of goodness or love or wholeness into my life. I’m continuing to learn that the activity of goodness and love never diminishes, it only increases. And I am greatly reassured to know that my friends have not lost Life. We are all immortal.