As a Very Little Thing

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One of the strongest convictions of the human mind is its belief in the grading of difficulties. This problem is accounted easy of solution, that one more difficult, whilst yet another is set down as necessarily insoluble. Faced with any particular question, the human mind braces itself suitably for the task. It calls to its aid what it considers the requisite amount of assistance and, in proportion to the accepted gravity of the case, its fears are increased.

Now Christian Science teaches that there are really no degrees of difficulty in any problem which the student of Christian Science is called upon to solve. As Mrs. Eddy makes so clear on page 418 of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, one erroneous condition is no more difficult to heal than another. “It must be clear to you,” she says there, “that sickness is no more the reality of being than is sin. The mortal dream of sickness, sin and death should cease through Christian Science. Then one disease would be as readily destroyed as another.”

Nevertheless, the conviction that this is not so, the temptation to acquiesce in the world’s estimate of certain difficulties, is one which every Christian Scientist finds himself beset with very frequently. Confronted with a claim of disease in himself or another, of discord in his own estate or that of another, or with any kind of problem, almost unconsciously he finds himself estimating the difficulty, whereas the truth is that there is no difficulty. Reality, Principle, God, is not in the fire, nor in the wind, nor yet in the earthquake. No doubt if a modern meteorologist had been by he could have explained to Jesus, in the storm-tossed boat on the Sea of Galilee, the impossibility of stilling the tempest. He could have shown how the wind that was sweeping down on them across the valley of the Jordan depended on climatic conditions spreading themselves over continents, and taking weeks for their formation. Jesus would none the less have stilled the tempest, and there would have been a great calm. Why? Because it is impossible to conceive of the man who could walk on the water, heal multitudes, and raise the dead, considering for one moment the question of material obstacles.

This insistent, imperative claim to all-power, this complete disregard of all apparent difficulty is evident at every turn in Jesus’ ministry. But nowhere, perhaps, is it more strikingly shown than in the series of incidents recorded in the fourteenth chapter of Matthew. Jesus had heard of the beheading of John the Baptist in prison. The tide was evidently rising against him, demanding a stronger assertion than ever of power. He withdrew into a desert place. But the people followed him on foot, hundreds and thousands of them, men, women, and children. He had compassion on them, taught them, and healed their sick. It must have been a day of marvelous overcoming. Then toward evening came the first suggestion of limitation and difficulty. They were in a desert place. The people were hungry. It would be better, declared his disciples, to send them away so that they might go into the villages round about and buy food. Quick as thought came Jesus’ reply, “They need not depart; give ye them to eat.” The apparent difficulties were stupendous, but they were all swept aside and the multitude was fed. Then desiring to be alone he constrained his disciples to take ship to the other side of the lake whilst he sent the people away.

“In the understanding of Truth, no matter how error may vaunt itself, we may take it up as a very little thing, as, in fact, what it is—nothing.”

The solitude thus gained, however, was only a prelude to further work and victory. All day long Jesus had been shattering material laws. More were destined to go before dawn. He was separated from his disciples. Well, what was space? The sea lay between them. Well, what was the sea? There was a storm raging. Well, what was the storm? So, he came to his disciples, walking on the water, and so greatly had the hold of material law been shaken in human consciousness that even Peter was able to leave the ship and come to meet him. It was only when Peter began to estimate the difficulties that he began to sink. “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”

It was this understanding, of course, which lay behind Jesus’ promise to his disciples that if they had faith as a grain of mustard seed they should move mountains and nothing should be impossible to them. “Meet every adverse circumstance as its master,” writes Mrs. Eddy on page 419 of Science and Health. In other words, surely, realize that there are no adverse circumstances. The Bible is full of this teaching, from Genesis to Revelation. “Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.” So, in Eastern imagery, does Isaiah set forth the same lesson as Jesus when he stilled the tempest, or as Mrs. Eddy when she insists that one disease is no more difficult to cure than another. This is not an ocean of trouble, it is as a drop of a bucket; this is not a mountain of difficulty, it is as the small dust of the balance. In the understanding of Truth, no matter how error may vaunt itself, we may take it up as a very little thing, as, in fact, what it is—nothing.

Such, it cannot be doubted, is the way of approach to every problem. Mrs. Eddy says on page 411 of Science and Health, “Always begin your treatment by allaying the fear of patients.” The source of all fear is, of course, this belief in evil and the power of evil, and any belief in degrees of difficulty is a belief in evil. A lie is always a lie, whether it be the smallest passing discord or a storm at sea. The Way of escape, or rather the way to realize ever present victory, is to deny its verity. But it is impossible to do this whilst believing that there is “a great deal to be done,” that “something” has to be destroyed. It is always safe, because it is always true, to deny the seeming bigness of a problem and to affirm its littleness, its nothingness. It is always safe, because it is always right, to be “very courageous,” and entirely undismayed. For, as Mrs. Eddy puts it in Miscellaneous Writings (p. 183), “Man is God’s image and likeness; whatever is possible to God, is possible to man as God’s reflection.”

Photo by Tom Geerts on Unsplash

(Originally published in the February 26, 1921 Christian Science Sentinel)

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