When I started attending Unity services 11 years ago, I found it to be a welcoming, peaceful place of refuge during the dark night of the soul I was experiencing. It was the place where I learned, through affirmative prayer, to expect good in my life as expressed by Matthew 7:7, which says: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (NET Bible).
However, there have been times when life has seemed especially difficult, when I felt like I knocked until my knuckles bled and still the door did not seem to open. During those times—when taking the next, shaky breath was the most I could ask myself to do—I had to closely guard my faith, my conviction that my expectations for good would eventually be realized.
But what if those expectations for good weren’t ever realized? What then?
I heard the answer in a Sunday lesson given by the senior Unity minister at my church. It was an answer that came after years of unrelenting adversity in which I lost my job, my savings, my pets, and my loved ones. It was an answer in which I almost lost my home and was diagnosed with cancer.
The answer, the minister said, is that at those times, we shift our focus from the things we expect and want to the expectation that in the midst of our trouble and disappointment God will strengthen, comfort, and renew us. We grow strong in the expectation that God will help us cultivate resilient spirits.
Years before, when my difficulties first began, I spoke with another minister, now retired, who asked me to remind myself of the good that always surrounds us by using affirmations. One of her favorites was: I go to meet my Good.
More recent, an associate minister shared her reflections about her life’s journey—a path that, despite apparent success, left her with stark disappointment and misgivings so strong that she abandoned it in search of a new one. Her new path is her calling: being a minister and the director of the church’s Buddhist center.
Two things are remarkable about these stories and the messengers who delivered them. First, each minister’s words of comfort and hope came when most needed. Each instance is evidence that God does indeed strengthen and renew us. Those blessings come to us from different directions and different people, often when and where we least expect them.
Even more remarkable is that each of these people has so much to give because each has suffered a devastating loss—the senior minister, a grandchild who died in a car accident; the retired minister, her only child who died of SIDS; the associate minister, the love of her life who died of cancer a year after they met. Each has so much reason to despair, and yet each remains so hopeful. Each could be lost in darkness, yet each is a light—to themselves and to so many others.
They are each a remarkable testament to the resilience of a spirit strengthened, comforted, and renewed by God. They are living examples to remind us that we can and should expect good things—and that one of the greatest of all is the loving comfort of God, who never leaves us.
As I learned years ago, we can find comfort even when we are alone—when it’s just us and God. I was sitting in a hotel room in New York City, barely able to breathe through anxiety and grief over a recent loss for which I felt responsible. In that darkest of moments, I did the only thing I could think to do: I pulled the Bible from the bedside table, closed my eyes, flipped to a random page, and put my finger down, hoping to be directed to a verse that would have meaning or give comfort. I hoped that God had a message for me.
When I opened my eyes, I saw what God was saying to me, and to us all:
“Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord” (Psalm 31:24 KJV).