“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;...” (Psalms 103: 2 & 3).
“In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).
“....For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” (John 5: 4).
“....lo, I am with you alway; even unto the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:20).
When my daughter was between the ages of three and four, she was a little scamp. When I walked out of the room, she would often, quite deliberately, go into the kitchen and turn on a gas burner. One day she ran out the front door into the middle of the street, as if she was in a race, and then tried to run back into the house before I saw her. She thought she was just playing a trick on me. I'd recently witnessed another young mother with a similar problem, so I surmised that running out of the house into the street must be a somewhat common occurrence with little ones. But this was my own daughter, and I was the one responsible for 'nipping it in the bud'.
Both acts of turning on a gas burner and dashing into a busy street were dangerous enough to address immediately; so, to stop her new game of running into the street, I put a hook, high-up on the screen door, with a safety slide that made it difficult for her to open, even if she found a stool. She then stood at the screen door and yelled out to the people passing by that she was being kept prisoner. Still, I was able to quit worrying about a car accident. The stove wasn't so easy to fix, because I couldn't figure out how to lock a burner.
Watching her behavior during this phase, however, I had a Eureka-moment for myself. I suddenly SAW the phenomena of natural consequences. If my little one had succeeded in opening the door and running into the street with the consequence of being hit by a car, it wouldn't have been I, her mother, who was punishing her. Nor would it have been God who was punishing her for being a disobedient child. Rather, the punishment of injury would have been a natural consequence, tied to the unwise behavior of running into a danger zone, which my daughter, in her immaturity, didn't yet comprehend. I had to make rules to protect her, until she was old enough—and wise enough—to set these rules for herself. Otherwise, she would bring upon herself, and into her life, various forms of discord and disharmony; some discord and disharmony, like injuries, which might not go away very easily.
When boiled down to their essence, my rules (as her protector) were written in love. Because she didn't yet know the natural consequences of unwise behavior, I had to instigate rules to protect her from her yet, unknowing self. Just as with the natural consequences of running into the middle of the street too often, there were natural consequences of playing with the fire on the stove. Had a burn occurred, being burned by the fire wouldn't have been a punishment from me for disobeying one of my rules; nor would it have been a punishment from God for disobeying the commandment to honor her father and mother. Rather, the burn would have been the direct result of the nature of fire, and nothing else. The rules she was living under were rules to keep her safe, until she grew to accept these rules to live by, so that she'd keep herself safe.
So, in my thirties, I was the one who grew up a bit more; I realized that the 'thou shalt not's of the Ten Commandments were the rules which God, out of love, has given to Its immature children to keep them safe in the human condition. These rules are universal, not just belonging to certain groups, like Christians and Jews. When broken, the consequences which occur are not punishment from a loving God; instead, these consequences (which take many discordant forms) are the natural results of the unwise action we take. God doesn't punish anyone. We punish ourselves with doing stupid, unwise things. The natural, bad consequences are always present to be activated by any one of us, whenever we decide to do an unwise or destructive thing.
All divine commandments (including spiritual intuitions from within, warning us away from some destructive behavior) should be analyzed for their spiritual purpose; for they're more important to our lives than we can possibly imagine. The rules of divine Wisdom are meant to keep us safe within a state of harmony, rather than discord, in a material-seeming place where discord can ensue at any moment.
Christ Jesus summarized the ancient ten rules of wisdom with only two rules of love: Love God, and Love all others as yourself. If one obeys these two directives, even the Ten Commandments are fulfilled—for it one loves all others, he or she will not lie, cheat, steal, covet, or kill any one. The commandments which Moses perceived from divine Wisdom, were stated in a somewhat dictatorial form: thou shalt not bear false witness; thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt not covet anything of thy neighbor's; thou shalt not kill; etc. Christ Jesus showed that love fulfills all the laws of divine Wisdom, and thereby restated them in a positive way. Loving our way out of any situation is the smartest thing we can ever do. It's the way of harmony that satisfies all the 'thou shalt not's'.
To illustrate with just one common occurrence in society today, take the issue of cheating on one's spouse—committing adultery. Why, from the wisdom of God, is there actually a commandment against this? Cheaters often say, “But he (or she) didn't mean anything to me” or “Don't make such a big deal out of it; nearly everybody does it.” Breaking one's word and good faith with another can be justified so easily, and dismissed as if there were no consequences.
Yet, after the fact, the natural consequences begin to set in. Trust in the union is broken. Lack of trust changes a relationship. The wronged spouses quite often end the marriage, one way or another, by the change in their own thoughts toward the marriage and mate. Some people have gained, unintentionally, an enemy for life from the one they've cheated, because of emotional injury. Disharmony, discord, financial problems, fear and insecurity taking root in our children, are just a few of the natural results or consequences of breaking this advise from divine Wisdom. (Sometimes, even murder has occurred by an outraged victim.) There are many other discords that are born of this type of deceit. The natural, bad results of breaking this commandment can go on for years. But God is punishing no one; the results of cheating punish everyone involved, even the innocent.
The commandment of lying to others (bearing false witness) also seems trivial to many. But it shouldn't be ignored. I know at least two individuals who've lost the trust of everyone they care about. The trouble with lying is that, once it's accepted as normal, it becomes a habit we use to get whatever we want from people. It takes only a brief period of time to be found out, and we lose friends and loved ones, jobs and success, even when we don't know that these losses are connected to a pattern of telling lies. I watched one person lose an inheritance because of his lies and deceit, and then asked why everything bad happened to him, as if some divine providence was picking on him. Clearly, the idea of natural consequences had never occurred to this individual. He thought he could break any wise rule of behavior, injure others with his deceit, and still have all the harmony and good in his life that he wanted.
Choosing to do what is right and wise, rather than what serves our own purpose, is something we all, like petulant children, have to learn. It feels better to do whatever we want, whenever we want to do it. Pure self-indulgence feels like the ultimate freedom. Yet, none of us really enjoy the destructive forces we unleash in our own lives, and once we've faced the fact that we've done something we'd like to undo, we find ourselves trapped. How do we get out of the natural consequences of our own unwise, and just plain wrong, behavior?
The very first thing (and I'm fairly certain of this) is to face it and take responsibility for the it. “I did it, and the results are due to my own unwise behavior.” We can't reach the state of correction, until we've admitted our own actions, in the matter, which led up to the the bad results and consequences we're now experiencing. Repentance (regret for what we've done in the first place) is important because we can't undo, or change the wrong, unless we first face our own connection to it. Then, unburdened by now-admitted responsibility, we can go forward, through divine wisdom, to correct what we can.
I've lived a fairly long time, so I've done plenty of stupid things. I've even tried to fix some of them, myself, but that just kept me in the realm of the unwise. My fixings didn't work all that well. So, I finally figured out that I needed to seek the divine wisdom, God's counsel, which I'd ignored in the first place. When turning to this greater wisdom, I acknowledged my own actions, and asked to be shown how to proceed from here. I felt confident to approach God in this manner, since I've learned that God's eternal nature is love, and that no punishment or suffering we experience is ever from God. That's the saving factor; God's loving care for us is always present, even to deliver us from the bad effects of our wrong behavior. (I still feel sorry for those people I've known who believe that God punishes us for every mis-step and mistake we make. This view of God as a punisher would keep us from knowing God as our loving, intelligent divine Parent, and it would keep us from seeing our own ability to turn from wrong—without condemnation from God—into the welcoming arms of infinite Love.)
Anyway, I no longer try to 'think my way out', but rather, let go of any preconceived notions, and ask to be shown, clearly, what path to take and way to go, to handle any destructive elements I've brought into my life, or the lives of others. Almost immediately, I feel calmer when doing this, and in this calmness, the mental answer has always come, often in a way I'd never known to do.
The fictional Scarlett O'Hara, however willful, expressed a forward-looking strength, by the assertion that 'tomorrow is another day'. I've always loved that insight; for while we can't fix the past, we are able to fix the future—preferably in the way that divine Wisdom points us. When we follow the mental leading of the voice within, we are led to move ahead and undo our destructiveness, replace discord with harmony again, and sometimes, come to a better place in our lives than we were before. But I no longer try to find this harmony on my own; I become quiet in thought, and await the divine utterances that rule the new day.
While human correction of thought or action might be needed, human condemnation from ourselves, or others, is never necessary. We know what we did wrong, and we know that there is a divine, spiritual way to correct it. Even if human injury, disease or death has occurred due to wrongful acts, we know that God's loving presence and power is always waiting for us to turn from our destructive practices, and when we do, a way of healing the past will present itself to us. When this turning to God occurs, even the natural consequences are dealt with and healed, in a way 'not of this world'.
The path of freedom, is to find the wisdom of divine Love, and follow it as far as we can discern it. This new sense of freedom will give us wings to fly above worldly woes, and frees us, not only from the ills that seem to come at us from all directions, but from the destructive things we bring into our own lives. Then, like the little prisoner at the screen door, we find that God's rules are the ultimate freedom, allowing us to live in harmony, guarded and guided from all harm. That's the only way to really live!