THE PURPOSE OF PROBLEMS is to push you toward obedience to God's laws, which are exact and cannot be changed. We have the free will to obey them or disobey them. Obedience will bring harmony, disobedience will bring you more problems.
Likewise, when societies get out of harmony, problems develop within the society. Collective problems. Their purpose is to push the whole society toward harmony. Individuals can discover that they can not only grow and learn through individual problem solving, they can learn and grow through collective problem solving. I often say I've run out of personal problems, then every once in a while a little one presents itself somewhere. But I hardly recognize it as a problem because it seems so insignificant. Actually, I want to do all my learning and growing now by helping to solve collective problems.
There was a time when I thought it was a nuisance to be confronted with a problem. I tried to get rid of it. I tried to get somebody else to solve it for me. But that time was long ago. It was a great day in my life when I discovered the wonderful purpose of problems. Yes, they have a wonderful purpose.
Some people wish for a life of no problems, but I would never wish such a life for any of you. What I wish for you is the great inner strength to solve your problems meaningfully and grow. Problems are learning and growing experiences. A life without problems would be a barren existence, without the opportunity for spiritual growth.
I once met a woman who had virtually no problems. I was on a late-night radio program in New York City. This woman called the station and wanted me to come to her home. I was intending to spend the night at the bus station, so I said okay. She sent her chauffeur for me, and I found myself in a millionaire's home, talking to a middle-aged woman who seemed like a child. She was so immature, and I wondered at her immaturity, until I realized that the woman had been shielded from all problems by a group of servants and lawyers. She had never come to grips with life. She had not had problems to grow on, and therefore had not grown. Problems are blessings in disguise!
Were I to solve problems for others they would remain stagnant; they would never grow. It would be a great injustice to them. My approach is to help with cause rather than effect. When I help others, it is by instilling within them the inspiration to work out problems by themselves. If you feed a man a meal, you only feed him for a day--but if you teach a man to grow food, you feed him for a lifetime.
It is through solving problems correctly that we grow spiritually. We are never given a burden unless we have the capacity to overcome it. If a great problem is set before you, this merely indicates that you have the great inner strength to solve a great problem. There is never really anything to be discouraged about, because difficulties are opportunities for inner growth, and the greater the difficulty the greater the opportunity for growth.
Difficulties with material things often come to remind us that our concentration should be on spiritual things instead of material things. Sometimes difficulties of the body come to show that the body is just a transient garment, and that the reality is the indestructible essence which activates the body. But when we can say, "Thank God for problems which are sent for our spiritual growth," they are problems no longer. They then become opportunities.
Let me tell you a story of a woman who had a personal problem. She lived constantly with pain. It was something in her back. I can still see her, arranging the pillows behind her back so it wouldn't hurt quite so much. She was quite bitter about this. I talked to her about the wonderful purpose of problems in our lives, and I tried to inspire her to think about God instead of her problems. I must have been successful to some degree, because one night after she had gone to bed she got to thinking about God.
"God regards me, this little grain of dust, as so important that he sends me just the right problems to grow on," she began thinking. And she turned to God and said, "Oh, dear God, thank you for this pain through which I may grow closer to thee." Then the pain was gone and it has never returned. Perhaps that's what it means when it says: 'In all things be thankful.' Maybe more often we should pray the prayer of thankfulness for our problems. Prayer is a concentration of positive thoughts.
Many common problems are caused by wrong attitudes. People see themselves as the center of the universe and judge everything as it relates to them. Naturally you won't be happy that way. You can only be happy when you see things in proper perspective: all human beings are of equal importance in God's sight, and have a job to do in the divine plan.
I'll give you an example of a woman who had some difficulty finding out what her job was in the divine plan. She was in her early forties, single, and needed to earn a living. She hated her work to the extent that it made her sick, and the first thing she did was to go to a psychiatrist who said he would adjust her to her job. So after some adjustment she went back to work. But she still hated her job. She got sick again and then came to me. Well, I asked what her calling was, and she said, "I'm not called to do anything."
That was not true. What she really meant was she didn't know her calling. So I asked her what she liked to do because if it is your calling you will do it as easily and joyously as I walk my pilgrimage. I found she liked to do three things. She liked to play the piano, but wasn't good enough to earn her living at that. She liked to swim, but wasn't good enough to be a swimming instructor, and she liked to work with flowers.
I got her a job in a florist shop so she could earn her living working with flowers. She loved it. She said she would do it for nothing. But we used the other things too. Remember, she needed more than just a livelihood. She needed other things. The swimming became her exercise. It fits in with sensible living habits. The piano playing became her path of service. She went to a retirement home and played the old songs for the people there. She got them to sing, and she was good at that. Out of those three things such a beautiful life was built for that woman. She became a very attractive woman and married a year or so later. She stayed right in that life pattern.
I knew another woman who was confined to her room and had been there for quite some time. I went in to see her and I could tell immediately from the lines in her face and the tenseness of her that it wasn't physical at all. And I don't think I had talked to her for more than five minutes before she was telling me all about how mean her sister had been to her. The way she told it, I knew she had told that story again and again and mulled over in her mind constantly that bitterness against her sister. I found myself explaining to her that if she would forgive, ask forgiveness, and make peace with her sister, then she could look for an improvement in her health. "Huh!" she said. "I'd rather die. You have no idea how mean she was." So the situation drifted for awhile.
But early one morning at dawn this woman wrote a beautiful and inspired letter to her sister, which she showed to me. (There is something very wonderful to be said about dawn. Sunset is good, too. The only thing is, at sunset most everybody is awake and they're hurrying and scurrying around. At dawn most everybody is slowed down or asleep and they are much more harmonious when they're asleep. So dawn is often a good time for spiritual things.) I immediately went into town and mailed the letter before she could change her mind. When I got back, she had changed her mind--so it's a good thing I had mailed it! She worried a little, but by return mail came a letter from her sister, and her sister was so glad they were to be reconciled. And you know, on the same day that letter arrived from her sister the woman was up and around and out of bed, and the last I saw of her she was joyously off for a reconciliation with her sister.
There's something to that old saying that hate injures the hater, not the hated.
Some people spend much less time picking a life partner than they spend picking out a car. They just drift into these relationships.
No one should enter the family pattern unless one is as much called into it as I was called to my pilgrimage. Otherwise, there will be tragedy. I can remember a woman who couldn't get along with her husband and I could see they didn't have anything in common. I finally said to her, "Why in the world did you marry that man in the first place?" And she said, "All my girlfriends were getting married and he was the best I could do at the time." This happens all the time. Do you wonder why there are so many divorces? People get into the family pattern without being called into it.
Emotional attachment can be a terrible thing. When I was working with people who had problems it often was a problem of some emotional attachment that obviously needed to be broken. One was a sixteen year old girl. By now she is probably happily married to somebody else. I always say time heals all wounds, but she thought then that her heart was broken because her boyfriend had married someone else. Although she had a hard time coming through it, after a time she was able to look upon it philosophically. It does take time. In fact, sometimes people recover quicker from the death of a loved one than from a loved one who has left them.
Live this day! Yesterday is but a dream and tomorrow is only a vision, but today well-lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope. Never agonize over the past or worry over the future. Live this day and live it well.
Worry is a habit. It is something that can be worked on. I call it relinquishment of the worry habit. There are techniques that help. I talk to some beautiful church people and I discover they still worry. It's a total waste of time and energy. If you are a praying person who prays with faith, you would immediately, and automatically, take what you're worried about to God in prayer and leave it in God's hands--the best possible hands. This is one technique which is excellent. In the beginning you may have to take it back to God quite a number of times before you develop the habit (which I have developed) of always doing everything you can in a situation, and then leaving the rest safely in God's hands.
How often are you worrying about the present moment? The present is usually all right. If you're worrying, you're either agonizing over the past which you should have forgotten long ago, or else you're apprehensive over the future which hasn't even come yet. We tend to skim right over the present moment which is the only moment God gives any of us to live. If you don't live the present moment, you never get around to living at all. And if you do live the present moment, you tend not to worry. For me, every moment is a new and wonderful opportunity to be of service.
I'll mention here a couple of other habits. One of them is the anger habit. Tremendous energy comes with anger. It's sometimes called the anger energy. Do not suppress it: that would hurt you inside. Do not express it: this would not only hurt you inside, it would cause ripples in your surroundings. What you do is transform it. You somehow use that tremendous energy constructively on a task that needs to be done, or in a beneficial form of exercise.
The best way to talk to you about this is to tell you what some people actually did. For instance, one woman washed all the windows in the house, another woman vacuumed the house whether it needed it or not, and another baked bread--nice, whole grain bread. And another one sat down and played the piano: wild marches at first, then she'd cool down and play gentle things like hymns and lullabies, and then I knew she was all right.
There was a man who got out his manual lawnmower. Remember, the manual lawnmower has no motor. You may never have seen one! And he mowed his big lawn. I was staying next door to him. Then one day he came over and borrowed his neighbor's power lawnmower. I spoke to him about it and he said, "Oh, without the anger energy I could never mow that big lawn with a manual lawnmower." You see, it's really tremendous energy.
Then there was this man who saved his marriage. He had such a bad temper that his young wife was about to leave him and take their two small children along. And he said, "I'm going to do something about this!" And he did. Whenever he felt a temper tantrum coming on, instead of throwing things all over the house which had been his previous custom, he got out there and jogged. Round and round the block, until he was all out of breath and the energy was all gone--and he saved his marriage. It worked. I saw him again years later, and I asked him, "Well, are you still jogging?" "Oh, a little bit for exercise," he said, "but I haven't had a temper tantrum for years." As you use the energy constructively you lose the anger habit.
These techniques have also worked with children. I recall one ten year old boy. I was trying to help his mother because she was having an awful time with him. He got temper tantrums and one time, when he was not having a tantrum, I asked him, "Of all the things you do what takes the most energy?" And he said, "I guess running up the hill in the back of the house." And so we found a wonderful solution. Every time his mother saw the sign of a temper tantrum she would push him out the door and say, "Go run up the hill." It worked so well that when a teacher told me she was having a similar problem with a boy about the same age I suggested she tell him to run around the schoolhouse, and that worked too.
Now I'll tell you about another couple. They got mad at the same time, and they decided to walk around the block. One walked one way and one walked the other way, but they met at frequent intervals. And when they could meet amicably they walked home together and discussed what had caused their angers and what could be done to remedy it in the future. This was a very wise thing to do. You should never try to talk to someone who is angry, because that person is not rational at that time.
I'll tell one more story about a young mother. She has three children under school age and she said, "When I get mad I feel like running, but I can't. I can't leave my three small children. And I usually end up taking it out on them." I said to her, "Have you ever tried running in place?" And I could just see her running in place.
She wrote to me: "Peace, it works wonderfully well. It not only gets rid of the anger energy, but it amuses the children!"
Fear is also a habit. Fear can be taught and is taught constantly. Fear is perpetuated.
Now, I haven't the slightest fear. God is always with me. But I had a friend who was afraid of a certain ethnic group of people. Her husband had been transferred to another place and she found herself living among this group of people whom she had always feared. I worked with her and first got her acquainted with the music of these people, because she was a musician. Then I found a woman of this particular group who had two children about the same age as my friend's two children, and we went to see her. The two little boys ran off together, the two little girls ran off together, and then we proceeded to get acquainted. Of course, they became fast friends. I remember the time they attended one another's churches. It was a lovely thing. One Sunday they both went to one church and another Sunday they both went to the other church. It was very interesting that when they got to know each other they discovered that their likenesses were much greater than their differences. They came to love each other when they got to know each other.
I knew a lady who was a college English professor. Any time there was the slightest rumble of thunder in the distance she became hysterical. When she was a tiny child, whenever there was a thundershower her mother ran and crawled under the bed and, of course, the kids crawled under with her. She was taught by her mother to fear thundershowers--by example. That's the way children are taught.
Almost all fear is fear of the unknown. Therefore, what's the remedy? To become acquainted with the things you fear. We had to learn all the safety rules before we could become acquainted with thundershowers, but it worked.
I'll tell you another story about fear. I've heard of women who are afraid of mice. And I've personally known women and men who are afraid of dogs. But this woman was afraid of cats. I'm not talking about a wild cat--just common, ordinary household cats.
Now there were cats in her neighborhood. All of her friends had cats. Every time she encountered a cat she screamed, she ran, she became hysterical. She told me she thought every cat she encountered was about to jump at her throat. Now, a psychologist would say, "When she was a baby she was frightened by a cat; she's forgotten that but it still remains in her subconscious." Which might be true. It doesn't matter. I said, "If you wish to lose your fear of cats you must become acquainted with a cat." "Oh no!" she replied. I said, "Well, are you afraid of a kitten?" "Not if it's small enough," she said. So I borrowed a cute, small kitten. They said I could either borrow it or keep it. I brought it to her and I said, "Now are you afraid of that?" "Oh, not that little thing," she said. "All right," I said, "Now you must become acquainted. You must feed it, play with it." And of course you know the end of the story. The kitten grew into a cat, but by then she was so attached to it she wouldn't give it up.
Some fears can come from experiences in former lives. In fact the last problem I told about may have had such a source. These are dealt with in the same way. You become acquainted with the things you fear.
There are a few places where you have to use a little different approach. I'll tell you one case where we used the gradual approach. This woman was afraid to sleep in a small room; she would go into a small room, but would not sleep there. This fear did come from a previous life experience. She came for help to where I was working. We put up a cot in the corner of the library (a very large room) for her. She was even afraid to sleep there alone, so I put up another cot and slept there with her the first night. Then when she had learned to at least sleep alone in the library, we put a cot in the dining room, the next smaller room. I slept next to her the first night, and then after that she gradually learned to sleep by herself. Then we tried the biggest bedroom that we had, and so on until she came to the point where she was able to sleep in a small bedroom.
You do not necessarily have to use this gradual method. We did because there are a few kinds of fear that are easier to deal with using the gradual technique. Another one of them is fear of heights, and this also may come from prior experience. Let me tell you, some young, vigorous people have a fear of heights.
What I used to do when people had a fear of heights was to take them to a height where they felt comfortable and really didn't want to go any higher. Then I would stay with them for awhile. I would leave them there with something to read, something to occupy them while they stayed at that height for awhile. The next day we would go immediately to that height and then a little bit higher. Finally they reached the top, accustomed to the height, and no longer had any fear of it.
I have been asked if a certain amount of fear is healthy. I don't think any amount of fear is healthy. Unless you're talking about the fact that if you have fear about a street, you'll look up and down before crossing the street. But you see, I believe we are required to do everything possible for ourselves and therefore when I walk out onto a street I always look up and down. But I don't think that's fear. That's just being sensible. I don't connect that in any way with fear. For instance, I know that if there are little pebbles scattered over a smooth rock, I'm liable to slip if I step on those little pebbles, so I'm careful not to. I'm not afraid, it's just the sensible thing to do.
Recently, while I was leading a group of people on an educational and inspirational tour of four of the Hawaiian Islands, a policeman warned us not to sleep on the beach. It seems there had been a murder on that beach. I was very concerned about all the fear being perpetuated on those beautiful islands. I had no fear. One member of the group tried to tell me about the dangers of the beach. I said to her, "All of us are under the protection of my guardian angel." And we didn't have the slightest incident on any beach.
We were on the beach one night where I think we were the only Anglos. The others were so nice. Several people came up and one said, "A few years back I saw you on television." It must have been five years before, on my first visit to the islands. They even asked for autographs! So I think we should not be apprehensive. I don't think that apprehension can do anything except attract. "That which I feared came upon me." I felt perfectly safe on the beach and I felt my whole crowd was protected, and they were.
I have a sense of definite protection. Twice I have felt the need to get out of cars I was riding in, and once I saw why. Now, I didn't get out of the car when I was coming down over the "grapevine" into Los Angeles with two high school students. They were seeing how fast they could get the old Chevy to go down hill. I was in the back seat and I felt perfectly all right.
But one time I was with a man who was drinking whisky, and I offered to drive for him. I showed him my driver's license, but he wouldn't let me drive, so I asked him to let me off at the junction. Then I was picked up in a little truck, and we hadn't gone even five miles before we saw the other car. It had gone down into an arroyo and sideswiped a cottonwood tree. On the side where I had been the glass was broken and the roof was bashed in. So at once I saw why I felt the need to get out. The driver wasn't badly hurt. He was cut some but not really hurt.
Another time I did not see any result, but I felt the need to get out. This man was driving recklessly. He would cross over the double center line and pass cars when he couldn't see at all. So I got out. I then got in with a man who was going east at the junction and therefore I never saw what happened to the other car. I don't know. I hope nothing.
So a certain amount of being sensible is good, such as looking up and down a street before you cross, but certainly not the kind of foolish fears many human beings have. You see, if you're going to be fearful--let's say, about sleeping on a beach--you must be terrified every time you sleep in your own home. Look how many people are killed in their own home. Or when you sleep in a hotel room. Look how many people are killed in hotel rooms. This can lead to ridiculous behavior.
I do have a sense of complete protection. If I had felt in any way like I felt in those two cars, I would have taken the whole crowd off the beach. However, I felt absolute protection; I hadn't the slightest apprehension. I knew we were perfectly safe when we stayed on the beach.
There are many things we do not fully understand. We just know they happen. For instance, I have been kept from some things that could have hurt me. I was walking down a lane which I knew to be a small lane. The trees met overhead. I could not really see where I was going, but I knew this lane through prior experience, and I could see light at the end of the tunnel. Now I was walking very fast when something, that I can only call a force, stopped me. I mean it was powerful enough to stop me. Then I started ahead very gingerly to see what in the world had happened--and there was a barbed wire stretched across the lane. They were repairing the cattle guard at the end of the lane, which I did not know, and had stretched this wire across to keep the cattle from straying. I would have run into the wire if I had not been stopped. We have much more protection than we realize.
The most significant thing of this kind happened when I was driving a car. I've given up my driver's license now, but all through my driving days I was a good, stable driver, and the car was always under my control. This time I was driving somebody else's car over a road that was not finished yet. Coming down an incline, there was a traffic light at the end of the road where you had to turn either one way or the other. Cars were turning both ways, and turning up on to the road past me. I naturally put my foot on the brake when I saw the light was red, but I had no brakes! I grabbed for the emergency. I had no emergency. I thought if I could put the car into reverse it would stop, although this would tear it to pieces. I attempted to get it into reverse but it wouldn't go. Ahead of me I saw a station wagon with two little children looking out of the back window. I had to stop the car! I couldn't turn to the left--there was a rock wall there--and cars were coming up thick and fast. There was a rock wall to the right with a ditch, and my little finite mind said, "Take to the ditch, sideswipe the rock wall. It'll stop the car. It'll tear it up, but it will stop it." I was not able to do that. This was the only time in my life when a car was taken out of my control. The car turned to the left, went between two cars, and went up a little dirt road on an incline, which of course stopped the car. I didn't know the dirt road was there. I couldn't possibly see it.
So you see, I've had such amazing things happen to me. You can understand why I feel full of absolute protection. That protection extends even to any group that I am with.
I'd like to share this little meditation with you. First, could we agree that God's protection surrounds us? Know that you are God's beautiful child, always in God's hands. Accept God...accept God's protection...there is really no problem to fear. Know that you are not the clay garment. Know that you are not the self-centered nature which governs your life needlessly. Know that you are the God-centered nature. The Kingdom of God within. The Indwelling Christ. Eternal and indestructible. Identify with the real you.
Peace...be still...and know...that I am God.
Peace...be still...and know...that I am.
Peace...be still...and Know.
And now, with the knowledge that we are God's perfect children, eternal and indestructible, let us go our separate ways in love, but always remain together in spirit. God bless you and peace to you all.