A Course in Miracles Lesson 190

I choose the joy of God instead of pain.

This lesson is an application of the principle that nothing real can be threatened and nothing unreal exists (T-in.2:2-3). The suggestion is that pain is simply a “wrong perspective,” and therefore that seen rightly, all suffering ends. To believe otherwise is to accept a God Who is essentially cruel and capricious.

And that belief, says the Course, is wholly erroneous.

Therefore, the dynamic we are looking at here is as follows: if God is real, then there is no such thing as pain. But if pain is real then there is no God (W-pI.190.3:3-4). Is this true?

If it is true, then we have effective demonstrated that we are bodies, “corruptible in death” and altogether “mortal” (W-pI.190.3:7). But if it is not, then we have learned something important about what we are in truth – namely, that what is created in Love cannot be other than Love.

It is your thoughts that cause you pain. Nothing external to your mind can hurt or injure you in any way . . . Nothing but yourself affects you. There is nothing in the world that has the power to make you ill or sad, or weak or frail (W-pI.190.5:1-2, 4-5).

We are apt to resist this. Perhaps we want to argue, my thoughts don’t make cancer or tsunamis. They don’t make school shootings or nuclear bombs. My thoughts today don’t make my parents abusive thirty years ago.

This is a form of level confusion – attributing the potential of one level (the material world – other bodies and objects) to affect another (the psychological, the spiritual) as if it were inevitable.

Dropping a rock on your toe will make your toe hurt, sure, but how you contextualize and respond to that pain is a decision you make based on your understanding of what you are in truth.

. . . it is you who have the power to dominate all things you see by merely recognizing what you are. As you perceive the harmlessness in them, they will accept your holy will as theirs. And what was seen as fearful now becomes a source of innocence and holiness (W-pI.190.5:6-8).

This is not about denying the existence of the rock, or the toe, or the effects of the physical acting on the physical! It is important to understand that. The suggestion the Course is making is that those effects – those relationships – can only affect us with our consent.

We think that we are at the mercy of external circumstances, and that our experience is determined by what happens to the body in the world. However, the lesson emphasizes that we have the power to choose our experience of the world, and that we can choose to experience joy instead of pain. This reflects our acceptance of ourselves as God created us.

When we are confronted with pain, we are simply coming face-to-face with our willingness to accept the ego’s argument that we are bodies, and that our very lives – vulnerable, mortal, prone to suffering and deprivation – are evidence that God does not love us.

The solution to that argument – and the hurt it engenders – is simply not to engage with it. We become nonviolent with respect to ego.

Lay down your arms, and come without defense into the quite place where Heaven’s peace holds all things still at last. Lay down all thoughts of danger and of fear. Let no attack enter with you (W-pI.190.9:1-3).

We are invited to lay down our willingness to judge others, ourselves, and the world. It is a dubious skill anyway, one that brings at best a temporary happiness at having scavenged some crumbs in conflict with our brothers and sisters. Where anybody loses, even a little – and someone must, if another is to claim victory – then we remain confused, and pain is both the gift we give and the gift we recieve.

When we surrender our “right” to judge, and instead come empty-handed unto God, then all things are naturally translated into either love or a cry for love, and there is but one response to both: love. We learn again that “pain is deception” and “joy alone is truth” (W-pI.190.10:6).

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