If You Perceive a Difficulty . . .
1. Ask the Holy Spirit for a shift in perception.
When we face what our eyes/mind perceive as a difficult situation, the first thing many of us do is try to change the externals. We think rearranging externals into a more pleasing configuration will solve the difficulty and make us feel better. The first thing we must realize, though, is that our erroneous perception is the real source of the difficulty in any situation, so our first priority is a shift in perception. Only this will truly help us feel better. We may be guided to change externals as well, but this is secondary. Since the Holy Spirit, of course, is the One Who shifts our perception, we ask Him for a better way to see the “difficulty.”
2. Practice the lessons given to us for the purpose of shifting perception.
It is important to ask the Holy Spirit for a shift in perception. Yet we can do much more. We can do a Course practice that conveys His answer – the new perception – to our minds. After all, the Course was written by the Holy Spirit through Jesus, and its very purpose is to facilitate the shift in perception that He/we want to bring forth.
The Course’s practices are thus potent agents of mind change. There are practices that specifically address the various difficulties perceived in life. If you are dealing with a “death” in the family, for instance, asking the Holy Spirit to help you see death differently is important, but it is also helpful to use a lesson like Lesson 163: “There is no death. The Son of God is free.”
We can also use our daily lesson from the Course Workbook, and/or use another lesson we may have found effective in what we perceive as “difficult” circumstances. If it does not seem to work initially, repetition is the key. The Course’s “ideas are mighty forces, to be used and not held idly by. (T-16.II.9:5) It is truly inspiring how quickly and how clearly the outlook toward difficult situations can be transformed when diligently applying the Course’s ideas to them.
3. Let the Holy Spirit tell you what to think/say/do in the situation by asking for His guidance.
The One Who shifts our perception of the situation also tells us how to deal with it on the level of form. Asking Him for guidance about what to think, say and do in every situation is a bedrock Course practice. For example, Workbook Lesson 275 has us pray: “I need be anxious over nothing. For Your Voice will tell me what to do and where to go; to whom to speak and what to say to him, what thoughts to think, what words to give the world.” (W-pII.275.2:2-3) In Lesson 194, we are told to place the future in the Hands of God. As this becomes a thought that rules your mind, a habit in your problem-solving repertoire, a way of quick reaction to temptation, you extend your learning to the world. And as you learn to see salvation in all things, so will the world also perceive that it is saved. (W-pI.194.6:2)
“Knowledge is not won through curiosity, which is an ego attribute. Knowledge can be found only if it is sought to give it to someone else as well as to yourself. You can go to God for someone and bring knowledge back to him.” (Absence From Felicity, page 297) This is representative of the principle of the chain of Atonement.
“If you do not receive an answer to your questions, it is because you ask amiss.” “When (you ask) right, I have answered.” (Absence From Felicity, pages 196-197) Therefore, ask the Holy Spirit not only for the answer, but also ask Him to help you with the on-point question. Even if there is a question mark at the end of your sentence, it does not necessarily mean that a valid question was asked.
4. Lay your formulas aside.
One interference with hearing His guidance is the tendency to devise formulas to determine what He would have us do. We set parameters, consciously or unconsciously, within which we expect His guidance to fall. While the formulas can run the gamut, two prevalent ones are these:
1) His guidance would have me fix the situation by doing that thing I was going to do anyway.
2) His guidance would have me do nothing at all to fix the situation.
In a situation where you perceive that “someone is taking advantage of me,” for instance, the first formula might lead you to stand up and assert your boundaries, just like you wanted to do in the first place. The second formula might lead you to “appear spiritual” and not confront the other person in any way; after all, “I need do nothing” and “My safety lies in my defenselessness.”
It is important to know that there is no specific “formula” for each situation. The Holy Spirit may guide you to do one thing in one situation and something completely different in another apparently similar situation. In situations like the “someone is taking advantage of me” example, He might guide you to speak one time, and He may have you simply turn aside and do or say nothing at all the next time. Myriad solutions are available to Him which He will make available to us. Our part is to follow His guidance in every situation, each and every time.
Therefore, we must set our formulas aside and let Him tell us what to do, as only He knows every aspect of every situation, so only He is to decide what must be done. We must trust that He truly knows everything about everything and everyone, even to the tiniest detail, and only He will know what the perfect answer is. The perfect answer from the Holy Spirit is the only one we want, in every instance without exception. Say: “This is no exception in God’s plan for my salvation.” (W-86.2:3)
5. The Answer
Workbook Lesson 50 tells us that the Love of God will see us through all difficulties: “This is the answer to whatever confronts you today.” (W-pI.50.4:4) The Holy Spirit is the Voice Who speaks for the Love of God. If we will truly let Him shift our perception through inspiration and Course practice and let Him guide everything we think, say and do, we “can resolve all seeming difficulties without effort and in sure confidence.” (W-pI.50.4:5) All we need to do is to step back and allow Him to do a work in us, trusting Him and the Love of God completely. And through repeated practice, we can all do this.