There is a hidden structure that unites much of this lesson, and if you understand that structure, the whole thing makes more sense.
First, we attack, usually another person.
Second, we (correctly) recognize this as an attack on God, since that other person is His beloved Son.
Third, having attacked God, we feel we have sinned, and so are guilty and deserving of punishment.
Fourth, since God is just, we believe that He now turns into a wrathful God, a God Who has gone mad with desire for revenge, Who is bent on having us pay for what we've done.
Fifth, we think this God works through the events of the world to deliver that payment, so that those events are always chasing us, assaulting us, imprisoning us, all as punishment for what we've done.
Sixth, because of the world's cruel treatment of us, we feel pain.
Finally, this pain, in turn, is a "witness" (2:3, 4:5) to the preceding six points. It seems to "prove" (3:6) the truth of them. After all, if God is First Cause, if He in the end is the ultimate Power in reality, then how could we feel pain unless God had willed that pain? Why would the world treat us so badly unless God had caused it to? And why would God cause pain for us unless we had done something wrong, unless we had sinned?
Pain, then, seems like proof of this whole picture. This may seem a bit weird at first, but when you think about it, it isn't such a far-out idea. Haven't you ever asked yourself, "What did I do to deserve this?" That question assumes this whole scenario, all six points: You did something wrong, which caused God to want to punish you, and He's using the events of this world to do so.
But is this whole picture true? We do have one thing right: Something can only be real if God wills it. Thus, pain can only be real if God wills it. But is pain real?
The message of this lesson is that we have profoundly misinterpreted things, such that the six steps above have so distorted our perception of reality that we don't know what is real. Let's go through the steps again, this time from a truer perspective:
First, our attack was based on a misinterpretation. If we had seen our brother as he really is, we could never have conceived of attacking him.
Second, our belief that we really attacked God was a misinterpretation. We can try to attack God, but can we succeed? That would be like a child who throws a stick into the ocean thinking he can "change the coming and the going of the tides, the warming of the water by the sun, the silver of the moon on it by night" (Review IV).
Third, our belief that we are guilty and deserve punishment was also a misinterpretation, for that would involve changing our nature as God created it, and how can we change what God has done? Do we honestly think we have that kind of power?
Fourth—and here is perhaps where we have gone the most seriously wrong—God could never change from a God of pure Love to a God of wrath and revenge. God could never will us pain. Could the sun choose to be of ice? Could the sea elect to be apart from water? (These images are drawn from Lesson 156.)
Fifth, God would therefore never, ever send us painful events.
Sixth, since our pain is not caused by God, it does not have a real cause. So we don't have to feel it.
The whole thing is one massive misinterpretation after another. And this misinterpretation, not God, is the actual cause of our pain. In fact, this misinterpretation is what gives rise to the attacking world. Somewhere inside, we are so convinced that have sinned and that God is out to get us, that we have (collectively) dreamt a world that is nothing but a delivery device for pain. I like that term "delivery device." I associate it with the statement by the tobacco scientist that cigarettes are just "a delivery device for nicotine." Likewise, the world is just a delivery device for pain. Whoever designed this place clearly believes we deserve a lot of punishment. That's why we assume that God is a punishing God. After all, the evidence is in front of us every day.
But we can interpret this same evidence dramatically differently. We can decide that this world is simply our own dream of punishment, nothing more. It has no power because it is just the outward picture of a crazy thought, a thought that is in disagreement with the Author of reality.
That Author, that God, is a God of joy, pure joy. He doesn't know anything about pain. Pain and willing pain are simply not part of His nature. Asking Him to understand pain would be like asking a fish to understand space travel.
This allows us to replace those six points with the truth. And the truth is that God is joy and wills only joy for us. And since God is God, that is the only valid cause of our feelings. His Will of joy for us is the only thing that really matters in terms of our emotions. And our true Self gets that—It gets Its feelings purely from His Will: "Your Self is radiant in this holy joy, unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable, forever and forever" (6:5).
We assume those six points of pain are what is real, that they are the sober, unadorned reality. We can distract ourselves from them, try to escape from them, or hope we'll get lucky and manage to be overlooked by them. But in the back of our mind, we assume that they are still out there, biding their time, waiting for us. In this view, joy is just a naïve illusion. It's wishful thinking. It's a pleasant fantasy, but, hey, let's get real.
But in reality, we've got it backward. We really do have it completely backward. In fact, "Pain is illusion; joy, reality. Pain is but sleep; joy is awakening. Pain is deception; joy alone is truth" (10:4-6).
So the choice we face today, and the choice we face every moment of every day, throughout all time, is between those six points of misinterpretation and the truth that God is joy and wills only joy for us. And we make the correct choice by telling ourselves, as often as we can, with deep sincerity, and complete confidence, "I choose the joy of God instead of pain."
Purpose: to realize that pain is deceptive illusion, and that joy is reality and truth. To go past pain and experience the joy that lies beyond it. This will help "your scattered goals blend into one intent" (W-pI.181-200.In.1:1).
Morning/evening quiet time: at least 5 minutes; ideally, 30 or more
This is a meditation in which you set aside all thought of attack and defense, all judgment and all assault. These are simply attempts to hide your holiness. Lay down these thoughts of war and sink into the stillness of Heaven's peace. In this holy place, you will feel the joy of God arise in you. Here, you will realize that pain, not joy, is the naïve illusion. You will understand that joy is reality, it is awakening, and it is truth.
Hourly remembrance: 1 or 2 minutes as the hour strikes (reduce if circumstances do not permit)
Do a short version of the morning/evening exercise. Close by asking for God's guidance for the coming hour and thank Him for His gifts in the past hour.
Response to temptation: (suggestion) when tempted to think that the world causes your pain
Realize this is a judgment, and that this judgment is a sword you hold against your throat. Then repeat the idea; choose the joy of God instead of pain.