Does God send us lessons?

Q. Does God give us lessons? When I hear the idea that the Holy Spirit is giving us lessons, I get confused and a little scared. It sounds like the punishing God who gives us trials and takes things away from us so that we will get His message.

A. The Course does consistently teach that God, through the Holy Spirit, is giving us lessons. Think of Lesson 192: “All things are lessons God would have me learn.” You could say that the real lesson is the message of love, peace, and liberation that we are meant to internalize. But that lesson does come to us in a certain form, a form conducive to our learning; just as our lessons in school took a certain form.

So, you could say, there is the gift and there is the wrapping—the content and the form. To heighten the confusion, both of these go by the name of “lesson.” Thus, “lesson” can refer to the idea you are supposed to learn and also to the means of instruction that helps you learn it.

The Course is quite clear that God (through the Holy Spirit) gives us both: the gift and the wrapping, the content and the form, the message to be learned and the form in which it’s presented.

How can we see this in a benign way, so that it doesn’t seem to be God punishing us?Think of it this way: Imagine that you are in a school. Your only purpose for being there is to learn, and your happiness depends entirely on your success in learning. Imagine further that you are deeply resistant to this learning, so that left to your own devices, you will dig your heels in and will not learn.

Now imagine that this school says, “We believe in complete freedom here. We don’t want you to see us as authoritarian. Therefore, you will receive no lessons in this school. Spend your time however you like.” Would you think this school really cared about you?

Now imagine that an incredibly loving person headed up this school. He appreciates just how absolutely vital it is for these kids to learn, and he also appreciates their resistance to learning. If he’s operating purely out of love, how do you see him setting up the school? He won’t punish them, but he also won’t leave them to their own devices. He will make sure, in the most loving way possible, that the school is optimally conducive to their learning. After all, their learning means their happiness.

If you see God, through the Holy Spirit, giving us lessons in this light, it all makes sense. He’s not punishing us; nothing like it. The lessons are the expression of His Love. Leaving us without lessons would be unloving. We are here to learn. That is how we find happiness. Sending us lessons, then, is one of the chief ways that God expresses His caring. Not doing so would be abandonment, and we know the effects that abandonment has on children.

As He’s giving us these lessons, it may seem that He is mainly giving us particular forms, which we react to in varying ways, often with displeasure. But they are just the wrapping. What He’s really giving us is the content, the message inside the form, the gift inside the wrapping. And that is always a gift of love and freedom. To the extent we truly welcomed the gift, I think to that same extent we would find the wrapping a welcome carrier of the gift.

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