Since I've SpENT time along the Gulf Coast, I've become acquainted with towns in that region, including the lovely old city of New Orleans. And my heart goes out to all the people in the path of Hurricane Katrina, including those who were forced to take refuge in the Superdome and other shelters. But along with the compassion I feel, I'm heartened by the record of the power of prayer to save that gives me the conviction that God truly is a refuge for everyone in both physical and mental storms.
Even though human circumstances may be extremely dire at times like these, the Bible offers powerful guidance to a spiritual standpoint, one that comforts and empowers us.
One psalm declares: "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled" (Ps. 46:1-3).
When I think of storm surges, where the waves may seem like mountains, I think of the divine power of Love moving upon those waters and requiring them to be at peace. Right now, that power is a present force preserving life, giving wisdom to all who are affected by the storm, giving intelligence and foresight to the first responders whose duties often place them in harm's way, even after a storm has passed.
One thing that has no place at these times is the old belief that devastation is sent to test humanity or even to punish people. None of this could ever be the work of a just and loving God. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, put it this way in her major work, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures": "In one sense God is identical with nature, but this nature is spiritual and is not expressed in matter. The lawgiver, whose lightning palsies or prostrates in death the child at prayer, is not the divine ideal of omnipresent Love. God is natural good, and is represented only by the idea of goodness; while evil should be regarded as unnatural, because it is opposed to the nature of Spirit, God" (page 119).
The Bible reinforces this point through the account of Elijah's encounter with God on Mount Horeb. At the time, Elijah was being hunted by Queen Jezebel and had been inspired to take refuge on the mountain. While he was there, he had to face earthquake, wind, lightning, and fire. But through his understanding of God, he knew these could not have been sent by the Deity who had cared for him for so many years. It was only when Elijah heard what the Bible describes as "a still small voice," that he felt he was at last hearing God's voice.
This "still small voice" is the one that each of us can listen for and be guided by, whether or not we are actually in the hurricane zone. We can let it direct our prayers for those who are affected by recognizing that evil - no matter what form it takes - never comes from God, is never a tool God uses to make us better or to teach us a lesson. Instead, the divine intelligence can and will guide us through these natural phenomena and strengthen us, even when all seems to be collapsing around us.
I've lived through several hurricanes, some scarier than others, and through many different crises, both personal and professional. In those times, the only place where I've found the genuine peace that comes from divine Love is in trusting that God truly is a refuge for me - for all of us.
The news reports about Katrina predict that there will be much to do to recover from this storm. But God's presence and power will be available to guide and direct recovery efforts. And throughout that work, divine Love will continue to be the refuge that comforts, strengthens, and restores the spirit of all who are in need.