One of the saddest challenges of war is servicemen or -women missing in action. We empathize with those who have disappeared and with the emotional distress that their families endure. Reading about them touches the heart and is a call to prayer.
An article titled "The Waiting" highlights the families of four servicemen missing in Iraq (The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 26). Their parents take different approaches to supporting their absent loved ones, but they share the longing to connect with their children and the willingness to do whatever they can to bring them home.
Jesus encouraged his followers to watch out for the whole group, and not to be satisfied until everyone was accounted for. In one of his parables, he spoke about God's natural and abiding interest in each of His children.
Jesus said: "How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish" (Matt. 18:12-14).
The promise of God's love is evident in Jesus' words. In fact, it's the shepherd's commitment to each of his sheep that drives this parable. Although the use of the term "astray" can be interpreted in many ways, the focal point is clearly God's ability to keep His children close. God sees and nurtures the worth of each individual.
We are all held within divine protection, just as the sheep in the parable are sheltered. No one can be hidden or imprisoned in a place beyond our Shepherd's presence. Because God is already everywhere, we can know that right now God is communicating with, and encouraging, anyone who seems to be without aid.
Mary Baker Eddy, whose own son fought in the Civil War, wrote, "Remember, thou canst be brought into no condition, be it ever so severe, where Love has not been before thee and where its tender lesson is not awaiting thee" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," pp. 149-150).
It's comforting to remember that the same divine Love that cares for us also cares for those from whom we feel separated. In fact, in Spirit, God, we are not actually separated at all, but joined together indissolubly. And God is well able to reach even those affected by previous wars and provide evidence of His love in the form of peace and caring that will meet their needs.
This is not a trite dismissal of the incredible struggles faced by those unjustly imprisoned or the families who care for them. Sometimes it's difficult to integrate the spiritual reality – what God is telling us of His promise and goodness – with what the human situation seems to be. But God is always right, and Jesus' life-lesson demonstrates to us that ultimately nothing can successfully challenge God's power.
It's this reassurance that enables us to keep going, to remain steadfast in the face of adversity. Whether we begin our prayers with despair or with confidence, God is available and ready to help us discover the stillness and hope that are already ours. He keeps us on the support team and shows us that our prayers help to light the darkest places.
The Lord watch
between me and thee,
when we are absent
one from another. Genesis 31:49