`Natural' Disasters?

ON the news I heard a report of the cyclone that had struck a country, killing many people and rendering millions homeless. That same day there had been an earthquake reported, and another had happened a few days before. Not long before that, there had been a series of severe tornadoes in my own country. As I thought about these situations, which had such devastating effects on the people in those areas, I felt deep compassion for the individuals and for those who were trying to help them. To think of those millions of people rendered suddenly homeless staggered my imagination.

Feeling overwhelmed, I turned to God in prayer. I have had so many benefits from resorting to God in time of trouble that it seemed natural to do this even though the trouble in this case wasn't near my own home. As I prayed, I was struck by the fact that such events are so often called ``natural disasters.'' It is as though we are meant to accept them as part of the ordinary scheme of things. This outlook sees life as a struggle within a material creation that may at any moment turn and cause great suf fering.

There is, however, another point of view -- the one espoused by Christ Jesus. The Master taught that we never need to simply accept suffering. Indeed, he made clear that we can turn to God for help under all conditions and assured us that evil does not come from our heavenly Father. On more than one occasion he told his followers that it was God's intention to give good -- and good alone -- to His offspring. To God, then, disasters would certainly not be natural.

The Bible frequently declares God's willingness to protect His children and to provide for all their needs. As the ninety-first Psalm explicitly states of God: ``He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day.''

If we reason on this basis, we begin to see that as God's children we do not have to accept devastating events as inevitable to our -- or other people's -- lives. And this is where our prayers can reach out to help those who are in need wherever they are in the world. When Christ Jesus gave his disciples the Lord's Prayer, he began it, Matthew's Gospel records, by referring to God as ``our Father.'' Not their Father, or my Father, but our Father. We each, no matter who we are, have this one divine Father who loves us. And prayer to God reaches out to this one infinite Mind, which embraces all of us.

Our prayers can rightfully reject evil as having nothing to do with God's creation. The all-good God couldn't possibly set loose within His universe a random force that brings suffering to untold thousands. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, makes this clear in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. She writes: ``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.''

Since God is omnipresent Love, we can pray to know that this Love is with all who call upon Him. We see divine Love expressed in the intelligence and diligence of relief workers who overcome amazing challenges in their efforts to help. This selfless love illustrates the Christly approach Jesus wanted us to adopt in our relations with our fellow humans.

We can also pray to understand that man is in fact spiritual. He is not a mixture of matter and Spirit, but is made purely in God's likeness. In practical terms this means that man is not subject to materiality and its conditions. So, for example, he cannot be tempted by the fear and greed that so often follow in the wake of disasters.

Nor do we have to accept the belief that disease is the ``normal'' aftermath of a catastrophe. As we learn to see that man is spiritual, the offspring of God, we perceive that this spiritual nature renders us immune to the effects of disease. Man expresses only God's nature, and it would be impossible for God to be vulnerable to sickness of any kind. Since the Bible tells us that God made man in His likeness, it would follow that man could not be vulnerable, either.

What is it then that sometimes makes us feel subject to such troubles? It is the conviction that we are material beings, living in a material world that is fraught with peril. Christ Jesus, however, made clear that we need to recognize that we actually live in God, in Spirit, and we can experience only what God, good, is sending to us. This spiritual fact is true not just for people who have not experienced a disaster. It also applies to those who are in trouble and need help.

In our prayers we can know that divine Love is present, giving comfort and strength, peace and freedom, to all. This Love is also the one divine Mind, expressed as intelligence, insight, and wisdom. Our prayerful affirmation of this fact will help to support the efforts of rescue workers and others because we will be calling upon the power of the one God. Jesus proved over and over again that God is a help in every time of trouble.

In this way prayer enables us to cross national borders and to share our love for humanity with those around the world who are in need of it. It gives us the opportunity to look beyond our own personal spheres to those who are crying out for our love and for our prayers.

You can find more articles about spiritual healing in the Christian Science Sentinel, a weekly magazine.

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