Disasters and True Happiness

THIS week in Japan a United Nations conference will review the progress that has been made in reducing the impact of disasters. The meeting marks roughly the halfway point in the UN's International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction. The earthquakes, floods, fires, hurricanes, and typhoons that have ravaged the globe in recent years show this is a subject worth attending to. Let's join this effort with our prayers for intelligent solutions.

Whenever a disaster strikes, people wonder why it happened. The Bible gives us assurance that suffering isn't God's plan even when our disobedience to His law may lead us into jeopardy. And at the same time, it tells us of God's power and willingness to save us. King Solomon brought home this idea of God's salvation in his prayer recorded in First Kings: ``If there be in the land famine, if there be pestilence, blasting, mildew, locust, or if there be caterpillar; . . . whatsoever sickness there be; what prayer and supplication soever be made by any man, or by all thy people . . . : then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and do, and give to every man according to his ways'' (I Kings 8:37-39).

Christ Jesus' ministry further clarified the nature of God by explaining that God is a loving Father who sends only good, not evil, to us, His spiritual offspring. It is the belief that we are material beings living in an equally material world with finite resources, land, opportunities, that leads us to make disastrous choices. In her Miscellaneous Writings, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, says, ``A false sense of what constitutes happiness is more disastrous to human progress than all that an enemy or enmity can obtrude upon the mind or engraft upon its purposes and achievements wherewith to obstruct life's joys and enhance its sorrows'' (pp. 9-10).

True, constructive happiness comes as we turn more to God, divine Mind, and realize that joy has a spiritual basis. If we see joy in spiritual terms, we gain true security whether we live in a flood plain or in an area where disaster seems impossible. Understanding that each of us is the spiritual child of an all-loving God enables us to feel at peace wherever we are. And we can extend this joy to others as we pray to see that all of us are under the protection of this one infinite Mind, from which we can never be separated.

There may well be times when this won't be easy. But spirituality is a solid foundation on which to build our road out of trouble. We have a choice: we can stubbornly believe that material living and being are what matter most and that these determine the outcome of our lives as well as the existence of those around us. But if we are willing to follow Christ Jesus' teachings and understand God to be infinite Love, we gain both wisdom and a stronger spiritual perspective on life. These two qualities will strengthen our prayers for ourselves and for others. Instead of begging an unknown, possibly uninterested deity for help in times of fear, we will be praying with the assurance that the Master had when he stilled a storm at sea, when he raised Lazarus from the dead, when he fed thousands with a few loaves and fishes.

Through such prayer-directed living, we each can reduce our vulnerability to disaster right where we are. And we can reach out in prayer to others as well, thus helping all of humanity to progress toward that happy time when the impact of disaster will be reduced to zero, and all mankind will be blessed.

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