Whenever there are heart-rending incidences of violence, it's easy to question whether God can help. Can appealing to God make a difference in volatile situations?
Something happened thousands of years ago that helps answer this question (see II Kings 6:8-23). It happened to Elisha - a holy man, a prophet who lived in close communion with God. He listened for God's messages and acted on them.
Syria had attacked Israel. Elisha, guided by the special prophetic insight that God gave him, told the king of Israel where the Syrian army was camped. So Israel was able to avoid being taken by surprise. When the Syrian king was informed of Elisha's prophetic insight, he sent soldiers to capture him.
Consequently, when Elisha's personal servant woke up one morning to find an army surrounding Dothan, where they were staying, he panicked.
"Alas, my master! how shall we do?" he pleaded.
But Elisha was unflappable. He stayed calm, stayed close to God in his thoughts. And he helped his servant see beyond the threat of capture. He helped him to see spiritually.
"Fear not," he said, "for they that be with us are more than they that be with them." He prayed, "Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see."
Then, where the servant had seen a large and hostile army surrounding the city, he was able to "see" something much better. He was able to understand to some degree that God truly is all-powerful. And he saw this, mentally or spiritually, in a way that he could understand. He saw that, as the Bible account says, "The mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha."
Through God's power, Elisha was able to bring the foreign army into the hands of the king of Israel. Then, instead of having the enemy forces killed, Elisha made sure that they were given food and then sent away. So Israel was freed from this particular Syrian invasion.
What was really going on - spiritually - in this situation all those years ago? How is it relevant to current situations like the one in East Timor?
This biblical account brings out the fact that there is one, all-good, all-powerful creator and governor of the universe.
Even though reality seems to be a mixture of good and evil powers, it isn't. It seems to be so because of our present, imperfect sense of reality. When "the Lord opened the eyes of the young man," Elisha's servant saw what was actual and real more clearly. The reality - that God is the only power - hadn't changed. But his perception of reality certainly had - with powerful benefits.
"Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," written by Mary Baker Eddy, sheds light on the prayer given by Jesus that's commonly called the Lord's Prayer (pgs. 16-17). A spiritual sense of that prayer is interwoven with the original prayer, as in these lines: "Thy kingdom come. Thy kingdom is come; Thou art ever-present. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Enable us to know, - as in heaven, so on earth, - God is omnipotent, supreme."
When I was 15 and living in South America, the concepts in these lines helped protect me from violence. My boyfriend and I were walking along the city streets. This was during a time of political unrest, and we realized that a riot had broken out nearby. Since riots such as these often involved anti-United States sentiment - and it was obvious that I was from the U.S. - my boyfriend was concerned for my safety.
But we both stayed calm and acknowledged that God was there, right then. God was in control.
It occurred to us to hail a taxi. And, amazingly, we were able find one almost immediately. As the cab started on its way, a streetlight that had fallen ahead of us was blocking our path. But the driver was able to turn around and speed us safely out of that area.
Examples such as Elisha's, and the incident just described, help me to acknowledge that, truly, God can be proved the supreme power. That His power is totally good. Even a small understanding of God helps calm and protect us. It can help bring more calm and peace to the world.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society