The cartoon sketch is of a family gathered around the television, crouching and trembling, faces screwed up in anticipatory horror and fear. The caption reads, "And now ... the evening news."
The news these days has included around-the-clock announcements of flu season. This year, it's been proving already more severe than usual, and predictions are for continued aggravation. Many people have been seeking shots to ward off the flu or diminish the miserable effects depicted in commercials that show its suffering victims.
But an answer to both the fear of epidemic and the actual physical effects lies in a different direction. Most people are aware of the persuasive nature of advertising, and its influence on spending habits, on conduct - and even on health. Most can see, whether it's through an announcement of a surprise party among friends or the declaration of a successfully negotiated peace treaty, how the delivery of information sweeping across a room can change the atmosphere. In these instances, it is a "happy sweep" ... a good contagion. But when there are repetitive reports of illness, predicting helplessness and even death, the contagion is harmful.
Are we defenseless? Can we stop such a wave of fear? We are not without help, and we can protect ourselves and others from waves of sickness through understanding that God has made us permanently whole and invulnerable.
There is a more powerful voice than the repeated reports of inevitable illness and suffering. It's the Christ, God's message of love and all-pervasive good. Hearing this voice is our defense. The broadcast Jesus made in his Sermon on the Mount was that God is taking excellent care of each of His sons and daughters. He said that we should be "careless in the care of God," and added: "Steep your life in God-reality ... God-provisions" and "... all your everyday human concerns will be met" (Matt. 6:26, 33, Eugene Peterson, "The Message").
This promising love of God is a quiet, sweet influence. It is felt both mentally and physically. God speaks spiritual truth loudly and clearly to our hearts. Mary Baker Eddy wrote: "The 'still, small voice' of scientific thought reaches over continent and ocean to the globe's remotest bound. The inaudible voice of Truth is, to the human mind, 'as when a lion roareth.' It is heard in the desert and in dark places of fear" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," page 559).
Even if you already feel ill, prayer will help and heal you. The last time I remember having the flu was several years ago, right about this time of year. My teenagers had been away at school and were home for the holidays. I felt awful, and they were in my bedroom with me, kind of hanging around waiting for me to get better. The phone rang. It was someone asking me to pray for healing. I spoke with the caller about God's love, and about the healing influence of the Christ-message of God's care. I explained its powerful ability to lift us mentally and heal us physically.
When I finished the phone call, before sinking back into my own misery, I was caught short by my usually quiet teenage son. He said, "You know, Mom, what you are saying to them is healing you." Well, this hit me with such impact, such clarity and love, that I just plain accepted it as a fact. I got up healed, and our whole family enjoyed the rest of the holiday free of the flu. Through those matter-of-fact yet soft words of truth, my whole body was influenced.
When fear appears most rampant, prayerful watching is needed. And you and I can, through this prayer, spread the comforting calm and healing power of the Christ-message.
Peace, peace to him
that is far off, and to him
that is near, saith the Lord;
and I will heal him.