Ray Bradbury, the science fiction writer with an encouraging view of the future, was once asked, "Are we going to survive?" He replied with a smile, "We already have! If you want to believe it, turn off the local news."
He went on to say that the news focuses on threats, and highlights the basest view of humanity. If this perception were universally true, we would not have survived thus far. He then assured the audience that most people are living good lives, trying to make positive contributions, and finding solutions to the challenges they face.
Several years ago, the influence of the news was evident in the days following the Northridge earthquake in California. We invited three generations of a family to stay with us because their homes had buckled at the knees. Once our power was restored, all our guests were glued to the TV, reliving the horrors of the event.
The children became listless, and they shuddered with each aftershock. Something had to be done to quiet their fear. I turned to the counsel of the book of Isaiah to gain insight into how to do so: "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee" (Isa. 26:3). Endlessly watching the news surely wasn't helping anyone keep his or her mind stayed on God and His kingdom of harmony.
Knowing that our houseguests loved God, I suggested that we turn off the TV and keep our thought focused on Him. We reassured the children of God's love for them and that He would keep them safe. We also found things to be grateful for - simple things, such as just being together and having a roof over our heads. We traced the good back to God, the provider of all good.
With that, we each began to feel loved and regained our sense of peace. As the parents and grandparents prayed and calmed down, they saw what steps needed to be taken to get their lives back in order.
When we are confronted with any adversity, our first line of defense is to answer the question of what are we listening to. Salvation or safety isn't dependent upon the course of nature or upon the decisions men and women make. Instead, there's a higher intelligence we can appeal to in order to discover harmony on earth. This intelligence, and therefore power, is God - the one supreme Mind. So all can echo the Apostle Paul's proclamation, "Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (II Cor. 6:2).
Mary Baker Eddy, in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," explained this Bible text to mean "not that now men must prepare for a future-world salvation, or safety, but that now is the time in which to experience that salvation in spirit and in life" (page 39).
For thousands of years, humanity has successfully appealed to divine intelligence for salvation and safety. One key in doing so is to resist prescribing an outcome. God is infinitely good, so any plan He outlines is bound to be good.
The Bible illustrates a variety of solutions to brewing adversity. Biblical luminaries offer broad shoulders to stand on, but examples of safety established are also abundant in our own age. Twentieth-century wartime accounts illustrate occasions when individuals terrorized by falling bombs or internment met and surmounted those challenges through prayer.
My friend Phyllis, who grew up during World War II, found her Italian town besieged by the enemy. One night, before bed, she prayed for guidance. As she slept, she dreamed about black olives falling from the sky. In her dream, she gathered her family together and led them to safety.
The next morning, planes overhead dropped black bombs that looked like the olives of her dream. She knew exactly the route to lead her family out, and she did so. As a child, it would have been easy for her to freeze with fright, but her prayer and willingness to trust what it revealed gave her the calm to take the necessary steps.
So, too, as you and I pray about various threats, we can trust that we will hear what is necessary to lead us to safety. Turning off the local news serves as a metaphor for turning away from the fearful chatter we sometimes entertain and, instead, in the quiet of our prayer, turning to God for direction. Pending doom ceases to alarm us as we come to trust divine Mind as the sole power. And then we'll listen for intelligent solutions that proceed from this Mind and guide us to safety.