On December 25, a close friend called to tell me that she and her husband were leaving for a well-deserved vacation at a resort in Southeast Asia.
The next day, when I heard the news about the earthquake and tsunami, my heart sank. One of the stops on their flight was supposed to be Sri Lanka. I spent the rest of the day praying for my friends.
Particularly helpful to me was the Bible verse I often think about when I'm flying: "The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms" (Deut. 33:27). My friends called me later that day. They'd learned of the tragic turn of events at an earlier airport along their route. They canceled their plans and returned home.
But as scenes of the tremendous devastation and staggering reports of the dead and wounded continued to pound over the radio and TV like terrible aftershocks, I felt deeply moved by the immensity of the disaster.
I wanted to do something to help. I saw wave after wave of weeping in those television images, and inconsolable grief. My husband and I donated as much as we could to one of the relief agencies. Still, I felt a responsibility to do more.
Then, early New Year's morning, I was reading the Bible and "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mary Baker Eddy before anyone else was up - and asking God how I could possibly pray about a disaster of this magnitude and expect any practical results.
My prayer went something like this: Dear God, I know You are divine Love itself. And so, given that You would never leave Your own dear children homeless, helpless, starving, or unclothed.... Given that You would never send them random disease, or death.... And most of all, given that You could not have sent this terrible thing Yourself.... What do You want me to think?
A Bible verse that has seen me through many ups and downs, becoming at times a specific kind of prayer, came to me saying, "I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being" (Ps. 146:2). I've learned to stress that little word any. I knew that meant that if I were ever swept up in a tidal wave - whether it was a wall of water or a wall of grief - I would have to prove, right that minute, that I really meant this prayer. I would have to sing praises to my God even then.
Thinking about this comforted me a little, because I was pretty sure from past experiences that that is what I would do. But the next thought I had fits under the category I call angels - the comforting thoughts I get when I'm in no shape to think them up myself. "True, you may have seen film footage of these people as they faced the most tragic moment of their lives. But that does not mean that I will not still deliver them."
I felt as if divine Love was responding very specifically to the question I'd asked in prayer. The warmth and reassurance convinced me that the message had to have come from someplace higher than my own thought. And now I began to realize that if Life, God, truly is eternal, then the lives of each of the victims whose stories I was following in the news could never be separated from their Source, from God - even if it looked that way.
On occasions when I've faced grief, some well-meaning acquaintances have made statements about "life going on" that seemed shallow to me at the time, even though I knew they were doing their best to help. But the reassuring thought I'd had this time - that God would still deliver each individual to a safer place than I could perhaps yet know - felt as if it were coming right from God to comfort me. And perhaps, as I continue to listen, it will tell me another practical step I can take to help.
As for so many other caring people around the world, this will at least mean more donations to one, or several, of the humanitarian agencies I trust. But I thank God for that little message of comfort, and I hope it will help others as well, as we all keep working to make our world a safer place in which to live.
I will not leave you comfortless:
I will come to you.