It was a relief to read that the main effect of the earthquake felt in Indonesia's key island of Java appears to have been simply to severely shake buildings. Even though it had a magnitude of 7.5, the devastation that struck Southeast Asia in 2004 didn't occur.
Experts say that the depth of the quake precluded a tsunami as well.
I couldn't help noticing, though, the fear of danger that the initial reports created. I know that many around the world must have turned immediately to prayer for all living in this region.
One news report said that the earthquake took place around midnight, waking many people. Some of them rushed out of their homes, crying, "Allah akbar!" or "God is great!" This brought to mind a psalm that has often helped me: "What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee" (56:3). Surely those Indonesians were following that same instinct that moved the Psalmist to call upon what he saw as the source of divine mercy and care.
And as Jesus' life showed, we are always on safe ground when we turn to God. No matter what condition he faced, he brought his conviction of God's presence with him, and healing resulted.
Once, he left his disciples so he could go off alone to pray. They got into their boat and were crossing to the other shore when the sea became very stormy. Imagine their surprise when they saw a human figure walking toward them on the stormy water, and how relieved they were to hear a familiar voice say, "Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid" (Matt. 14:27).
Jesus invited Peter to walk on the water with him, and at first Peter did well. But "when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me" (Matt. 14:30). Jesus took him by the hand and brought him safely aboard the ship – at which point the wind ceased.
What was it that caused the wind to cease? To me, it was Jesus' conviction that only God has power and that there couldn't be another power to oppose God's goodness. It's this power that is with all people in Indonesia and any other area affected by the quake or its aftershocks, or the severe flooding they've been dealing with.
To understand that God is Spirit, and that His creation – including us – is spiritual will speed our progress and theirs. This shift in thought moves us away from reliance on material conditions – or the fear of them – and it strengthens us. The account of Jesus' walk on the water confirms this. Peter was able to walk upon the water until he became afraid – until his conviction of God's goodness and love began to slip. Then he began to sink.
I love this story because it says that each of us already has the ability to trust God and to make our way safely through whatever life throws at us – whether it's a geophysical earthquake or some event in our lives that is as devastating in its own way. But if our faith should slip, the Christ – the spiritual idea of God that Jesus presented to the world – will not let us drown. Somehow, and in some way, we will be helped to a place of safety.
Jesus' message of God's love is for everyone. The people who ran out of their homes crying, "Allah akbar!" were calling on the One they trusted to help them, and that is the same God Jesus presented through his ministry. It is the God who heals, saves, and blesses.
In her "Message to The Mother Church for 1902," Mary Baker Eddy said: "To the burdened and weary, Jesus saith: 'Come unto me.' O glorious hope! there remaineth a rest for the righteous, a rest in Christ, a peace in Love. The thought of it stills complaint; the heaving surf of life's troubled sea foams itself away, and underneath is a deep-settled calm" (p. 19).
Our prayers can affirm that all who are affected by the quake and the floods can feel this "peace in Love" and experience the "deep-settled calm" of God.