The impact of hurricane Felix on Nicaragua may not have been as devastating as Katrina was on New Orleans two years ago. Yet there are echoes of the same human tribulation: the difficulty of getting aid to victims, and the poverty of the people most affected. Anyone who recalls the isolated people on rooftops in New Orleans right after Katrina can only feel compassion for the Nicaraguans' isolation. And recent news stories make it clear that residents of New Orleans still have many challenges to overcome.
In prayer today about the hurricanes and their aftereffects, my thoughts turned to a psalm that captures God's presence in such trials. As the Psalmist put it, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will we not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea" (Ps. 46:1, 2).
In our prayers for these and other affected areas, we can affirm that God's refuge is present and secure, no matter what the individual situation may be. It is a refuge from loss, loneliness, fear, discouragement, and anger; from frustration with not getting help or not getting the right kind. Right now, Love is supporting each individual, eliminating fear, providing practical ways to find safety, comfort, and renewal.
Love does this because each of us is Love's spiritual idea. No matter who we are or where we are, nationality, ethnicity, race, and religion are irrelevant. Love loves each of us, and is there to help us through these times in very specific ways. On more than one occasion, I have experienced God's protection and guidance when property I was responsible for suffered flooding, and this guidance minimized or prevented damage.
In "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," the founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote, "Love inspires, illumines, designates, and leads the way" (p. 454). This statement can be a helpful guide to our prayers for those in trouble.
The first step may be a recognition that it is Love's nature to inspire – to lead people away from the images of loss and despair that may be very vivid at the outset. This release from fixation on the disaster may take different forms, but its source is always God, whose purpose is to reveal the good that is going on right now. For some, it may come as a desire to provide for their children or another loved one or simply to help their neighbors. This inspiration of Love is Christ, the spiritual idea of man's unity with God. The influence of Christ can reveal resources where at first it appeared that everything was lost or that help was inaccessible.
Sometimes Love illumines thought with a specific idea about what to do next and how to do it. Or it may be inspire you to go to a certain place or to ask someone for help that you might not have thought of without a "nudge" from Christ, which reveals God's goodness.
Even if we're in the midst of confusion, Love provides the intelligence and wisdom to know what the next step needs to be, whether it's finding temporary shelter or working through bureaucracy. Our prayers can affirm that each individual is able to feel this designation of divine Love.
But there's a point beyond the nitty-gritty of surviving the first few days or weeks right after a hurricane, or dealing with the long-term uncertainty about what the next steps should be. Here, our prayers can affirm not just that divine Love has led the way into a somewhat more stable environment, but that it continues to lead each day, each hour. Love's leading doesn't stop when the relief workers leave.
The outward forms of recovery – a new place to live, food, clothing, and so forth – are important. But the inner conviction that Love guided us through the experience and is still with us makes God's care "a very present help" every day of the year.