Flood devastation in Ghana and other parts of Africa is the latest in an ongoing string of natural disasters. One might say it illustrates, yet again, how forces of nature put people in their place and remind them – advanced technology notwithstanding – how fragile is the balance upon which human life is poised.
Another way of looking at it is found in a parable Christ Jesus told. He talked about two houses, one built on sand and one built on rock. A natural example from the son of a carpenter, one would suppose, and a common-sense observation about the value of a solid foundation.
The part that interests me the most is one recurring statement in the story: "…and the floods came, and the winds blew" (see Matt. 7:25, 27). Jesus never promised there would not be floods and testing times. What he did promise was that such times need hold no dread for those who rely on God. As a friend of mine once said: There is nobody in trouble so deep but the Most High God can lift him up – and out.
That – and not the frailty and futility of life – is the lesson to be learned from natural disasters. Human experience is full of uncertainty. But, as Christian Science teaches, each of us is far more than merely human; we are the children of a loving God, our Father-Mother, who cares for us every moment.
No matter what the situation or conditions, we are never outside His tender embrace. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, wrote, "Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 494).
I know what widespread flooding can do to an area. It's been over a decade since the sleepy little river town at the foot of the hill where I lived was underwater for days, right when the summer heat was at its height. People were rowing boats past the stop sign where two streets crossed, ferrying people to their homes to rescue belongings, wherever possible. Helpers arrived by the bus load from around the region and well beyond to lend a hand with sandbagging and salvage efforts. My job was to answer the phones and keep the sandwiches and cold drinks coming.
Although nobody was brought to the point of starvation, as is the case in Ghana, some people were left homeless, and for many it was a very tough time. What I remember most was the sense of community we felt during those days. Old feuds playing out among local residents were put aside for the duration. Too bad, I thought, it sometimes takes a disaster to make people see the good in one another and celebrate it. And there were important lessons learned.
One of my friends lost just about everything in his house, including some beautiful artwork. He said that he discovered what it means to be free. He said that too many of his possessions owned him, instead of the other way around.
Floods come in different forms. Who hasn't felt, on some occasion or another, swept away and inundated by fear, doubt, limitation? The Bible contains one of the best-known of all flood stories: Noah and the ark. This narrative in the book of Genesis tells the story of a flood that covered the earth. Yet at the same time it points to a perennial hope, symbolized by the rainbow – a sweep of color arching above dark, rain-filled clouds. Its beauty and promise are there for everyone, in every culture, no matter how dire the conditions may seem.
May our prayers remind us of this fact, for ourselves and for our neighbors. As we enfold our friends in Ghana in those prayers, even if the rains come, we know that nothing can wash away God's ever-presence and His tender care for each of His children, meeting "every human need."
Our help is in the name
of the Lord,
who made heaven and earth. Ps. 124:8