In the midst of reports about Asia's typhoons and earthquakes, there was a gentle image: a baby looking up into the eyes of a rescue worker, who was tenderly holding the child (Agence France-Press). In recent days, the Philippines, Taiwan, and China have been battered by typhoon Morakot, which left hundreds of people missing and others dead. Taiwan has experienced record rains and the worst flooding in half a century; a mudslide has covered a rural village.
Japan's west coast was struck by typhoon Etau, which left at least 12 people dead. In addition, Japan had earthquakes two days in a row, measuring magnitudes of 6.9 and 6.6 respectively. Around the same time, a magnitude 7.7 earthquake in the Andaman Islands prompted a tsunami watch for India, Burma (Myanmar), Indonesia, Thailand, and Bangladesh. Continuing rain has hampered rescue efforts.
The photo of the child and the rescue worker is one among many, most of which show scenes of destruction. Yet its tender message shines as a ray of hope. Anyone who has ever spoken to rescuers knows the energy, strength, and devotion they bring to their work, even against overwhelming odds. The energizing power behind all of those qualities is divine Love, which leads us to love our neighbors and to want to help them. As the Bible tells us, "God is love" (I John 4:8). This is a far cry from the image of God as one who sends suffering to test people or purify them. Rather, divine Love preserves life and peace.
Our prayers on behalf of those who are suffering through these storms and earthquakes can do much to strengthen and guide their efforts. By recognizing each individual as the spiritual idea of God, we are seeing them as fully empowered and strengthened by Love.
Mary Baker Eddy, who founded this newspaper, wrote the following in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures": "It is proverbial that Florence Nightingale and other philanthropists engaged in humane labors have been able to undergo without sinking fatigues and exposures which ordinary people could not endure. The explanation lies in the support which they derived from the divine law, rising above the human. The spiritual demand, quelling the material, supplies energy and endurance surpassing all other aids, and forestalls the penalty which our beliefs would attach to our best deeds" (p. 385).
By accepting that statement as true, we can help lift off the common belief that in helping others, rescue workers could suffer negative physical reactions, such as physical or mental breakdowns, from trying too hard or from the scenes of disaster they witness. Prayer can also recognize that each one has sufficient wisdom to make good choices as they search – avoiding places that might endanger their own lives or checking locations where someone is in need but may be hidden. Spiritual qualities such as intuition and discernment are available to all, and our prayers can ensure that rescuers will make good use of these talents.
After the rescue efforts, there will come the cleaning up and rebuilding phase. Lack of clean water and other necessities may pose health issues. Here, each of us can contribute by recognizing God's power to strengthen individuals and to inspire their work. Perhaps someone will find a new way to make a repair or recall a place where a needed tool or part might be found. A consciousness of God's goodness and provision for each individual can support people as they begin to go through the task of sorting out their belongings, and consider their next steps. The caring presence of divine Love is a powerful antidote to the discouragement that may threaten to darken thoughts and keep people from rebuilding.
Which gets us back to that photo of the baby. There's no indication that the baby's parents are known or what the future will hold. But on behalf of this child and so many others, we can pray with the Psalmist: "If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee" (Ps. 139:11, 12).
The light of God's love, the same light that has led the initial rescue efforts, will guide each individual, including children, to a safe haven, to a place where they can find hope and home. This is what divine light does – it shines on our paths and leads us toward good. There is no night on this path; no fear, no darkness. There is only light.