Help after hurricane Sandy

A Christian Science perspective: After the massive damage from hurricane Sandy, what can help the clean-up and restoration process and provide courage and strength to move forward?

Last year, following what has been called the “Halloween Storm” in Massachusetts, my roommate and I were left with no heat, light, landline telephone service, and no way to get to work because a large limb from a neighbor’s oak tree was blocking the driveway. Without electricity, my cellphone would run down quickly, so I left my boss “one last message,” feeling a little like someone on a sinking ship, beyond reach of any help.

Except I wasn’t. And if you are one of the many people living with the aftermath of hurricane Sandy, you aren’t either. God really is present to help us at all times and in all places. I love this psalm: “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee,... Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications” (Psalms 130:1, 2).

Just as it’s important to be confident that God is listening, we also need to be open to His divine guidance. Here are two steps I found helpful:

  • Look for good, and be actively grateful for it.

Gratitude turns us away from our problems, and toward evidence of God’s presence with us. These good signs don’t have to be huge, but each one can make a difference. For example, when the tree limb fell, its branches encased one of our cars. The car wasn’t damaged – a cause for gratitude – but it was clear that if the limb shifted, serious damage could result.

  • Take prayer-based action as God leads you.

After inspecting the car, I realized that while risky, I could extract it. As I cut the car loose, branch by branch, I could feel significant tension on the car from these branches. I prayed with each cut, and left some intact as a result. I then got in and aimed the car toward an open space, and hit the accelerator. The car dashed out from under the limb, which settled down further. Another reason for gratitude.

Yet to remove this limb, which was as tall as our three-story house, wasn’t within our power, and without phone service, we couldn’t call a contractor. In her “Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, advises, “Never ask for tomorrow: it is enough that divine Love is an ever-present help; and if you wait, never doubting, you will have all you need every moment” (p. 307). As I prayed with these thoughts, I insisted mentally that God is ever present and that nothing could separate us from His care. At that point, there was a knock on the front door.

The man who managed the grounds where the tree was had come to tell us he felt a moral obligation to help us remove the limb, even though there was no legal requirement. Within about two hours, his workers had removed the limb. During that process, I prayed for their safety, and extended my prayer to all people who were working to restore services and help people in trouble.

Each of these events increased my gratitude for God’s goodness and my conviction that we were in fact living under the government of good. The house had reached 30 degrees F., so it was dark and cold – but I continued to insist on God’s goodness. Instead of rehearsing what we didn’t have, I gave thanks for what we did have, especially for all the good that had come to us. There was a knock at the back door.

It was the man who had helped us the day before, offering us the use of his generator and promising that one of his men would look after it for us. This gave us one light and ran an oil-filled heater. The living room temperature gradually reached the relatively balmy 50s. Later, a telephone repairman found a “work around” that provided temporary service until permanent repair was possible.

We were among the last customers to get electricity back because we were a single-family home. But when the repairmen came at the promised time, I was so glad to see them that I rushed out to shake their hands and thank them, much to their surprise. Their smiles were a lovely “period” at the end of the story of good that had begun to unfold the night the tree fell.

Your circumstances may be different, yet the same God who helped us will help you. As Mrs. Eddy wrote, “[I]f you wait, never doubting, you will have all you need every moment.”

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