A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing,
Our helper He amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing.
Besides the obvious “mortal ills” brought about by the actual floods, which have done considerable damage and displaced many people, there are also frustrations with the way local governments have handled the situation. Although many lessons have been learned since the major floods in central Europe in 2002, no flood is exactly the same, and human conditions are always a part of the mix.
Yet if you look for a common element in effectively addressing natural and other disasters – love is the one thing that eases suffering, strengthens helpers, opens the door to wise and compassionate choices. As Scripture puts it, “There is nothing love cannot face; there is no limit to its faith, its hope, and its endurance” (I Corinthians 13:7, New English Bible).
The love that strengthens, comforts, and saves is divine Love, truly a fortress, bulwark, and helper. Divine Love’s infinite presence provides grace for overstressed public officials, kindness for those in need, patience for anxious relatives and friends, courage for those facing and attempting to control the flooding, strength for those filling sandbags and engaging in other flood-control activities.
This isn’t an abstract love, but the goodness and power of God as a very present help to those in need. As Mary Baker Eddy puts it, “Love cannot be a mere abstraction, or goodness without activity and power. As a human quality, the glorious significance of affection is more than words: it is the tender, unselfish deed done in secret; the silent, ceaseless prayer; the self-forgetful heart that overflows; ...” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 250).
Those of us outside the flood area can be part of this powerful work through prayer and through our conviction that God’s power and love are present to help and heal. This is the same power that Jesus relied on in his healing ministry, the same one that allowed him to walk on water during a storm at sea and quiet the waters with the words, “Peace, be still” (Mark 4:39).
Jesus was proving the power of Christ, the power of God expressed on the human scene, and he charged all those who would follow him to be helpers and healers also.
Our prayers can bring protection and peace to those troubled areas where many refuse to leave their property, afraid that looters will take their belongings. Prayer can provide inspiration to those striving to reduce the chaos, particularly public officials who may be overwhelmed by changing conditions. They can also uplift the hearts of those who are downcast or frightened for loved ones or for the safety of their homes.
Those prayers can also support restoration of the affected areas. This restoration can include opportunities to make intelligent and informed choices as that work goes forward. Hearts can be filled with hope instead of despair or misery that clings to the past.
I love this message from the book of Revelation in the Bible: “Behold, I [God] make all things new” (21:5). Newness can include a fresh start, joy, inspiration, progress. This promise can inform our prayers, and our expectations for all those affected by the floods.