I was sitting in a coffee shop recently, quietly having lunch and checking news stories on my smart phone. I was surrounded by young mothers with adorable babies, and grandparents having a meal out with their little grandchild. The scenes were happy exchanges of familial love, tenderness, and protection across the generations. What I saw made me happy, and reminded me, as headlines stared up at me from my mobile device, that thousands of children everywhere need our careful and thoughtful prayers.
The headlines and lead stories were horrific: teens in South Korea trapped in a capsized ferry, schoolgirls forcibly taken from their boarding school in Nigeria, and panicked relatives everywhere demanding to know the whereabouts of their loved ones from Asia to Africa. The gripping story to me, though, is the plight of the young girls kidnapped in Nigeria by forces that have terrorized areas of that country not only with their theme of Boko Haram, which translates “Western education is forbidden,” but also with their ability to force communities into fear and submission. An editorial in The Christian Science Monitor spoke of the sense of hopelessness that has struck the families, and that these emotions can enable the terrorists to manipulate communities and populations until communities and leaders find a way out (“Finding Nigeria’s missing girls,” May 1).
A situation that brings fear, desperation, and a loss of hope cripples one’s ability to think clearly. As I commonly do, I found myself turning to the Bible for solace and hope to pray for these dear girls and their country. The book of Psalms has led many people in times of trouble to find a calm perspective. A psalm states: “O Lord my God, in you I take refuge; save me from all my pursuers, and deliver me” (7:1, New Revised Standard Version). And the previous psalm says: ”O Lord, save my life; deliver me for the sake of your steadfast love” (6:4). My coffee-shop moments were suddenly bathed in an aura of God’s love for all His children.
Another image came to mind that led me to pray more diligently for the situation in Nigeria: the effect of darkness and despair that seems apparent when we see shadows. During a flight across the country recently, 30,000 feet above beautiful prairies and then mountains, I became troubled by dark swatches on the land below me, where it appeared that the land was devastated, barren, or even ruined by drought or some kind of toxicity. “What’s going on down there?” I wondered. Then, suddenly, I had to smile. Far above us were clouds that had been hiding the sun’s rays, and the earth below appeared spent and ruined. But it wasn’t true. When the clouds dispersed, the shadows disappeared, revealing that the dark places weren’t dark after all. Isn’t this like fear, confusion, or terrorism in our thought? The clouds can obscure what we really need to see – God’s goodness, love, and deliverance.
The iconic Job, in the Old Testament, looked to God when things got really bad in his life. He lost his family, his wealth, his land, and finally his health. But in spite of it all, he never lost his faith in God’s love and ultimate care for him. He asked God: “Where is the way to the dwelling of light...? Surely you know...” (Job 38:19-21, NRSV). I love the idea of light becoming more evident, clouds and darkness disappearing in the light of our understanding of an all-good, all-caring God. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, commented on this appearance of light: “As vapor melts before the sun, so evil would vanish before the reality of good” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 480).
Then it’s our job to keep the vision and keep up the prayers for the safety of our children worldwide. We can lift our hope above the darkness of terrorism, fear, and doubt, and sing with assurance the words of this hymn: “I lift mine eyes, the cloud grows thin,/ I see the blue above it...” (Robert Lowry, “Christian Science Hymnal Supplement,” No. 449). Through the tumult and fear, there can be hope. The people of Nigeria and the girls who are missing deserve our prayers of hope and peace.