“I just want to know what to do.” These were the words of a Syrian woman who had just come to Greece only to find that the border had been closed. My heart welled up within me. I too had uttered those very words on a number of occasions, and as I began to pray about the refugee crisis, I was reminded of a time in my own life when I had earnestly prayed, and God had answered my plea for guidance.
It was when my husband had passed on suddenly that I yearned most deeply to know what to do next. I was unemployed, had a mortgage on an old house that we were renovating, and had two preschool-aged children to care for. But in spite of all the uncertainty, there was something that remained constant: a sense of God’s mothering-fathering love, which I had learned to trust and lean on during my childhood. I had come to know God as a tender Shepherd that guides, guards, and provides for us, the sheep of His pasture. The 23rd Psalm describes it this way: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters” (Psalms 23:1, 2). The whole Psalm was so reassuring! It promised me that God would guide me right through this valley experience, and that we would be protected and sustained.
My prayer to know what to do also came from the words of a beloved hymn that had comforted and guided me as a youngster: “Shepherd, show me how to go / O’er the hillside steep, / How to gather, how to sow, – / How to feed Thy sheep” (Mary Baker Eddy, “Christian Science Hymnal,” No. 304).
What stood out to me as I prayed with this hymn was that little word “how.” It occurred to me that I was not praying so much to know “what to do,” but “how to do it” – how to feel my fears settled and to find quietness and comfort in this time of loss. I sensed that this, more than answers about what to do, was what I most needed.
As I prayed for God to shepherd my thoughts, a tangible sense of peace began to be established. It would come in specific inspiration from my early morning Bible study, a rush of courage as I opened my hymnal for reassurance during the afternoon, and a comforting embrace from an article from the Christian Science magazines as I tucked into bed. And with this greater mental peace, ideas on how to proceed came.
I began to teach musical play groups to children in my home, which my own children were involved in. Some kind neighbors helped me finish the construction projects on the house. Within the year, I was actually able to sell the house and move closer to my family, which helped a lot, too. Every step of the way our needs were cared for, which I attributed to my prayers to God.
In my prayers for the refugees and all who are saying, “I just want to know what to do,” I am knowing that, surely, God is their shepherd, too! Divine Love, God, is universal. The great embrace of ever-present Love guided the refugee Hagar with her son Ishmael to meet their needs in the wilderness (see Genesis 21). Divine Love guided Moses to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt and through the desert, providing for all of their needs (see Exodus and Leviticus).
Upon her discovery of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy often found herself moving from house to house every few weeks during a challenging period of her life. Yet she was later able to write with conviction: “Love is impartial and universal in its adaptation and bestowals. It is the open fount which cries, ‘Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters’ ” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 13).
No matter who we are, we can learn that God is Love, and that Love guides us, because we are His beloved children – God's image and expression. Every moment, divine Love is available for each refugee and for everyone who is striving to respond to the refugee crisis. Turning to Love, each one can find guidance on “how to go” and “what to do.” Praying to know God’s love, we will also know His power to lead us and others into safety and well-being.