I was living in Los Angeles when the Northridge earthquake struck in January 1994. While the effects of Northridge can’t begin to compare with those of Mexico’s recent quakes, I did learn something that can help inspire prayers for the victims.
For me, the most unsettling element of the Northridge quake wasn’t so much the quake itself, but the random nature of the aftershocks. For a week after the first major seismic event – periodically, without warning – the ground would shake, and whatever building I was in would rattle.
Sometimes I would be on the other side of the Los Angeles Basin, far away from my family. And even if the aftershock seemed severe where I was, the epicenter could have been anywhere. This meant that when I was feeling the ground move, disaster could have been striking somewhere else.
This scenario made me so fearful that I had trouble thinking rationally. In fact, the whole city seemed gripped by uncertainty. Although – as in Mexico – many people showed fine qualities such as intelligence, courage, and charity, many others were dazed and tense. I had to find a way to stop feeling totally unsettled.
In the past, whenever I had heard of destruction on a monumental scale, the Bible story of Noah and the ark had always meant a lot to me (see Genesis 6 – 9). I turned to it once again for comfort and resolution.
In the story, before rain that will flood the earth comes, God instructs the righteous Noah to build an ark to preserve all the species inhabiting the earth. Noah is obedient, and the ark is ready when the floods come. For “forty days and forty nights,” the ark floats on the waves, with everyone inside safe and secure. Eventually the waters recede, and Noah, his family, and the animals are able to disembark. God tells Noah: “I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; and with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you;... neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.”
In “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” by Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, the ark is explained as a symbol: “God and man coexistent and eternal; Science showing that the spiritual realities of all things are created by Him and exist forever” (p. 581). God’s promise that life will never be destroyed, and that you and I and everyone are God’s beloved children, goes beyond what we see in the here and now.
God is Life, and this means that Life is eternal, unchanging, perfect, and spiritual. God’s creation reflects Life. That creation includes you and me and all creatures. But even this goes beyond what we see with our eyes. The true identity of all that divine Spirit created must be like God – spiritual, and not affected by the fluctuations of anything material. An earthquake cannot touch the real you or the real me. We coexist with God.
The Bible also records a gift that Christ Jesus left us: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). This peace has nothing to do with simply fooling ourselves into thinking everything is fine, or living in denial of the horror we see. Rather, this peace stems from the fundamental truth that we coexist with God; that God is omnipotent and benevolent, and therefore makes nothing to fear.
Contemplating God’s promise and Jesus’ gift of peace, I found the reassurance I needed. The intense uncertainty I felt began to ease, and I could again look to the future with hope.
Now, with events as they are in Mexico, we can pray that this same peace embraces each and every one of the struggling hearts seeking shelter and security. Our prayers can affirm that God’s covenant with us is in effect, protecting and guiding all of His creation. Despite what we see in the news reports, each individual is infinitely loved and cared for by God. We can trust our prayers to help lift the anguish and help people feel the gift of lasting peace that inherently belongs to everyone.
Adapted from a Christian Science Perspective article published Aug. 25, 1999.