Never displaced from good
Wherever we may be in the world, and whatever the circumstances that brought us there, no one can ever be separated from God’s guiding, protecting, healing love.
According to UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, at the end of 2020, 82.4 million people were forcibly displaced either outside their home country as refugees or internally within their nation’s borders.
This number has become of growing concern right here on my own doorstep. In recent weeks and months, people in Ethiopia, where I am living, are being internally displaced because of civil war, and some are fleeing to neighboring countries. I have been deeply distressed by the magnitude of this problem.
Whenever I am faced with troubling news, I turn to prayer. But when a problem is so widespread, so seemingly colossal, how does one effectively pray? One day, an answer came to me in these words about God from Hymn 136 in the “Christian Science Hymnal”: “Thy presence ever goes with me / And Thou dost give me peace” (Violet Hay, © CSBD). God gave me this answer, which, interestingly, had also helped me pray about my own feelings of displacement some months earlier.
On that occasion, these same words came to me when I was feeling a profound sadness at the thought of having to leave a place I deeply love. It was an experience that cannot possibly compare to the tribulations many are facing today; I wouldn’t be losing my home, my possessions, or my livelihood. Even so, I felt a sense of loss. I asked God to give me peace and remove the fear and uncertainty of what might happen before I could get back again.
I have moved many times and have lived in some difficult places as well as some wonderful places. Wherever I find myself, I try to make it a practice to demonstrate that “godliness with contentment is great gain” (I Timothy 6:6). But sometimes I have felt a long way from reaching that goal. I so desired to feel peaceful and not anxious, wherever I lived.
Early one morning, I prayed to gain a more spiritual concept of “place” and to feel the security of knowing I could never actually leave my happy place in God, no matter where I went in this big, wide world. God is not a corporeal being but divine Spirit, and He could never be confined to a physical place. Moreover, I am Spirit’s manifestation or reflection; therefore, I am spiritual. So, I can never ever go outside of Spirit. Spirit is everywhere because God is omnipresent. We are inseparable from Spirit, as a ray of light is inseparable from the sun. We are always at one with God, good.
It was evident to me that I wasn’t leaving the good I had there in that place that I loved, since good is not personal or confined to any location. God is good; therefore, good is everywhere. God, good, goes with me, and I go with Him because we are one. I was so grateful to know this. It gave me a deep-seated peace that I took with me and have been leaning on in the months since.
Not long after we returned to Ethiopia in the fall, our family had to evacuate from our house because of the intensifying civil conflict. We weren’t sure how long we would be gone or what would happen while we were away. Things were unstable, and there was an army advancing on the city. We went to a neighboring country and were gone for two months, until it was deemed safe for us to return.
During that time away, I learned more about what it means to never be outside of Spirit – outside of God, good. When I look back on it now, I see that what could have been a difficult experience was instead full of the evidence of Spirit’s care and comfort. And when we returned to our house, everything was in order, and the city was untouched, despite dire predictions.
This experience, although just a tiny glimpse of what displaced people and families might face, gives me a greater desire to pray each day for all refugees, asylum seekers, and displaced persons in Ethiopia and worldwide, who have lost their homes, livelihoods, and, in some cases, families. I pray to see that all are embraced in the protection and care of this divine Spirit. We are each in the place where God is. We can’t ever leave this place – it is our permanent home, where we are always cared for and safe.
This interpretation of Isaiah 45 from Eugene Peterson’s “The Message” so beautifully encircles the whole world in divine Love’s embrace and promise of deliverance: “Gather around, come on in, all you refugees and castoffs.... Turn to me and be helped – saved! – everyone, whoever and wherever you are. I am God, the only God there is, the one and only” (verses 20 and 22).
Adapted from an article published on sentinel.christianscience.com, March 10, 2022.
THE MESSAGE, copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress, represented by Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.