Seeking safety in a storm
With so many weather-related disasters in the news, from wildfires in areas affected by drought to hurricanes and tornadoes, it’s natural to yearn for help from a higher power. But can we expect God to answer our prayers about the weather?
Yes! The Bible offers reassuring examples. One that I love is related in the book of Mark (see 4:35–41). When Christ Jesus and his disciples were at sea, a violent storm came up and battered their ship, threatening to sink it. The disciples were terrified. But to their surprise, Jesus was asleep, unjarred by what looked like certain disaster. “Master,” they cried, “carest thou not that we perish?”
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Then, the Bible tells us, “he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.”
Jesus looked beyond the violent wind and waves to discern the presence of God, the almighty intelligence in which is no destructive element. He was undisturbed because he knew that God governs His universe with laws of good. Jesus’ awareness of the divine, all-harmonious presence brought a healing calm that quickly ended the storm.
Can we, like Jesus, rely on God’s help in a storm? Turning again to the Bible, we find the Psalmist expressing consistent confidence that God hears our prayers: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalms 46:1).
How confident we feel in our prayers depends on our perception of God’s nature. In Christian Science we start with the knowledge that God, divine Love, is totally good. We can do more than simply ask God for His help—though that’s a good start. We can proceed in prayer to realize more fully the presence of God’s unchanging laws of harmony and dominion.
Even though weather appears to result from the interaction of material forces, Christian Science shows that destructive weather actually stems from the belief that we are living in a material world governed by material forces outside God’s control. But in prayer we can exchange panic for the spiritual sense of God’s divine authority that Jesus understood. The Christly perception of divine control over all was what stilled the tempest then, and it can do so in our time as well.
Over the past few years, I’ve witnessed several weather events and have found that acknowledging God’s presence and power can bring protection from dangerous weather. My family lives in a coastal community where hurricane season is announced each year by meteorologists keeping a watchful eye on the tropics and the development of oceanic storms.
In 2019, for over two weeks we heard each day about the storm system named Dorian as it developed into a huge mass of turbulence that was slowly moving toward the east coast of the United States. It was described as an unparalleled “monster” storm that would be devastating to any area that took a direct hit. As time went on, it looked as though that could include our city. By all accounts, Dorian had developed into an extremely dangerous (Category 5) hurricane as it barreled toward our area.
We took the recommended precautions to protect our home, and stocked up on items we’d need, including a generator for the expected power outages. But we didn’t stop there. Through past experiences, we had learned the importance of turning to God to guide our thoughts and actions.
During this period, our local branch Church of Christ, Scientist, addressed fears about the weather in the readings for our Wednesday evening testimony meetings. One Bible story I found particularly reassuring is in First Kings, in which God calls the prophet Elijah to stand on a mountain, where he observes a display of nature’s violence: “A great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire”—and then, “after the fire a still small voice” (19:11, 12).
This passage was tremendously helpful to me. God was not in or part of the turbulence, but instead was heard in “a still small voice.”
The term acts of God is often used in reference to destructive weather and circumstances, but this comes from a mistaken sense of God. Despite appearances to the contrary, the harmonious and caring nature of divine Love does not cause or allow evil occurrences, which are a direct contradiction of the spiritual account of creation given in the first chapter of Genesis: “God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good” (1:31).
On the basis of God’s goodness and all-power, Christ Jesus exercised dominion over evil in all its forms, including violent weather. He gave God the credit for this dominion and encouraged his followers to turn to the Father for healing answers.
Hurricane Dorian gave my family ample opportunity to do this. On the day Dorian was expected to impact us, I awoke before daylight to the sound of alerts from my phone’s weather app. Tornado warnings were being given for our neighborhood, as there had been several tornado sightings within a five-mile radius of our home. (This is a common occurrence with hurricanes, which often spawn tornadoes that can be even more destructive than hurricanes in the areas where they touch down.)
We acknowledged God’s presence and love right with us.
As emergency broadcasts on TV were telling everyone to immediately get into their “safe place”—a spot in their home that provided the best shelter possible from disastrous winds, rain, and falling objects—I turned to that spiritual place described in Psalms 91:1: “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”
Wanting to see things from a spiritual perspective, I turned on the online testimony meeting broadcast from The Mother Church (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston) and heard inspiring readings from the Bible and from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. They spoke specifically to fears about the turbulent weather.
My husband and I listened to those citations appreciatively, affirmed their relevance at that very moment, and felt a Christly peace and calm come over us. We continued praying for about twenty minutes. Then we heard the TV broadcasters announce that all the tornadoes had vanished from weather radar. Though a tornado watch remained in effect until late afternoon, no more tornadoes were reported.
This was great news and gave us confidence to face the remainder of the day’s concerns. Rain had continued all day, and our backyard was flooding rapidly. Dorian was expected to hit our area late that night.
People in our community weren’t being required to evacuate, but one of our sons asked us to stay with his family, so we gathered at his home with him, his wife, and their three little girls. As the rain continued, we acknowledged God’s presence and love right with us. Even after the power went out, our thoughts remained free from fear and filled with love. While the little ones slept, the adults stayed prayerfully vigilant throughout the night, which was relatively quiet.
When morning light arrived, we found that all was still peaceful, and no destruction was evident. Since we had no electricity, we couldn’t hear the local broadcasts, but my husband and I felt secure in heading back to our own home. As we made the twenty-minute drive, we saw that there were no tree limbs down, nothing blown about. The sun was shining on a beautiful day. When we arrived, we found that our power was on, and the TV news confirmed that Dorian had diminished in strength and stayed offshore as it passed our area.
Most notable to me was our feeling of calm amid the widely expected chaos. Like Jesus in that boat so long ago, we had felt the presence of the Christ. Just the other day, our four-year-old granddaughter said to me with a smile, “Mimi, remember that fun night we had in the dark?” We hugged and shared a happy memory of feeling God’s love embracing us. What a blessing it is to remember such a would-be trying experience in this way—as evidence of divine Love with us.
I was also grateful to know that this same Love is with everyone, including those in areas where there was heavy damage. Just the year before, hurricane Florence had hit our area, bringing down six very large trees on our property. Yet we realized that God hadn’t caused the damage. Despite the apparent devastation all around our town, we knew God’s laws of harmony were in operation.
At that time, even before the insurance company came out to assess the damage, groups of volunteers arrived from out of state and cheerfully began clearing away debris in our town. It was an expression of divine Love. We were able to quickly find contractors to undertake the huge task of removing the fallen trees and filling in the craters they’d left. The work was completed in two weeks, and our insurance company promptly sent a check covering the expenses.
We don’t need to feel helpless in the face of trouble. Thinking back on our experiences, I’m awed by just how close our all-good God is and how powerfully active His omnipotent laws are in annihilating fear and feelings of vulnerability, regardless of what form a frightening situation takes.
Just as God was not in the earthquake, wind, fire, or storm at sea, He is not in a hurricane or any other violent event. Turning our attention to Him, we gain higher, spiritual views, and in that change of consciousness we find protection and healing answers that bless us and our communities.