I was on the phone with my brother in San Diego on Easter Sunday when all of a sudden he interrupted himself in mid-sentence. “Uh oh,” he said, “I think we’re having an earthquake!”
Immediately I began to pray; I knew earthquakes were common in California, but Harry had never been hit before.
“Hold on,” he murmured, “let me go investigate…”
Suddenly the phone went dead. I tried calling back but the line was busy. I couldn’t help but worry: was Harry going to be all right? How big an earthquake was it? Should I do more than just pray?
This is the type of situation made for anxiety, and it seems we are having more and more of them—earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes. But is fear the appropriate response? Fear, in its initial stages, can be a galvanizing force; charged with adrenaline, we rush out and buy candles, matches, bottled water, canned goods. We fill our cars with gas and get extra money, “just in case”.
But if we succumb to fear, and start to imagine the various scenarios that might occur, we can become paralyzed. No longer are we ready for action—instead we’re now stupefied, waiting for the worst—maybe even unable to carry on with the tasks we should be doing to prepare ourselves.
Later that Sunday my brother called back, assuring me he was all right and that his house wasn’t damaged. In fact he, like everyone else in the neighborhood, stood outside in the street for an hour sharing stories of chandeliers swinging, plates sliding off of tables, and swimming pools frothing like fountains.
That time, my brother was okay. Yet I can’t help but think: what about the next time, the next earthquake? What about the hurricanes out there in the Atlantic right now, threatening Florida where I live? Shouldn’t I do more than just pray?
Prayer is, in fact, the strongest and most powerful response in the face of a potential disaster. Prayer strengthens us, clears our mind, and helps us choose between the various alternatives available, should a disaster strike. We can pray for the safety of ourselves, our loved ones and others. We can pray for wisdom and courage from those charged with the mission of rescue, should that become necessary. And we can pray for a world that meets disaster with compassion for those whose lives and property may be adversely affected, such as the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
God does not want us to meet disaster with fear. If we can put our faith firmly in God, we will know that whatever happens, we have faced the situation with the best resource imaginable.