Recent disasters like Hurricane Ike, the earthquakes in China and Taiwan, and even the recent Metrolink accident can overwhelm people with emotions like fear, anger, frustration and even dread. What do the Scriptiures tell us of coping with the aftermath of these disasters, and how can we become better people as a result?
It only registered as a 5.4 earthquake on the Richter scale, but it was enough to make me feel anxious for a couple of days. It was my first California earthquake experience. Looking back on the event, I realized that my sense of security had been rattled. I kept expecting another, bigger quake to happen. The ground was not really as solid as it appeared to be.
Compared to the recent natural disasters such as Hurricane Ike, earthquakes in China and Taiwan and the Metrolink train accident, my first California earthquake was a minor event. However, on an emotional level, I can relate to everyone who experienced those disasters.
On a human level, the first emotional response to a natural disaster or unexpected accident, is usually a sense of loss: the loss of life and the loss of property. The next emotion we usually feel is anger because all that we worked so hard to build has been wiped out, sometimes in an instant, and we feel powerless over the event and its aftermath. Feelings of frustration follow our anger because the task of rebuilding a life, a home or business seems overwhelming. Where do we start to make some sense out of the disaster event?
As a spiritual teacher, I counsel people who are experiencing loss to be willing to take the first step out of their grief by looking to God for answers. We connect with God through personal prayer, meditation and spiritual study. When the individual’s grief is focused around the loss of the life of a loved one, my favorite Scripture reference is John 14: 1-14. This passage begins with the comforting words (verse 1): “Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God and believe in me.” Also, verse 2: “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”
It is my belief that we are spiritual beings, having an earthly, human experience. Our life, or our soul, is eternal. When the physical life of our loved one has ended, their soul continues in another, spiritual dimension. Their soul’s journey continues and there is a place for them in the “Father’s house.”
Another Scripture quote contains comforting words: John 16:16-22, Verse 20 of this passage states: “... You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.” To someone feeling insecure, grieving, or expressing anger and frustration, I believe that the promise is that our sorrow will be turned to joy. Life will continue. The memories of our loved ones live in our hearts forever. Their souls are eternal and have not really ceased to exist.
Often it is taking a practical step in the outer that helps us heal our own grief. Where can we volunteer our time and our experience? Can we make a financial donation or give clothing and household goods that immediately impact the lives of others in need? Looking to God (Spirit) for guidance through prayer and meditation and reading the Scriptures and other books of spiritual inspiration, we will have the answers that inspire us to action. We all will find the strength and the courage to work together to rebuild our community and communities affected by disasters anywhere in the world.”
REV. JERI LINN is pastor of Unity Church of the Valley in La Crescenta. Reach her at (818) 249-4396.