by Wendy Romano
Last week the landscape of New Jersey was changed in ways not seen in generations. Cherished, familiar landmarks are no more. Houses that have graced the shore for years are gone. Here in my distant corner of northwest New Jersey, without electricity or internet, I have been cut off from the images and details of Sandy’s impact. Yet, in my inconvenience, not a day has gone by that these dear neighbors on the shore haven’t been in my thoughts and prayers.
I’ve believed and trusted in God’s goodness since childhood. I’ve been comforted and experienced many physical healings through what I’ve learned of God’s great love. But I must admit, this event, striking so close to home, challenged me. How could this be? Why this devastation? This couldn’t possibly be the work of an all-loving God!
In the end, I had to stand by what I knew and had experienced in my life. But, if one were true the other couldn’t be. Then a gentle message came to me, “This storm is not My doing. My love for all My children is constant. Look carefully, and you will see it. It’s engraved in the hearts of rescue workers, who unselfishly put themselves in danger to save their neighbors, in the hearts of government officials who coordinated shelters and are making arrangements for relief. It’s engraved in the hearts of power company workers, some of whom travelled hundreds of miles to work long hard hours in cold and windy conditions, and countless volunteers from the Red Cross, United Way, churches, and other organizations. I am showing you My love right in the face of devastation and despair and it will triumph.”
I also found encouragement in a statement by Mary Baker Eddy, who explored the relationship between God and man. She wrote in the late 19th century, “Remember, thou canst be brought into no condition, be it ever so severe, where Love[God] has not been before thee and where its tender lesson is not awaiting thee.”
For me the lesson was that I could now start my daily prayer with gratitude that God’s love is present for everyone; that He is providing wisdom to solve even the most insurmountable problems. I’ve found that gratitude for every sign of good helps to quiet anxiety, increases my expectation of good, and, perhaps even more important, empowers me to help others when I doubt my ability to do so.
This practice has been extremely helpful to me since the storms. Health officials have identified emotional distress as one of the biggest challenges after disasters, and it appeared that I was no exception.
Shortly after Sandy came through I found myself feeling strangely unwell. For several days just before Sandy’s arrival I put in long hours doing hard physical work that I was not accustomed to doing. And then after the storm my normal routine was no more. But, after a day or two, I realized that it was not the hard work, but the feelings of anxiety and an uncertainty that I might somehow be separated from good that had me feeling out of sorts. As I made looking for evidence of good an ongoing activity in my day, the anxiety lifted, my body returned to functioning normally, and I was able to comfort and support others who were trying to cope with radically changed circumstances.
From this experience I can’t recommend enough looking for and acknowledging good in even the smallest things; sharing our gratitude with our friends, family, and anyone who will listen; and reaching out to comfort those around us.
The process of rebuilding the Jersey Shore has already begun. It will be beautiful again, especially if we build on a foundation of neighborly love and gratitude.