UNDAY, JUNE 23, 1946, DAWNED CLOUDY and damp in the Comox Valley on Canada’s Vancouver Island. The families of coal miners, loggers, farmers, and fishermen slept late, then rose to enjoy a leisurely breakfast. While eating they glanced at the overcast sky, praying that it would clear so they could spend the afternoon fly fishing in one of the nearby mountain streams, strolling on the beach overlooking Georgia Strait, or picnicking in the forests of towering Douglas firs.
At 10:15 a.m., however, a 7.3 magnitude earthquake shook their safe little world.
The quake, centered in the Forbidden Plateau area northwest of Courtenay, sent shock waves as far north as Prince Rupert and south to Portland, Oregon. The intense shaking rocked houses off their foundations, toppled chimneys, and knocked bricks off the facades of businesses as people rushed into the streets, sure that the end of the world had come.
Fortunately, the immediate area was thinly populated and the loss of life was limited to one man who drowned when the resulting wave swamped his boat. Many miles away in Seattle, another man suffered a fatal heart attack when the ground began to shake.
Today the loss of life might be much greater, for the beautiful Comox Valley has been discovered by many retirees and young families. Emergency preparedness agencies advise the public to make their homes safer in an earthquake. Shelving units should be screwed to the wall, heavy pictures should be removed from above beds, and water heaters should be strapped to wall studs.
Just as important is preparing an emergency kit capable of sustaining the family until outside help arrives. Among other items, the kit should include water, food, blankets, flashlights, and a battery-powered radio. While many residents take the earthquake threat seriously, others scoff at the idea. The year 1946 was a long time ago, they say, and there’s been no major quake since then. If it does happen, they will deal with it then.
As residents of this runaway planet, we may find ourselves plunged by events into spiritual emergencies. Besides suffering natural disasters, we may lose our jobs, suffer the death of a child, or develop cancer. Within the church we may experience rejection, or discover that the pastor is cheating on his spouse. What will happen to our faith in such a crisis? Will it survive, or will it perish in disappointed expectations? Today is the time to prepare a spiritual survival kit, and the essential components are similar to those we need for a physical emergency.
1. Water. Lack of water soon leads to a reduction in blood volume and a state of shock that ends in death. Besides its life-giving qualities, water is one of God’s most delightful creations. It eases aches and pains, cools our skin on summer days, and warms our bones on winter days.
Speaking to the Samaritan woman, Jesus said, “If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water” (John 4:10).* Her interest awakened, the woman drank deeply of Christ’s living water as she listened to His words during His two-day sojourn in her village.
We too can enjoy Christ’s living water by spending time with Him every day. In our daily communion with Him our thirst for meaning in life will be quenched, our spiritual aches and pains will be soothed away, our tempers will be cooled in hot situations, and His love will warm our hearts when others treat us coldly. Daily draughts of His water will provide a fountain of hope when passing through life’s deserts.
2. Food. Those suffering from anorexia will lose weight and die if someone does not intervene and provide them with nourishing food. Jesus advises us to partake of His words of life. “But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). As serious spiritual bodybuilders, we won’t settle for the crumbs that fall from someone else’s table (such as the pastor’s sermon on Sabbath morning), or the predigested thoughts provided by a half-watched television show. Instead, we will sink our teeth deeply into the Word every day.
3. Blankets. Deprived of warmth, the human body will suffer hypothermia, go into shock, and die. As residents of this planet presided over by a cold and cruel destroyer, we need warmth, especially when our own lives fall to pieces.
Where can we find warmth? The psalmist asked God to hide him “under the shadow of thy wings” (Ps. 17:8). And Jesus’ desire is to gather His children “even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings” (Matt. 23:37).
The closer we come to Christ each day, the closer we come to the warmth of His unfathomable love.
4. Flashlights. Most people are uneasy in the dark. Familiar surroundings take on a mysterious, threatening quality at night. When life’s emergencies strike, we may feel as though we are groping our way along a dark pathway. But we need not fear if Jesus is our companion, for He is “the light of the world.” And He says, “He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). With Jesus as our Friend we can walk confidently through the darkest valley.
5. Radios. When a physical emergency strikes, we like to know if help is on the way. And when spiritual emergencies strike, we need to have communication with the One who knows the end from the beginning. Says the prophet Isaiah: “And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left” (Isa. 30:21).
And the prophet Joel tells us that there is a way to communicate with heaven. “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions” (Joel 2:28).
We need to set up lines of communication between ourselves and God today, so that a spiritual emergency will not find us running to and fro, asking if there’s any word from the Lord.
Our spiritual emergency kit (of water, food, blankets, flashlight, and radio) has a beauty all its own, in that we don’t have to go shopping for individual items. In Jesus we find them all. If we open our hearts to Him on a daily basis, He will be with us when life turns upside down. If we haven’t been spending time with Him every day, shouldn’t we begin right now? Our survival depends upon Him. And unlike emergency agencies that may be overwhelmed by disasters, Jesus has unlimited resources to respond to our every cry for help.
*All scriptures in this article are from the King James Version.
Robert Ramsay is an organist and freelance writer living in Courtenay, British Columbia, Canada.