Did God Disappear?
Dear Fr. Danny,
I do not have relatives in Tacloban because I managed to bring them all to France. I have however friends and neighbours that I would never see or hear from again and that really breaks my heart, to put it mildly.
Hearing unending stories of babies slipping out the arms of their parents, parents drowning in the process of putting their children to higher grounds at the height of the Yolanda typhoon confuses me a lot. The unending rows, and rows of body bags with unidentified corpses, trembling newly orphaned children and the apocalyptic like devastation in the affected areas make me question God.
I have tried to make sense of it but my faith is being shaken by the fact that God appeared to be absent when these people needed Him most. I have heard people saying that these destruction and typhoons are man made, some say the people of the Philippines are being punished for not praying enough or because of ungodly lifestyle.
If he wanted to punish us why did He chose to punish the innocent children.
Please help me understand why God did not prevent the almost 6,000 deaths, and still counting, as more dead bodies are retrieved and discovered.
Weeks have passed already since the disaster, and my family is safe with me, but I still cannot figure this out and understand this on my own. I don’t want to have doubts, or question my faith especially when I see survivors totally devastated and left with nothing but getting up, starting somewhere, but I cannot help ask God.
Thank you in advance Father and God bless you!
Used to be from Tacloban now France
Thank you for your letter. I have been confronted with and have received so many emails from readers asking me more or less the same questions you are asking.
I have to tell you frankly that those are not easy questions. Many priests and even Archbishops have attempted to answer it. I can tell you though that one thing is sure; God is not a punishing God. He is not a vindictive God, because if he is, sinners as we all are should have long perished in some calamity, bloody accident or malignant illness.
Are we not praying enough -you wonder. A Danish acquaintance of mine told me when he once visited the Philippines; one thing that struck him about the Filipinos is our devotion to our religion and our non stop praying. He observed how we pray before and after meals, make the sign of the cross every time we pass by a church or before leaving the house. He jokingly said that we not only baptize our babies but our cars too, referring to our practice of having our vehicles blessed when it is new. He further observed that we have lots of churches that are always overflowing with people especially on Sundays. While in Europe, he said almost talking to himself as the realization dawned on him, most of the churches are empty and thus many are being sold or turned into a museum. Last week north east Europe was battered by hurricane Xaver the strongest the region has ever experienced since 1953 and it killed 10 people.
Our churches always overflowing with churchgoers
Families praying the Way of the Cross together during Holy Week
I am blessing a car of a Filipino in San Francisco California
Why did Yolanda happen? Science and theology point us the fact that disasters like this could happen or would happen. Science tells us that physical changes which includes strong typhoons, volcanic eruptions and other cataclysm are part of nature. The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAG-ASA) says that the Philippines on a yearly average should experience 22 to 30 typhoons and because of climatic changes these typhoons are expected to get even stronger than the usual we have experienced in the past.
Jesus in Luke 21: 11 when talking to his disciples talked about that ‘there will be terrible earthquakes, famines and plagues everywhere; there will be awful things and great signs from the sky’ Some interpret it as the end of the world, this is not so, because we would have our end individually.
So where was God? Did he disappear in the midst of the suffering of the people? No, he was and is there. To make a more graphic illustration to assure you he is always on our side, I’m sharing with you this very popular poem through this video.
The Filipino and humanity at its best. Less than a week after the typhoon I was driving from Bicol to Manila. On my way, I met countless of trucks from different sectors, people, offices – private and public owned, associations, charity organization (oh! The queue was almost endless) carrying loads of relief goods for the people affected by the typhoon in the Visayas. They had to drive all the way from Manila to Sorsogon and take the ferry just to get to the victims. It was with a very happy heart that I patiently waited to let them pass in the one way roads (there are always road construction in this route) to Manila. As I looked at the other cars queuing, I realized that I was not alone in feeling the happiness and pride as a Filipino. As we (me and the other drivers) watched the different trucks, it felt like we were giving way and letting a hero pass.
Before my trip I was already glued to the TV as I watched the unprecedented outpouring of help from the different sectors of the society. Help extended in varying forms or kind. I saw for example a poor woman from Tondo donating some of the clothes of her children, volunteers waking up at the wee hours in the morning to help repack food aid, before proceeding to go to work and so many others.
The CNN reporter Anderson Cooper, you could say was also an instrument since he brought the much needed information that the world needed to know. His and many other international news reporters’ hard work kept the attention of the world and in turn resulted in the aid from the different countries.
Typhoon Yolanda has affected each and every single Filipino and a lot of people around the world. Many have even cancelled their Christmas parties and decided instead to donate to the survivors of the typhoon whatever they were going to spend on the parties.
There is this unprecedented and unwritten feeling among Filipinos that we should be nice to each other. While international organizations have pledged that they would be helping till the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the areas hit by the typhoon.
All these are testament that God is there and that he is carrying us through all these. God is in each person giving and helping in their ways.
Now why did the disaster happen? Nobody can categorically give an answer to that, only God knows. Only God knows his plans and God works in mysterious ways.
It is in times like this that we need our faith most. I hope I have in some way alleviated your confusion and help strengthen your faith in God.
No matter how trying and difficult sometimes things are in life, always remember…
God loves you!