(Before you read here please do check out Part 1 here where I touch on Biblical examples of suffering and Part 2 here… featuring Pastor Matt Chandler from the Village Church in Texas. This one is going to get a bit more personal…)
A week of devastation
The last week of September 2009 saw major devastation around the Pacific rim – two major typhoons in the Philippines: Ondoy hit Manila and Pepeng in the North. An earthquake hit Indonesia that week. Samoa and Tonga were hit by a devastating Tsunami. Both my family in Samoa (an Uncle and Aunt died in the Tsunami) and my wife’s family (her brother had his house submerged in the flooding from Ondoy) were effected. It was a horrible week.
We decided to take action and at the end of October, we went with some of the members of ENCS MUSIC, to see how we could help the people who had been hit by the devastation in the Philippines in both Manila (Pasig) and Northern Luzon.
Just when you thought it was done…
I remember it vividly, upon the conclusion of our short Philippines missions trip, I was preparing to fly back to Singapore, when whilst in the midst of preparation, we discovered my wife Tina’s mother, Mary Louise Bulahan had passed away whilst taking an afternoon siesta in the next room. Yet another devastating blow for our family. We stayed on and spent another week in the Philippines with our family there in Manila helping with the proceedings before coming back to Singapore in the early in the second week of December.
The final blow
We were only back at home in Singapore for just over a week, when we received the news from my sister Rowena that my father in NZ’s health was deteriorating rapidly and that it was time I brought my family home to say goodbye to my father. What was a blessing though was that the day before I got this call, I had called my Dad to catch up for no reason other than to say hello, and during that call, my daughter Nazareth spoke to her Grandpa for the first time – ever. Her words? “Hi Grandpa… I love you Grandpa…” Yes he had heard the three words that matter most from his only granddaughter.
By the time we managed to get on a flight the following day from receiving the news, my Dad had passed away – it was December 17 2009. I flew over with my daughter Nazareth, and Tina followed later that day. The week that ensued had us reminiscing with my family, preparing for services (or what we call in Samoa ‘Faiga Lotu’), comforting one another, and trying to get our bearings once again.
It’s easy to try to theorize and espouse why suffering may happen when you are not one who is or has suffered. And not that this should be a battle of who has the largest deepest scars from times of suffering, because I know that there are many people that have suffered loss much worse than I have, in larger doses and all at the same time. Suffering can either be a chance to overlook it and cover it up, whine, complain and become inward to the point of possible implosion, or it can be looked upon as a platform to testify, that others may learn to overcome. So at the risk of sounding sadistic or masochistic (which I am not trying to be AT ALL), I think that to be allowed to suffer non self-inflicted suffering (i.e. there are people who are suffering as a consequence of their own actions) is a chance to honour God in the way we get a chance to LEAN INTO HIM.
But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
1 Peter 4:13
If we had it altogether, we would have no need for God – or at least that is how petty our perception can be. You need God more than you know. Lean into Him today.