By REV. LUNA DINGAYAN
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. — John 1:1,14
Amid the massive devastations brought about by the twin typhoons, Ondoy and Pepeng, not a few people, young and old, ask the question where is God in all these natural calamities. Why does God, who made the heavens and the earth, allow these things to happen to His good and wonderful creation? Is God not powerful and compassionate enough? Is God not touched by the agonies of those who lost not only their homes and properties, but their loved ones, relatives and friends?
These questions presume that God is the sovereign Lord of all and that He cares for His creation. And so, we do have this feeling of abandonment whenever natural calamities strike us destroying properties and killing a lot of people. We could not imagine God to be almighty and compassionate, and yet we have these massive devastations.
Question of Theology
The question of theology through all these years has always been a question as to who is God. Theologians and religious philosophers through the ages have been debating endlessly as to the nature of God. They have come up with divine attributes, like omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. They have thought of God to be impassable, one who cannot be affected by things happening in this world. The question who is God has produced a lot of abstract ideas about God which are sometimes difficult to understand.
The God of the Bible, however, is not an abstract God detached from this world, but rather He is a God who has come to us in the flesh and dwelt among us (cf. Jn.1:1, 14). It is a God who never left His creation, but tries to renew His creation time and again (cf. Is. 65, Rev. 21). Hence, instead of asking the question who is God, we rather ask the question where is God. Then, consequently theology would no longer be an abstract discipline, but rather a practical guide to Christian living.
Events in Biblical History
To answer the question where is God, we have to search the Scriptures and see where God was in the history of God’s people as recorded in the Bible. There are two very significant events in the Bible, where God’s abiding presence was experienced by the people: the Exodus Event in the Old Testament and the Christ Event in the New Testament.
In the Exodus Event, God is featured as one who had seen the afflictions of the people and heard their cries, and therefore he came down to deliver them from their slavedrivers and brought them into a promised land “flowing with milk and honey” (cf. Ex. 3:7-8). In the Christ Event, God is shown as one who had come to us in Jesus Christ our Lord to be with us (Jn. 1:14), “to preach good news to the poor, recovery of sight to the blind, set free the oppressed, and announce that a time has come when God will save His people” (Lk. 4:18-19). He came “that we might have life and have it more abundantly” (Jn. 10:10). He came “not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:45).
To be where God is present
God, therefore, is present where there are acts of liberation, where people are set free from their sufferings and oppression. God is found where there are acts of love, mercy, and compassion for people who are poor, blind, and in need of salvation. God is present where people give up their lives in the service of their fellow human beings.
Now, going back to the question where is God during the devastating calamities? We believe God is present with the victims of Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng. God suffers with them. God is also present with those who graciously give up their lives, their time, efforts, and resources to rescue and give relief and rehabilitation to the victims of these natural disasters.
Natural disasters are not caused by God; they are simply manifestations of the sinfulness of the natural world. They show to us our human frailties and the need for us to live in community and in harmony with the natural world. We have to respect nature otherwise nature will get back to us.
It is not enough for us, therefore, to ask the question where is God; far more important than that is to also ask ourselves whether we are present or not where God is supposed to be present today. To ask the question where is God, is to affirm our commitment to be present where God is present. And so, theology is no longer an intellectual exercise, but a commitment to serve God by serving the people.# nordis.net