When God Doesn’t Spare You

The gold foil curtain and gold mylar “70” balloons still hung as a backdrop for the dining room table. White and gold balloons still rested atop the china cabinet. The gold letters spelling out my mother’s name and fairy lights were still suspended from the chandelier.

The flood hadn’t reached them. I saw everything the day after the muddy waters had subsided. Below the remnants of the previous Saturday’s party was an overwhelming challenge. Waterlogged chairs had descended from their buoyant state upside down. The heavy sideboard had also floated and then rested on its side. The fridge had done the same thing in the kitchen. Everything was coated with thick brown mud.

Our house is a bungalow. The second level is but four steps up. Still, I prayed that the bedrooms would be spared so we could go back later in the day, when the typhoon had subsided, and sleep in our own home. That prayer wasn’t granted. The water went up to about mid-calf on the second level. It really was a pretty wretched day overall. It started way too early and then seemed to stretch indefinitely.

The power going out at about 4am woke me up. The winds lashed lustily outside, accompanied by a heavy rain that showed no signs of abating. That had been going on all night. We Mariqueños obsessively monitor the river when there’s a typhoon. In the wee hours of that morning, it had unfortunately already breached three alarm lines. It didn’t look good for those of us who live in the valley.

Marikina has hills. We used to live on top of one. I hadn’t had to deal with this kind of anxiety in recent years; however, we moved last year to one of the barangays lining the river. Nonetheless, we were much higher up than those along the waterfront. Our house remained safe from most typhoons, but it was vulnerable to a rainfall phenomenon like Ondoy (Ketsana). My husband and I told ourselves, “It has been more than a decade and there has been no flood in this area all that time. There probably wouldn’t be a repeat of Ondoy.” We shouldn’t have said that; it was too much like tempting fate. As it would turn out, Ulysses (Vamco) was a lot like Ondoy.

So that fateful morning, Mark and I finally got the sense that we were experiencing a rare meteorological event and started securing our valuables and electronics, storing them in higher places. All the while, I was praying, “Lord, please stop the rain. Please don’t let the flood come into our house.”

Water started entering our garage while we were packing the things we needed to evacuate. By the time the water started seeping into our living room, we were ready to cross the flooded street to the four-story house across. Our neighbors had been kind enough to open their home to us and those in single level houses on our street.

While at the neighbors’, I kept on praying for the rains to stop and, this time, for the bedrooms to be spared. Water continued to gush from the heavens. By the time I was pretty sure that the flood had reached the second level of our house, the rain weakened and some sunlight started peaking through the dense clouds. Too little too late.

The steady drizzle continued. The flood didn’t quickly drain as expected. I kept on praying for the water to go down. There were reports of other streets being flood-free in just a short time. Apparently, our street had a drainage issue. Of course it did!

When it started to get dark, and all the roads were already clear of water, except for ours, my mother sent over two of my cousins to pick me and the kids up. Finally, we could get some rest. Evacuating with two kids on the spectrum (and two cats!) is exhausting at best. Mark, who had been able to park our biggest vehicle on a higher incline, was able to follow in it shortly after further securing our still-flooded home.

It definitely could have been worse. I’m thankful that my family remained safe throughout the ordeal. That was really what was important. I told myself early on that I wasn’t going to dwell on the material loss, but I have my moments of grief over the things we have no choice but to throw out, especially the ones with sentimental value. As you know, I’m a collector/borderline hoarder. I’ve always liked that about myself, as a history buff with a penchant for nostalgia and preservation. The trait does say that I tend to hold on to things, setting myself up for the kind of heartbreak I’m experiencing now.

Against my nature, I try to look on the bright side of things. I can do it – with effort that apparently eases as I tune into God’s Word. The key is in looking to God for answer and comfort. The more I expose myself to Scripture, the better I understand what faith is all about, and I get a deeper appreciation for God’s goodness.

When things don’t go my way, I tend to get, well, royally pissed. I take it personally. Why didn’t God grant my prayers? Admittedly, my EQ’s not the highest. Deep inside, I can still be a spoiled brat. I want a charmed life – smooth-sailing and free of heartache. That’s not something you get from being a Christian. You’re actually considered more blessed the more you suffer. My human nature balks at the idea.

Consider Peter’s input, however (1 Peter 4:13 ~NIV): “But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” Not only are you supposed to not resent the suffering, you should actually rejoice while going through it. That’s quite the tall order.

However, thinking of what Jesus went through, it did make me go, “What’s a little devastating flood?” Losing material things, facing an overwhelming challenge in order to return to life as I knew it… The desire to pout was there, but shame from this impulse overcame it. I said to myself, “Really? You can’t thank God for the protection, for the strength and good health, for the kind neighbors, for your parents who have been hosting you, for family members who have been watching your special needs kids while you try to get your home habitable again and your life back on track, for the provision, for the peace and resilience…?” If I can’t exult and exalt God in this minor trial, how can I bring myself to do so when something more difficult comes along?

James 1:2-3 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”

I often say that I don’t believe in testing or grading. That’s the kind of homeschool parent I am. The statement is not accurate though. Of course I believe in testing. Life tests my kids’ acquired knowledge all the time. That’s why I prefer their learning to be natural and genuine, not forced for the purpose of passing written tests and getting impressive grades.

The testing of one’s faith is trickier and harder than any exam out there. Failure means profound loss and immense danger. God not sparing me from mishaps, disappointments, and losses allows me to fortify my faith. It’s like building up spiritual muscles that I can flex as life’s storms strike. A strong faith is obviously paramount in finishing the race. In this lifelong event, great endurance is absolutely necessary.

In my 40+ years, I’ve learned that, while I may not be not privy to it, there is always a bigger picture than my personal episodes. Life has meaning, and all those moments make sense in the grand scheme of things. That’s why I can expect this experience to improve my mettle as well as to further equip me for God’s plan for my life. I’ve gone through multiple existential crises in my day, but I’m happy to note that I was always able to resolve them with the conviction that God is real and that He is good.

Difficult times will shake our faith. Prayers that are not granted will fuel resentment toward God. Cling on. It’s important to forge on our spiritual path and develop God’s perspective to understand that our sufferings do not negate His love and goodness. In doing this, we can learn to remain joyful and thankful no matter our circumstances.

I had a post about the Icelandic Christmas book flood in the late stages of tweaking and pretty much ready to go, but Ulysses happened, and I had no choice but to shelve it. I hope this bit of musing can help somebody come to terms with their difficult situation. Blessings to you all.

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