When God Seems Distant

Title: When God Seems Distant

Illustration: The Full Story from the AUP President Himself

Dear Friends, 
It is with heavy hearts that we inform you of a tragedy involving several of our beloved students yesterday, August 25, 2013. Yesterday, Sunday morning at around ten o’clock, eighteen college students, eight men and ten ladies, went out of the campus to celebrate the birthday of three of the students. Thirteen of them are working students, and among them, fourteen are dormitorians who went out using individual gate passes indicating different destinations. They met together outside the main gate, and hired a jeepney to bring them to Casile, Cabuyao. Their destination was the Japanese Cave which was off limits to students due to untoward incidents in the past. At about 3:30 in the afternoon, they started to hike back to AUP as planned. At that time, heavy rains started to pour. What they did not know was that the rains had already been coming down in torrents in the highlands of Tagaytay.

They arrived at the Dismo River, which is the southern boundary of the AUP property at around five o’clock in the afternoon. The river was already muddy and the water was moving swiftly. They decided to cross fast to the AUP side. Three students first crossed the river which was still below the waist level and were able to get across. Five others followed, confident that they would be able to cross the 10-15 meter wide river. While they were at the middle, the water rose very fast, even above the waist. The children of the families who live on the banks of the river were already scrambling to higher ground. They gave a warning but our students did not know what these children knew: a flash flood was coming. Because of the strong current, the five students decided to climb a big rock in the middle of the river thinking that the water would not reach them. But the water kept on rising, engulfed the rock, and reached their waist level again. The two male students who were able to cross ahead went up the river banks and asked for help. On the way, they met two women who told them that help was on the way. They returned to the river bank and, along with the remaining ten on the Casile side, tried to help by throwing a rope and other materials that would help the five trapped in the middle of the river. Unfortunately, the rope was very short and their efforts were in vain. Because of the strong current, one male student fell from the rock after ten to fifteen minutes, followed by the other four students. Immediately one of the ten who were still on the river bank at the Casili side jumped into the river to help but was carried by the strong current.

The student who was separated from the group, a good swimmer saw him drowning and bravely helped him. It turned out that the student whom he saved is his brother. After a few minutes, they were able to go to a higher ground and went to ask for help, too. One female student was carried to the river banks on the AUP side, but the three trapped in the middle were carried downstream.

After the three students were carried downstream, the four students who were at the AUP side hurriedly went to ask for help and were brought at the clinic for proper medical care. When the news reached AUP that students reportedly got drowned, Dr Wini Paez, VP for Student Services, Mr Mel Maalihan, head of Public Safety, and some AUP personnel and students immediately went to the river to help. Later, barangay officials of Puting Kahoy went to the other side through Nuvali to pick up the students who cannot cross over. Together with some AUP personnel, they brought the other eleven students to the University clinic for proper medical care as well.
Later, at about 10 o’clock in the evening, a search and rescue team went back to the river and looked for the missing students down to Nuvali. The water level had already lowered but the rocks and whirlpools in the river made the search risky. They went home at about 3:30 AM empty handed. This morning, our public safety personnel contacted the communities along the river to join in the search. A group of police went to search all day but came back without any good news. Search has also started in the Laguna Lake area where the river drains.

It is almost a day already as of this writing but we are still hoping and praying for the best. The three students who are still missing are Catherine Taroquin from San Pedro Laguna, Kimberly Guardias from Palawan, and Jay Mellapis from Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro. The AUP administration has coordinated everything, including hospitality to the parents and family of the survivors and missing students.

Let us continue to pray for the search and rescue efforts which will be continued Wednesday, especially that God will comfort the parents and relatives of the missing students.

—Francisco D. Gayoba, AUP President

Unfortunately, none of them survived the tragedy….

Have you ever looked out upon this world with its injustice and violence, and asked the question: “Why doesn’t God do something?” It looks like the wicked are prospering and the righteous are suffering. Godly people pray, but it seems as though their prayers do no good. This is the problem faced and solved in Habakkuk.

FCF: When God seems distant; it is easy to complain, to doubt, to question God…

Proposition: Even though God seems distant; I will rejoice to the Lord!

I. The Prophet Wondering

A. Why is God silent and inactive? Why is God insensitive to sin and suffering? (vv. 1-4). This was the first problem that puzzled the prophet. He looked out across the world of that day and saw violence (1:2–3, 9; 2:8, 17), injustice, spoiling, strife, and contention. The law was not enforced; there was no legal protection for innocent people who were sentenced as guilty. The courts were manipulated by selfish lawyers and cruel officials. The whole nation was suffering because of the evils of the government. Yet God seemed to be doing nothing about it. Along with these internal problems was the threat of the Babylonian empire as it swept across the political landscape.

B. “How can God use such a sinful nation for a holy cause?” (vv. 12–17) God’s answer in vv. 5–11 only created a new problem for Habakkuk. He could not understand how a holy God could use such a wicked nation to punish His own chosen people, the Jews. “It is true that we have sinned,” says Habakkuk, “and we deserve chastening; but the Chaldeans are far more wicked than we are. If anyone deserves punishment, it is the Chaldeans.” Can a holy God sit and watch His own people being caught like fish or trampled like insects? (vv. 14–15) The Chaldeans will boast, “Our gods have given us the victory. Jehovah is not the true God.”

C. God gave the prophet an answer in 5–11. “I am working a work that will amaze you,” God said. “I will raise up the Chaldeans who will conquer the nations and be my instrument to chasten the people.” How true it is that God is working in our world and we fail to realize it (Rom. 8:28; 2 Cor. 4:17).

D. There is nothing wrong with a believer wrestling with the problems of life and seeking to solve them. Sometimes it seems as though God does not care; it appears that He has forsaken His own and is helping the heathen. How many millions of believers have been martyred for their faith. Can we honestly worship, trust, and serve a God whose ways are so seemingly contradictory?

II. The Prophet Waiting

A. Verse 4 describes two kinds of people: those who are “puffed up” because they trust in themselves, and those who are saved and humble because they trust in the Lord. This should be the attitude of a Christian while waiting on God.

B. “The Lord is in His holy temple” (v. 20). God is still on the throne (Isa. 6). We have no need to complain or doubt, for He is ruling and overruling in the affairs of nations. Habakkuk thought that God was uninterested in the problems of life, but he discovered that God was very much concerned, and that He was working out His own plan in His own time. This is why the just live by faith. “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7; 4:18). If we look at ourselves, or at circumstances, we will be discouraged and want to quit, but if we look up to God by faith, and ahead to the glorious return of Christ, then we will be encouraged and enabled to go on in victory.

III. The Prophet Worshipping

A. The prophet praises (vv. 17–19). These verses represent one of the greatest confessions of faith found in the Bible. “Though everything around me fail—the fields, the vineyards, the flocks, the herds—yet will I rejoice in the Lord.” Habakkuk knew that he had no strength of his own, but that God could give him the strength he would need to go through the trials that lay ahead. “He will make me like a deer—I will jump over the mountains.”

Conclusion: Habakkuk shows us how to deal with life’s problems: (1) admit them honestly; (2) talk to God about them; (3) wait quietly before Him in prayer and meditation on the Word; (4) when He speaks, listen and obey. Never run away from the difficulties of life, because God wants to use those difficulties to strengthen your faith. “Never doubt in the dark what God has told you in the light.” The just shall live by faith.

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