The Philippines is often hit by typhoons and other natural disasters. Sometimes these cause great damage and loss of life. About 12 years ago a typhoon hit a city in the southern island of Mindanao, causing a flash flood. A sudden rush of water swept away hundreds of houses of poor settlers who had their makeshift dwellings along the lower banks of the river. Thousands of people were swept away, as this happened in the middle of the night.  Some people were rescued miles away, and others were washed ashore on an island far out to sea. Over 1,000 people died.

This was around Christmastime, and I was in the midst of many planned and scheduled activities to help the needy. Nevertheless, a few days after the new year I found myself wondering how I could help. I had no funds set aside, and I wondered whether it would be worth the trip to that island if I did not have many resources to give.

I felt God speaking to my heart, and I thought, If I had just lost loved ones, what would I be most in need of? Probably more than relief supplies or food, I would want someone to comfort me, someone I could talk to or cry with. My mission partner and I went ahead and planned to travel down to that area, and thanks to many generous donations given by friends when they heard about our trip, we were able to distribute a lot of food and relief items. However, as I had thought, people were the most thankful for the time we spent with each person or family who had experienced loss.

On our third day there, we went to a shelter where we met a man who was disabled. His feet were deformed and he was only about four feet tall. He said that he had traveled from another island years ago to meet the woman who would become his wife. Later they had two children.  But his wife and children had been lost in the flood, and he was alone again. I began to cry when hearing his story. He went on to say that he would probably return to his hometown as there was nothing left to keep him where he was. He explained that, although he had nothing left, he still clung to his faith in God. He said he believed in heaven and that he would see his loved ones again one day.

This faith and continued belief in God became a theme that I heard over and over from those we talked with during our time there. It was hard for me to understand. How could these people who had just experienced the loss of what little they had, as well as the death of their loved ones, continue to manifest so much faith and trust in God? I thought about this a lot in the days following, comparing my own somewhat fair-weather faith to what I had seen and heard in this community.

Here are some of my thoughts: My somewhat easy and comfortable life is not what gives me faith.  In fact, my expectation that things should always be quite easy and abundant often causes me to easily lose my equilibrium and feel anxious, sometimes to the point that doubts become stronger in my mind than my faith. In contrast, these people who experience poverty and hardship on a daily basis have a more sure foundation for their faith. They have faith in the sovereignty of God, in who God is. Their faith isn’t based on what God did or didn’t do for them, or if they think He is being fair to them. I would say that this is a much firmer foundation for faith to be built on.

These days I am trying—and sometimes succeeding—to build a stronger faith, to remember that God does have my best interests at heart, but that it is not my place to judge Him or decide if I think He is doing a good job. Rather, my place is to trust in Him and to grow my faith by spending time with Him through prayer and reading His Word, the Bible.

I hope that one day I can say along with the three Hebrew men whom the Babylonian king threatened to cast into a fiery furnace if they refused to bow down to his golden idol: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:17–18 NIV). In other words, our faith is in God, whether He does what we hope He will do or not. We know He can, but we leave our fate in His hands.