God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:1,2,10
Tomorrow will mark the twentieth anniversary of the dark day known as “9-11.” Many will be looking back and remembering where they were when they got the news and how it impacted their lives. Some will remember loved ones who died that day, and the all-too-familiar pain of grief will return.
For me that day was when I realized how small my world was. I had just begun a new middle school teaching job, and my biggest concern that morning had been the parents’ night coming up and what my students would do for their presentation.
But for the next few days, as I was glued to the television more than I had been for years, I realized some other things:
Life is uncertain. We can’t assume everything will continue as it has or even that we’ll still be here tomorrow.
There are people who hate us. I was one of those people who wanted everyone to like me. I was sensitive and would be crushed if anyone said an unkind word to me. I would also assume in that situation that I somehow had it coming and spend the rest of the day wondering what was wrong with me. That dark day I realized there are people who just hate us. Period.
Not everyone thinks the way we do. The kind of evil America witnessed that day was unfathomable for most of us. I don’t personally know anyone who would resort to murder of one person, no matter what that person may have done to us. And yet on 9-11 we were forced to see that there were people in the world whose minds could be set on murdering those they hated, for whatever reason, along with anyone and everyone else who had the misfortune to be in the line of fire. They wouldn’t even mind killing themselves along with their enemies.
There are some incredibly brave, selfless people in the world. Hearing descriptions of firefighters running into the burning buildings as everyone else was running out, as well as the courageous passengers of Flight 93 who sacrificed their lives to save others, my disillusionment with evil people was balanced out by awe and admiration for the heroes of that day.
The world has problems much bigger than any of us. And yet, we have a God who is bigger than all of it. The Lord has given His children access to Him through prayer. It was through this realization that I began to take seriously the “War on Terror” and become a part of the battle – something I never would have thought I’d be qualified to do.
It seems that after a national disaster the country comes together for a season. People are focused outside themselves, the churches are filled, and there is a sense of something greater than the world we can see from day to day. But over time the crowds at church thin out, and most of us go back to the mundane lives we’ve grown accustomed to – that is, until the next disaster hits.
Americans are not unique that way. Anyone who has read the Old Testament history of the Jews (God’s chosen people, Israel) would recognize the pattern. Israel would get into trouble – a conquering army, harsh rulers, slavery, starvation – and would cry out to God. God would answer and deliver them from their troubles. They would rejoice and be grateful – for a while. Then they would go back to “business as usual,” stray, forget about God, indulge in selfish behavior, and even worship idols. The Lord would discipline them with more hard times, another army or a plague, and they would cry out to Him for help again.
It makes me wonder what would happen if a nation ever returned to God and stayed.
Unfortunately it’s human nature to take the path of least resistance, and going back to our old ways takes less effort than seeking God’s will daily and doing it. But we don’t have to settle for easy and boring! When I began to pray daily against terrorism, I began to notice stories in the news that I saw as answers to my prayers. These were events that had major impacts on the lives of others who were strangers to me. The thought of being part of these events excited me and motivated me to pray more.
I have a file folder full of these stories – and these are just the ones I’ve seen and saved. They are stories of thwarted terrorist attacks, some foiled by the authorities and some stopped by ordinary citizens who “saw/heard something suspicious.” Some attacks failed because a car bomb or shoe bomb didn’t detonate.
Some failed because the perpetrator had a change of heart! Those are my favorite stories – where a former would-be terrorist is now a child of God – an evangelist, a church planter, an igniter of revival. (Glory!)
9-11 was just one example of the evil that people are capable of. But we don’t have to stand helplessly wringing our hands over what is going on in the world. We can be a part of what God is doing to redeem Humanity, if we’ll get off the sidelines and get involved in the battle.
As my new favorite t-shirt says, “If being a Christian is boring, you’re doing it wrong.”