The events of September 11, 2001 have become etched in our minds and memories. The images are still vivid, the details stark. But have you stopped to think of the significance of what happened on that day?
How could it be that nineteen terrorists succeeded in killing more than 3,000 people on our own soil? How could they manage to shut down airports nationwide, destroy or severely damage prominent buildings in broad daylight, cause untold financial damage, the after-effects of which we are likely to feel for months if not years? How could they, with simple knives and box cutters, do such damage to the world’s only superpower, a nation with the most advanced weaponry and surveillance equipment—even bringing our nation to war?
News and political commentators point to the extreme views these villains had, such as immediately attaining heaven by offering their lives in the execution of these barbaric attacks. Others point to the hatred such people have for Western civilization, a way of life they regard as degenerate and threatening to their beliefs. Still others assign blame for these horrible events to weaknesses in airport security, a lapse in intelligence gathering, or insufficient attempts at dealing with terrorism in the past.
We’ve all heard such analysis in the days since September 11. Meanwhile, many of our fellow-citizens are mourning their dead, are fearful for their own welfare and that of their loved ones, friends, and co-workers. Perhaps you are one of them. Maybe you have trouble sleeping. Maybe you feel depressed or anxious or worried or angry. Frustration sets in as you wonder if there is anything you can do that really makes a difference or any way you can be made whole again inside. This pamphlet was written for you.
Why This Happened
We’ve just looked at the political and news media’s analysis. Somehow there are still unanswered questions, important questions that few people are addressing in public but which are on all of our minds. How could God allow this to happen? Is there a God? If so, where was He, where is He in our time of need?
The official explanations are not completely satisfying—there’s got to be more to this situation. Well the sad truth is, despite our national might, our wealth, our advances in health care, we are a dying nation.
Sometimes people who have a serious health problem don’t become aware of it until it is quite advanced. A healthy-looking person is shocked to learn he is full of cancer. Our nation seemed so strong and prosperous, but something is dreadfully wrong. What is it?
Very plainly, we have for many years offended the God we are now turning to in our time of crisis. Offending God by opposing and rejecting His laws and commandments is sin. We decided His Word, the Bible, has no place in our public schools; that praying to Him in school is unconstitutional. We have decided, for a variety of reasons, that butchering and discarding millions of unborn
children which He gave us is legal—that a woman’s convenience is more important than a child’s life. Many ignore God’s gift of marriage, substituting for it that which He calls fornication. Adultery is no longer a criminal offense, is even laughed about on television and movie screens, at least until it happens to you. The list of offenses is long.
In many of our lives, the God of the Bible has been replaced by a god who forgives everyone, accuses no one, has no absolute standards, and is basically irrelevant. Too many only hear about Him at weddings—and now at funerals. Few really need Him.
What This Means to Us
You might be wondering at this point: “Are you suggesting that God is behind these vicious attacks on our people?”
Friend, make no mistake about it—the terrorists and those who support them are guilty of these terrible deeds. God’s Word says the civil authorities ought to punish such for their wickedness. God is dealing and will deal with them too. But God Himself never errs. He is perfect and holy, the ultimate standard of all that is right and just.
Nevertheless, anyone who reads the Bible impartially knows that God is sovereign over all events. He uses tragedies just like those we have recently experienced to call a nation, even individual persons like you or me, to consider our ways, repent of our sins, and to turn to Him for forgiveness. Repentance is more than just saying, “I’m sorry” to God. It also means praying to Him for ongoing grace to live differently, to live in a way that pleases Him. When a person or nation doesn’t listen to God’s calls, He often then sends harsher judgments to awaken them.
If you look back in history, a history even now being rewritten to exclude God, you’ll find that many people in this country used to follow God’s Word more in their daily lives. Our present-day institutions were built on biblical principles and laws. God was more openly acknowledged, worshipped, and served. There was not as much self-centeredness then. But despite all we’ve done, personally and nationally, there is hope. In the Bible we read, “As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die” (Ezekiel 33:11). God is calling us. What will be our response?
What must we do?
“I feel so alone, afraid, frustrated, even angry. I’m confused.” Friend, you’re not alone. So many of our fellow-citizens are suddenly struggling with loss, grief, and a host of other emotions. How can we cope? What can our nation do, what can I do, to make things right?
Well first, what is “right”? If you just want things to go back to how they were before, you know that’s not possible, at least for the foreseeable future. For some of us, things will never be the same. But would it really be best for us if things just returned to how they were? Did God call so loudly for nothing? Will we learn nothing from these events? We need God. He alone is worthy of our worship. What must we do now? What is our duty?
First, we must humble ourselves before God. That means we stop questioning what God does, stop judging Him by what we think should be. God is all-wise, perfect, good, and just. We aren’t. Who are we to judge God? He is Lord and King. His Word and ways are right and best, even when we can’t understand them or when they cause us pain.
Second, we need to know more about this God from whom we’ve departed. How? Read His Word the Bible each day, praying for understanding. Seek a personal acquaintance and relationship with Him. Having such a relationship with God may sound peculiar to you, even threatening. But nothing short of this can save us or truly give us peace.
Maybe you’re thinking, “This article is going in a direction I wasn’t planning on. I just want some comfort, some help with anxiety.” Friend, God’s goals are often far different from ours. The terrorists had their evil goals, but God may well use those terrible events for the blessed goal of bringing many people into a saving relationship with Him. Maybe you are one of those people. Let’s consider that.
You might not realize it, but the fear, anxiety, or anger you’re feeling was inside you all along. It took these tragedies to bring it to the surface. “I wasn’t afraid before,” you object. Why are you afraid now? What’s different? “But the evil I saw, the insecurity I now feel—lots of things are different.” No, friend.
You are fearful, anxious now because death threatens and you are not prepared for that or to face suffering and pain. Could it be that your hopes and dreams were all wrapped up in people or things? Are you focusing too much on the events and circumstances swirling around you and not focusing on, not resting in God who is in complete control? Little children typically have a simple yet firm trust in their father or mother. It is precisely that kind of trust that Jesus encourages us to place in God. Knowing God, knowing His Word, helps us understand what’s going on and helps us deal with it. Knowing God, living for Him, gives a solid joy found nowhere else.
How can I know God, enjoying His favor? The answer is clear. In John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Acts 4:12 says, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Sin separates us from God. His Word teaches us what sin is. It also teaches us the only way to escape the vicious cycle of sin and self-centeredness. That way is repentance from sin and to believe and trust in Jesus Christ.
|Rev. D. Lipsy is pastor of the Heritage Reformed Congregation of Pompton Plains, New Jersey, which is in the vicinity of New York City.|
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