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A WORD FOR TODAY, September 12, 2023
The big question we heard all day yesterday was “Where were you?” The attacks on September 11, 2001 was my generation’s Pearl Harbor, JFK shooting, or Moon Landing. With every anniversary, we remember where we were, how we heard, what we did in response. We were living in Arkansas in 2001, my children were already off to school and the television was droning in the background. I was sitting at my computer just finishing up my daily writing for the day; my Word for that day was already posted. The topic of that day was so ordinary that it seems impossible that such a life changing event was happening on U.S. soil. I complained about road construction, the traffic, and the struggle for local businesses and all the commuters. The crews were trying to make things work as conveniently as possible by working at night, avoiding the worst situation for us all.
When I told my kids they were doing the work at night, they wondered how they could see. The crews were using very bright lights to illuminate the work area, and that it is actually much safer for the workers to be there at night. There are fewer cars on the road, and the bright light brings attention to the work area. In the daytime, it is easy for road workers to disappear in the normal hustle bustle of life. I compared this to the false prophets that claimed to be the Messiah before and after Jesus. Even today we have people who claim to be the “one.” There was so much evil in the hearts of men that is was easy to fool those who were desperate for God. They were not Christ, and their falsehood proved itself through the scriptures. Even today we look back into the Old Testament to see what was spoken about Jesus long before He came in flesh, to see how the prophecy was fulfilled in Him. We look to Jesus who is the Light to offer us hope in the darkness.
So, after writing about this mundane aspect of our life in the modern world, I sat staring at the television. The World Trade Center was on fire. The reporters were in shock and didn’t know what to say, though they talked constantly despite having no information. There were many rumors, and everyone had an opinion. They were estimating the death toll would be in the tens of thousands. Then there was more news, more airplanes, more death. It was frightening. My husband was still active-duty military, so I worried about what this might mean for him. My children were thirty miles away. Like the rest of the nation, I didn’t know what to do, so I prayed.
It wasn’t until the next day that I shared my thoughts. “This is probably the hardest writing I’ve ever had to do. As I sit here today, still in shock with the rest of America and much of the world, I simply do not know what to say. There are a million things that need to be said, but there is no pretty way to put them on paper. It is senseless to rehash the events that have left us dazed, confused, afraid, angry, grieving, and in pain. As much as we long to respond to the horrifying things we saw happen in New York and Washington, D.C. yesterday, it is useless to lay blame at this juncture. In the aftermath, I heard much talk about vengeance, salvation, and the coming of our Lord. Many are ready to jump into action - calling for death to the perpetrators, forcing faith on the lost, and giving up on this life and the world our God created.”
Then I encouraged us to pray. We know that vengeance is God’s, and though we have been given the authority and responsibility to bring justice in the world, we need to pray for wisdom. Salvation also belongs to God, but we have been given the command to make disciples of all nations, but it is not up to us to force faith on anyone, so we need to pray for God’s Word to be on our tongues in love and mercy, so that those who are lost will hear the Gospel and turn to God. Our automatic response had some truth in it, but in our pain, grief, anger, confusion, and shock, we needed to remember that our God is the One True and Living God whose hand moves mountains and whose love melts hearts. I encouraged my readers to praise Him, seek Him, pray in Jesus’ name for every need, and walk in faith that He will provide. Turn to the Lord, your God in this time and He will be with you. I quoted today’s psalm in the hope that God’s Word would help calm hearts and turn people to God at a moment when He was needed the most.
As we look back to the days, weeks, and months that followed, we can remember that there were some very real changes in our hearts, at least for a time. There was an incredible sense of unity among the people of the United States. Church attendance went up. People began to show more respect for the military, first responders and others who were not only helping at Ground Zero, but also all over the country. We were inconvenienced for a time as the authorities did what was necessary to bring justice and care for those who were dealing with extreme loss. The reporters did their best to give us the facts, but they continued to talk constantly without really knowing what to say. Some things never change, but there was so much hope in those days that followed the attacks because people were praying.
Sadly, the faith and allegiance that was inflamed in those days was extinguished as we slowly returned to normal. We cry every anniversary and post memes to remind each other to never forget, and yet, we no longer have the unity of those early days. People stopped going to church. There is little or no respect for the military, first responders, or others who do good work in our nation. We still respond when there is an emergency, but we don’t seem to have the same heart. We can no longer find the hope we had when we were joined together in faith, crying out to God in prayer.
Twenty-two years have passed, but we are still struggling in many ways. We don’t have a national tragedy to pull us together or knock us to our knees again, but we should not need it to be the people God has created, redeemed, and called us to be. We need to give today’s pain, grief, anger, confusion, and shock to the Lord to use in a way that will continue to bring peace, hope, and love to the world. My prayer for this day is that we return to the attitude of those days, that we’ll turn back to God so that we’ll see the incredible things He can and will do in our world this day as He’s done throughout time for His people.
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