“Let us search out and examine our ways, And turn back to the Lord; Let us lift our hearts and hands To God in heaven.” - Lamentations 3:40-41
Do you remember why September 11th is a special time of remembrance? Is it branded into your heart and soul? It is for me. Do you remember how on a crystal clear Tuesday morning at 8:45 am an American Airlines Boeing 767 with 20,000 gallons of jet fuel and a full load of passengers went crashing into the north tower of the World Trade Center? Do you remember how at 9:03 am the South Tower was hit by another 767 with similar payload and passengers? I remember that day. I remember watching in horror. I had just dropped my children off to school. I returned to my home and stepped into the house and my wife immediately informed me that a plane had apparently hit the south tower. I watched in prayer. And then my jaw dropped as another plane hit the south tower. This was no accident. This was a terror attack. It was a merciless, vile, evil attack. I watched and prayed and then as the towers eventually collapses I fell to my knees in brokenness and sorrow as the reality of the deaths of the souls inside those towers struck home. Do you remember the fire, the smoke, the carnage, the atrocity? Do you remember the victims? Do you remember the heroes? Do you remember the hurt and pain and sorrow we all felt?(well at least most of us felt). I do. I to this day it’s difficult for me to watch documentaries on those events; just too painful.
Do you remember that shortly after the terror attacks
of September 11th, 2001, U.S. House Joint Resolution 71 was passed
by a vote of 407 to 0 on October 25th 2001. This resolution was an
almost unprecedented show of unity and requested that the President designate
September 11th of each year as Patriot’s
Day. President Bush signed this resolution in to law on
December 18th, 2001.
The day had been initially referred to as The
National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for the Victims of the Terrorist
Attacks. Today our nation and its representatives are more divided than
ever. We haven’t learned much from 9/11.
Our politicians are so concerned with being politically correct they won’t even utter the words “Islamic Fundamentalists.” Their concern for offending is still greater than their concern for truth. We have extricated ourselves from Iraq for the most part. However we find ourselves still embroiled in Afghanistan and there is a strong sense that the war on terror is getting worse not better. There are more decapitations than ever before and more vividly depicted in the global media thanks to ISIS. Extremist Islamic terrorists are making more not less inroads into European nations and elsewhere in the world; even toward our southern borders. It doesn’t seem to be in the news as much, but let me ask you, do you think Iran is closer or further away from attaining a nuclear weapon? No doubt any day now we will get the news that Iran has weapon grade material to manufacture nuclear weapons. When that day comes, will you feel more or less safe? Do you think we’re winning or losing? Those are rhetorical questions.
The United States continues to be blamed for all the world’s problems. Even the first African American President with all his charisma has not changed that. The Benghazi debacle has led to greater frustration with our government. We are almost resolved to accepting the fact that our government officials just don’t’ get it. We seem to have little to no answers for the proliferation of terrorists and their ever more brazen tactics. It’s not getting better. It’s getting worse. And our enemies see our weakness. For them its carte blanche until a person of steely grit steps up who will not speak with mere people pleasing charisma but with providentially provided courage. One problem; we don’t know if there is such a person in our nation.
Walk a bit further down memory lane with me. Remember how after the attacks of 9/11 the churches throughout the country were packed? That lasted for about a week. Now not only are people back to their normal empty state, but we see a rise in atheistic activism. There is gridlock in the government except when it comes to passing legislation that supports immoral lifestyles. Our nations’ legislation is licentious; it gives license to sin. We promote immoral relationships and protect them as though they were genuinely issues of human rights. People fawn over those they should be embarrassed about. We are a nation that calls good evil and evil good. The nation that does that can expect captivity just as much as the first nation to run that route were taken captive (cf. Isaiah 5:20). We are a nation headed for prison.
But all is not lost. With God there is always hope. God is the Father of mercies and God of all comfort (2 Cor. 1:3-4). He is the God of hope (Romans 15:13). It admittedly doesn’t look good. The sun may be setting on this nation. But we serve a God who is able to turn back the sundial. Cling to that. Petition the Lord for more time (cf. 2 Kings 20:1-11).
The Christian can glean good from tragic times by taking a Biblical perspective. The events we see unfolding before us are a part of historical maneuvering into position of God’s prophetic plan. One day the entire world will come to bow before Jesus and understand truly that No Jesus; No Peace – Know Jesus Know Peace. For many that awareness will come too late. Sinners who persist in rebelling against God and His word will come to know Jesus as Lord much the same as the demons do. Rebel sinners as well as demons will meet God as the Judge who will enforce their eternal damnable destiny (James 2:19). I pray the one persisting in perversity, the one rejecting God rebelliously, and even those who go so far as to deny His very existence, I pray they heed God’s gracious gospel offer so they can be saved from such a fate.
In the years since September 11th, 2001 there has been a lot of reflection. The world is becoming more and more convinced that 9/11 was an orchestrated government conspiracy. More and more people believe the devastation and pain was the price politicians and prominent backroom people were willing to pay to maneuver into places of power and enrich their accounts. If it were possible, I don’t think any scenario is beyond the grasp of the sinful nature of humanity. I just don’t know if humanity is able to orchestrate such a conspiracy like that on their own. Maybe we just can’t accept that immensity of the tragedy. Who thought those gigantic towers would come down; even if jets hit them? Maybe all the explanations and conspiracies is an effort to sooth our mind and heart. Bottom line? No matter what happened, at the very least 9/11 was a demonically inspired and influenced act. Satan’s fingerprints and the fingerprints of his hoards are all over that crime scene. We should all be able to agree with that.
I remember sitting down and prayerfully asking the Lord to help me make sense of it all. Lord, give me a message to send out that will help the people who are hurting so badly. Lord give me a word; help me to apply Your word to this terrible event. The Lord did give me a teaching to send out. And I’d like to share some of what the Lord gave me and how we can make sense or live through tragedy. Certainly there have been natural as well as unnatural tragedies since 9/11/2001. And there are likely are more tragedies in our future. It would be hard to find someone who disagrees with that. What understanding and comfort can we drink from God’s word? Maybe you have some questions about tragedy. I pray you’ll find some answers in what follows.
First, God Allows Tragedies to Happen – But He Is Still In Control. We might be tempted to think that life is out of control when such tragedies hit us or near us. But this is not true. God is in control. But if God is in control, wouldn’t He have stopped such a tragedy and loss of life? We might find this difficult to accept, but God allowed the attack and tragedy that happened at the World Trade Center. In His word God reveals, “I make peace and create calamity” (Isaiah 45:5-7). That’s the truth. God is sovereign even in times of tragedy. He is BIG enough to field all our questions and entertain all our doubts. He’s God. We may disagree with God’s permissive will. We may not understand why what happens does happen. But God remains on the throne. Even Satan was not allowed to bring trials into Job’s life until he has secured permission from God (Job 1-2). What happens, happens because God allows it to happen. But why would God allow tragedy? The answer to that question is multifaceted.
Second, God Hates Tragedy and Calamity. The Bible tells us that though God allows tragedy to happen, He hates it: “For the Lord will not cast off forever.32 Though He causes grief, Yet He will show compassion According to the multitude of His mercies.33 For He does not afflict willingly, Nor grieve the children of men” (Lamentations 3:31-33). God takes no pleasure in allowing tragedy to occur. He is not a sadist or tyrant who has a lust for power and indiscriminately shows it. God is not capricious either. God loves us; even when and if He allows tragedy to enter our lives. He has purpose in that which He does and in what He allows to happen. If this is so, then it leads us to a greater question, why does God allow such tragedies?
Third, God Allows Tragedy to Get Our Attention; To Get Us to Search Our Ways. Sometimes a people or person becomes so hardened toward God that they need to be shaken to be awakened from their spiritual sleep. The psalmist tells us that God does orchestrate hardship at times with an aim to bring us to Himself: “For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined.11 You brought us into the net; You laid affliction on our backs.12 You have caused men to ride over our heads; We went through fire and through water; But You brought us out to rich fulfillment.” (Psalm 66:10-12; See also James 1:2f.) God tested Israel with affliction and hardship, but His aim in doing so was, to bring them out to rich fulfillment. That is God’s aim and purpose and He will do whatever it takes to bring us to that point. As hard as it might be in this life to recognize that there is something more than this, something eternal, we must look to God to understand this. God’s priorities are eternal. Ours are too often finite. God’s ultimate purpose for us is to spend eternity with Him and conform us to the likeness of His Son Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). But to become like Jesus is so often way down on our list of priorities, (if it is on our list or in our hearts and minds at all).
God uses trials to get our attention. We see an example of this on a national scale in the history of Israel. The book of Lamentations is a funeral-like dirge inspired by God through the prophet Jeremiah. In chapter one of Lamentations God through Jeremiah points out that her captivity and affliction is the result of her persistent sinfulness:
- Lamentations 1:5, 8, 9 – “Her adversaries have become the master, Her enemies prosper; For the Lord has afflicted her Because of the multitude of her transgressions. Her children have gone into captivity before the enemy. . . 8 Jerusalem has sinned gravely, Therefore she has become vile. All who honored her despise her Because they have seen her nakedness; Yes, she sighs and turns away. . . .9 Her uncleanness is in her skirts; She did not consider her destiny; Therefore her collapse was awesome; She had no comforter. “O Lord, behold my affliction, For the enemy is exalted!”
While tragedy is not always the result of sin, it always serves to wake people up. Job wasn’t afflicted because he sinned. There was a greater scenario working itself out behind the scenes. But in the case of America, we are a nation that is not only asleep spiritually, but defiantly seek to eliminate God from our schools and every walk of life. We like to think that this nation is great because of democracy. That is false. This nation is great because of those in her history who relied on God who is faithful. We have lost our bearings and foundation in God. We need to be awakened to that fact. We are immoral and lascivious. In the name of tolerance lifestyles aberrant to God are not only allowed but promoted, and that to our youth! (Romans 1:18-32). We are a people who are selfish and self-absorbed. We major in the minors of sports and leisure, and we minor in the majors of truth, justice and the salvation of souls. And tragically, the church has become secularized. Where is holiness? Where is the Spirit in and through us? Where is the Spirit of Christ in us? We need to break up the fallow or hard ground of our hearts (Jeremiah 4). The truth of the matter is that, there are no good people. All fall short of the glory of God and we need to repent and turn to Him. He is willing to heal us and heal our land, but we need to turn to Him and give Him our hearts (Romans 10:9-10). We are not called by God to speak watered down truth, but to speak all the truth and speak it in love (Ephesians ).
The aim of God in allowing tragedy is to get us to search out our ways and return to Him. In Lamentations it states: “Let us search out and examine our ways, And turn back to the Lord;41 Let us lift our hearts and hands To God in heaven.” (Lamentations 3:40-41). This is the greatest aim and lesson of tragedy, to turn to God in the midst of them.
Fourth, God Allows Tragedy to Cause Us to Call Out To Him and Repent of Our Sin. Jeremiah goes on to say:
- Lamentations -58 – “I called on Your name, O Lord, From the lowest pit.56 You have heard my voice: “Do not hide Your ear From my sighing, from my cry for help.”57 You drew near on the day I called on You, And said, “Do not fear!”58 O Lord, You have pleaded the case for my soul; You have redeemed my life.”
As we turn to God we find a loving God of hope willing and waiting to heal us and have us personally relate to Him in an eternal relationship of love. Jeremiah was inspired to write of this by saying:
- Lamentations 3:21-26 – “This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope.22 Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not.23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!”25 The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, To the soul who seeks Him.26 It is good that one should hope and wait quietly For the salvation of the Lord.”
In the New Testament Jesus speaks of a tragedy similar to that of the World Trade Center collapse. He says the important thing is not whether or not the tragedy happened because of the sin of the victims. The important thing is for us to wake up and take accounts. Those who survive need to repent and turn to Him:
- Luke 13:1-5 – “There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.2 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things?3 “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.4 “Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem?5 “I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
Jesus does not concern Himself with assessing blame. Jesus focuses on the fragility of life and the need to repent and get right with God, NOW! We are not guaranteed our next breath. Those who went to work at the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11th , or who started one of the many days since that day not knowing that some other tragedy would occur, had no idea of what the day would hold for them. Life is fragile; it’s a vapor, a gift from God. We know not our days, only God does. Sudden tragedy causes us to come face to face with the reality of the fragility of life. We need to understand that we need to get right with God, NOW!
Fifth, God Allows Tragedy To Show Us We Need To Be Right With Him, NOW! The people of these United States of America live as though there is no God. And we in the church have shown a tendency to procrastinate in and neglect our walk with God. Ask yourself a question, and answer it truthfully, when are you more inclined to pray, in hard times or easy times, in good times or bad times? When do you feel compelled to pray, when the skies are blue, or when they are black with the smoke of a terrorist attack? When tragedy strikes it shakes us up from our lethargy and drops us to our knees before God. It is sad that that is what it takes to get us on our knees, but if that are what it takes, God will allow it.
Read some of the following verse which talk to us about our need to be ready and eight before God, now:
- Matthew 7:24-27 - “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:25 “and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand:27 “and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”
“Ánd great was its fall.” The fall of the Twin Towers in New York City pale in comparison to the crash this country will suffer at the hands of her enemies unless we repent. God is giving us a wake up call. The wake up calls of God have been getting steadily more severe. We have progressed very rapidly from the loss of a few students in a number of horrible school shootings to the loss of thousands in an all out terror attack. If we don’t’ respond now and repent, what will happen next. Will a city be lost, a county, a state, a region? Will terror planes turn into terror chemical warfare, or nuclear terror? What is it going to take to wake up this nation? You may say, “Wait a minute, those verses were written thousands of years ago, they don’t apply to me.” But the Bible says things would get “worse and worse” (1 Timothy 3:13). The world is not going to get better, but worse, (until Jesus returns).
Now is the time to get right with God (Hebrews 4). God wants us to wake up now. He says, “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand” (Romans 13:11). Get into God’s word. Get right with God through faith alone in Christ alone. Ask God to fill you and overflow you with the Holy Spirit. Be burdened for the lost. Be empowered by the Spirit to do something about it. Get ready, because the tragedy of the World Trade Centers is not likely to be the last one.
Do you remember that in 1993 the Towers were nearly destroyed? For a time after the 1993 attack we were vigilant and took precautions toward potential future terrorism. But over time we became lax and negligent. The same is true of us spiritually. We draw close to God when a hard time comes, but as soon as He gets us over the hump, we slip back into our easy chair and settle for coasting in our faith and being a Christian couch potato. The enemy is persistent.
Sixth, Tragedy Teaches Us That God Can Bring Good Even From Tragedy. What good can possibly come from a tragedy such as that of the terrorist attack on September 11th? God can bring much good from these circumstances. Of Jesus it was prophesied, “A bruised reed He will not break, a smoldering wick He will not snuff out” (Matthew 12:20; Isaiah 42:1-4). If tragedy has nearly broken you, if the flame of your spirit is about to go out, understand that Jesus is there for you and offers you eternal life. Jesus calls us to Himself: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30). Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Rev. 3:20). Don’t let tragedies’ effect be compounded for evil by driving you away from God. Turn to Jesus and find rest for your souls and a saving relationship that will last and eternity. That is good.
Remember, those who face tragedy in the Lord, see the reality of His sustaining grace. If we turn to God, we will find a strong faith that will get us through anything. And that is true of our nation as well as for the individual. God can bring good even from tragedy if the tragedy causes people to repent and turn to Him through faith in Christ and salvation (Romans -39)
Tragedies reveal the strength of God in the believer. Tragedies provide opportunities to be more than a conqueror through Him who loved us. Wouldn’t you rather be a more than a conqueror who cannot be separated form God’s love by anything or anyone, not even the most horrific and brutal terrorist attack in history? That’s where I want to be, close to God, in His love, depending on Him, forgiven. That is good that comes from the dark contrast of tragedy.
Remember, this world is not our home. The events of September 11th were filled with the darkness of smoke. But there is light here too. The dark tragedy and evil that we have seen serves as a contrast to the light of the blessedness of Jesus for the believer. Jesus is our blessed hope and we look forward all the more today, after this tragedy, for His glorious appearing (Titus ). The tragedy has made this world a little less, (maybe a lot less) palatable to us. Maybe now we realize our citizenship is not in this world but in heaven (Philippians ). That is good and that came as the result of tragedy.
The tragedy of the destruction of the World Trade Center, attack on the Pentagon, and the murder of thousands is a reality; it has come upon us, now we need to turn to God. This tragedy is the result of God’s hedge of protection being lowered by Him to allow a wake up call in the form of tragedy. Read the words of the psalmist who wrote:
- Psalm 80:12-19 – “Why have You broken down her hedges, So that all who pass by the way pluck her fruit?13 The boar out of the woods uproots it, And the wild beast of the field devours it.14 Return, we beseech You, O God of hosts; Look down from heaven and see, And visit this vine15 And the vineyard which Your right hand has planted, And the branch that You made strong for Yourself.16 It is burned with fire, it is cut down; They perish at the rebuke of Your countenance. 17 Let Your hand be upon the man of Your right hand, Upon the son of man whom You made strong for Yourself.18 Then we will not turn back from You; Revive us, and we will call upon Your name.19 Restore us, O Lord God of hosts; Cause Your face to shine, And we shall be saved!”
We need to understand that if we do not repent, then the tragedies we’ve experienced are only the beginning. If we do not repent, it may be the beginning of the end.
We need to repent as a nation and as individual people. We need to pray for the victims, their families, friends, for the firemen and policemen and EMT workers, the doctors and nurses, the governmental leaders, our president and our nation. We need to pray for Israel. We cannot afford to let this tragedy pass us by without affecting us. Read the words of promise for those who go to their knees:
- 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 - “When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people,14 “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
May God help us; may God bless America.