No one old enough has any problem remembering the events of September 11, 2001. I would venture to say most of us know exactly where we were when we heard the news of the attack on our country. I was returning home from taking my daughter to school. That day is forever etched in most of our memories. It was a clear demonstration of what evil looks like, perhaps the boldest example of it in our nation’s history. I’m not sure there’s much left to be said about that day that hasn’t already been said, but we should never forget it. Neither should we forget the days that followed as they were also unique in their own way, quite different from before 9/11 and certainly different from where we seem to be today.
I might be naïve but didn’t it seem that we had a different character to our nation for a time following 9/11? Of course there were those who from the very outset claimed that the United States got exactly it deserved, but their voices were few and little attention was paid to their ignorance. Although the result of great tragedy, the days that followed September 11, 2001 appeared different. Gone for the moment were all the things that seemingly divided us. For a change, our media reported events instead of creating them. For a change, our political parties worked together instead of against one another. Gone for the moment was the idea that unity within our nation was impossible. For a moment in time, politics, race or social class didn’t seem to matter. For the moment, no one cared about separation of church and state and if they did, little attention was paid to those voices. For the moment, prayer took on new meaning. We didn’t need to be prodded to pray, we wanted to be on our knees. Church became more than just a convenient option. For the moment, we welcomed God into every aspect of our lives. For that brief moment, we humbled ourselves enough to admit that maybe humans don’t have all the answers and should seek the only One who does. What happened to those days? Why does it take an event the magnitude of 9/11 for us to seek God? I would actually contend that it’s not so much in these moments that we reach out to seek God as much as it is that in these moments He is seeking us.
Think about where we are twelve years later. Our country couldn’t be more divided. Twelve years after 9/11, we would consider it progress if we were only in the same place as before that day. The divisions within our society have intensified and our media and politicians seem only to serve in propagating them. For a time following 9/11 it appeared we desired God’s intervention, but have since returned to our arrogant ways. We have this idea that our problems can be solved without God’s help. In fact, He is often seen as the problem. So unfortunately, it has become pretty clear that this momentary seeking of God in the days that followed 9/11 was just that, momentary. In years past, our nation had a determined resolve in dealing with adversity and in doing so unashamedly sought God for both guidance and comfort. I know He would welcome our return now.
– “If my people who are called by my name 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” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
– “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28)
Comfort for what afflicts us as a nation and each of us individually will never be solved any other way than spiritually. There are many who can testify to this truth, having relied solely on God for comfort in the midst of their own trials. And I’m convinced that through the evil acts of 9/11, many stand witness to the fact that what may have been meant for evil, God used for good. It may be a difficult reality to accept that God uses tragedy this way, but He does.
So though we should never desire days like September 11th, the tremendous loss of innocent life and the overwhelming grief that results, when these times come, when evil is bold or subtle, though never its cause, be comforted knowing that God is both sovereign over it and with us in the midst of it. Adversity and affliction are often the moments in which He reveals Himself most clearly. These are many times the moment in which He saves. Difficulty and tragedy are all part of life. Though we don’t long for a repeat of that day, we can long for a repeat of what happened in the days that followed. For that brief moment in time, unity stood above division, our nation appeared to be one, and we sought the face of God. And as He was then and as He always is, our God stood ready to save.