That Tuesday, everything changed in a few terrifying moments for the United States. We had been attacked by terrorists in a coordinated deadly way, and because of it the nation would never be the same. As the images played and replayed over the next weeks, many of us went through a succession of emotions: shock, then fear, and later a heavy sense of grief.
These tragic acts of terrorism caused the nation to come together. No matter the race, ethnicity, level of education, income, or political philosophy every citizen of the US rallied "around the flag", so to speak.
For people of faith there were two contrasting truths:
1. Life is by nature fragile and fleeting, while at the same time,
2. God is still in control.
That brings me to today. With all the chaos caused by COVID-19, masks/no masks, open schools for in-person instruction, online school, police brutality, racism, political division, etc., we need to focus on the second truth that God is still in control. We learned some things as we struggled with and overcame the national and personal trauma of 9/11. We can apply some of those things to the chaos of 2020.
Here are some of the steps that many of us took then. My prayer is that they encourage you as we go through this very difficult time in our nation.
1. Put More Trust In God to Lead Your Life
The 9/11 attacks burst the bubble of security we had been living in, and tore down our illusion of control. We reacted with fear until we realized that God has always had authority over our lives, and everything else, too. We learned to release our agendas and to take up His instead, because it will lead to His best for us. We need to do that today.
We let faith navigate us through the chaos of 9/11 we can do the same thing today. Over time the days, weeks and months things started to feel more normal. As we work through and begin to solve the problems of systemic racism, find a vaccine or effective therapeutics for COVID-19, the general election is over in November, things will begin to feel a little more normal. We will probably never return to what we once considered normal but as we adapt there will be a new normal, if we let faith in God be our guiding light.
Proverbs 19:21 NIV Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord ’s purpose that prevails.
Psalms 32:8 NIV I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
Romans 12:2 NIV Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
2. Make Worship a Priority
When we watched those strong buildings crumble on 9/11 made the world seem small and shaky. Today as we’ve watched in helpless horror the spread of the COVID-19 virus, the murder of unarmed African American men and women by law enforcement, the ineptness of government at all levels, and the deep policical division we have to admit that it’s a little unnerving until you remember that God, not the world, is our source of strength. He is greater than any created thing, and will never leave us. Make a habit of expressing the praise and thanks that He is due each day.
1 Corinthians 10:31-33 NIV So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.
1 Chronicles 16:28-29 NIV Ascribe to the Lord , all you families of nations, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him. Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.
3. Look For Ways to Make a Positive Impact Others for the Better
It was hard to watch all the first responders run into danger and even certain death on September 11th. We marveled at their examples, and realized they were living out God's call for us to love selflessly. We see the same thing today in our hospitals, our grocery stores, our drug stores, all those wonderful people that have been designated as essential workers, in addition to our traditional first responders of police, fire, and EMTs. These people should continue to inspire you to look beyond yourself to see how you can minister and serve others more effectively.
John 13:34-35 NIV “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Hebrews 13:15-16 NIV Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
1 John 3:16-18 NIV This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
The actions of the 9/11 attackers showed how wrong thoughts and attitudes can lead to horribly destructive actions. The same can be true for us. Wrong thoughts and attitudes about the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, about peaceful protesters and lumping them with a very few violent and destructive people, masks versus no masks, Republican versus Democrat, conservative versus liberal, evangelical against other Christians, etc., can and often does result in terribly destructive actions not only physically but psychologically.
We need to ask God to renew our minds and refine our hearts. But God always wants to do new things, especially within us.
Ephesians 4:29 NIV Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
Galatians 5:22-23 NIV But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Philippians 2:3-4 NIV Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
5. Dig Deeper into God's Word and Lean on His Promises
The days surrounding 9/11 were dark, and many people felt overwhelmed. This sense of being overwhelmed and its resulting anxiety instinctively drove many to churches and Scripture. Church attendance soared after 9/11. This should be the same response today. The Psalms remind you of God's love for us, and Books like Revelation gave you a fresh sense of God's majesty. The Bible is filled with God’s promises for mankind. Find those that fit the way you are feeling. God’s grace and His goodness that shine through each one of His promises.
Colossians 3:16 NIV Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. (emphasis mine)
Philippians 4:19 NIV And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
Isaiah 41:10 NIV So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (emphasis mine)
John 14:27 NIV Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (emphasis mine)
Even now, it's difficult to think about what happened on September 11th. The images and emotions can feel as fresh today as they did then. As I look back, you can and will praise God for His presence during that fearful time, and what He brought out of it.
Although the issues of 2020 are different from 9/11 God is still the same and He is still in control.
2 Corinthians 1:3-5 NIV Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.
Hebrews 13:8 NIV Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Isaiah 40:8 NIV The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”
Not only did He light our way through the storm, after 9/11, He gives us the opportunity to help others through the storms of 2020 and beyond.