Ten years. Ten years today.
Ten years ago today I woke up earlier than usual, excited to celebrate my younger sisters’ tenth birthday. Ten years ago today my dad drove my sisters and me to school, dodging traffic and getting us there just in time. Ten years ago I sat in Mrs. Kinnan’s literature class, kidding around with my 7th grade classmates about how many times Homer used the word “sprang” in The Illiad. Ten years ago today, I wondered why our teacher had left the room so suddenly. When she came back, we knew: Ten years ago today was the day that would change everything.
For at least 2,985 people, September 11th became the second date on their headstone, the end of their passage here on earth. For 1,609 people, September 11th was the day they lost their spouse or partner. For 3,501 children, September 11th meant growing up without their mommy or daddy or both. And for countless people around the globe, September 11th embarked them on a journey down a road of grief and pain. The Twin Towers collapsed, and the world as we knew it came crashing down with it. The collective heart of humanity broke. America wept, and the world wept with her.
September 11th was a day of opposites, of striking juxtapositions: Fear and courage, cruelty and compassion, hate and love, good and evil, life and death, despair and hope. Since that Tuesday morning, vats of ink have been spilled as people commemorate heroes, vent their anger, and ponder the “what ifs” as they ask over and over again that eternally nagging question: Why?
Why did this happen? If God is all-powerful, if God is so good, if God is actually as loving as He claims to be, then why didn’t He stop it?
A few months ago, I found myself wrestling with these age-old questions. Then I stumbled upon a sermon entitled “Riding the Storm” by British philosopher and theologian Os Guinness. Here in his 45-minute talk, I finally found some answers that made sense. (Note: Only after listening to the sermon did I discover the date he delivered it: September 10, 2001. Coincidence? Of course not.) Here is what Guinness says…
1) “It should have been otherwise.” –God created the world in perfection and beauty. Joy, peace, love, fulfillment, and satisfaction flowed freely in Eden, as mankind lived in total harmony with their Creator. But when Adam and Eve chose to disobey and rebel against God, humanity died and the rest of creation with it. The “Fall,” as it is termed, ruined God’s plan for the world and for us, and all the brokenness we see and the pain we experience is a direct consequence of that critical day in Eden. But this is not what God intended for His creation, and it grieves Him even more acutely than it hurts us.
2) “No other god has wounds.”—Jesus died for us. He willingly endured the most humiliating, degrading and painful death known to mankind in order to save us. His blood poured out; His heart broke. Other religions may claim to have gods or a god who cares, but no other god died to save his people. Jesus understands, relates to, and feels our pain because He experienced the ultimate pain. And because of this, He hurts when we hurt; our pain is His pain.
3) “The resistance leader knows what He’s doing.”—Imagine you are living in Fascist Germany in 1941. You meet up with the leader of an underground movement to resist Hitler. He knows you are opposed to the Nazis, and he asks you to join with him in the resistance. But he warns you: “If you join me, you will have to trust me. After tonight, we will never speak again face-to-face. Sometimes you’ll see me in Nazi uniform, arresting one of our friends. But you don’t know that I am actually setting them free. Other times, I will send you messages, telling you to do something that makes no sense. And oftentimes, it will seem like we are losing and our efforts are futile. But you will have to trust me, because I am in control, and I know what I am doing.” Jesus, our Resistance Leader, says the same thing to us, and He wants us to trust Him too. He is omniscient, and He knows what He is doing, even when things make no sense.
So whatever happens—when tragedy strikes, when terror seems to have the upper hand, and when evil appears in control—we must remember the truth: our God is good and will never fail. In the past, in the present, and forevermore.
Including ten years ago today.