Joni and Friends Blog
Standing in the Face of Attack
It’s hard to believe it’s been 18 years since the terrorist attacks that totally altered the way we live in the US. The tragedy of thousands losing their lives, and of others forever bearing the wounds of that day… it makes my heart groan just thinking about it.
Just two short weeks after the attacks, I was invited to come speak at several churches in New York City, and wheeling by Ground Zero, I could see the mound of smoking rubble; the twisted metal, shards of cement, and the heavy fog of caustic ash. I could smell the stench of chemical residue and oily dust clouding the air. Everywhere I went, people were sobered. People were examining their own lives, thinking about good and evil, life and death. Everyone seemed to be aware of how fragile and wispy life is. People on the streets of New York and across the country seemed to know that, “There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow…” (2 Corinthians 4:18, TLB). At least that’s what it seemed 18 years ago.
“Looking around, I wondered, do they realize they are visiting a graveyard?”
A while back, I visited the 9/11 Memorial in lower Manhattan, built over the site of the fallen twin towers. Ken and I, along with a few friends, walked through the wooded plaza and stood for a while at the edge of one of the waterfalls.
As we watched the water cascading down, down into a dark pit, it stirred up sadness. It was a graphic picture of the yawning abyss of grief and death. We were quiet as we left. We passed a few chattering kids who were skateboarding, and students who were tossing a football. People picnicked on nearby benches, talking, laughing and guzzling soda. Fascinated tourists tumbled out of buses and stood, staring up at the skyscrapers. No one seemed to be struck by the sober gravity of the 9/11 Memorial. To them, it was a famous destination on a tour map. Looking around, I wondered, do they realize they are visiting a graveyard?
Many people think that life is a parade that will go on forever. But it won’t. Sadly, it often takes a national (or sometimes, personal) tragedy to wake us up out of our spiritual slumber and to get us thinking about how short, how brief life really is. The cosmic stakes are unbelievably high, and a tragedy can be God’s way of splashing an ice-cold reality in our face: that sin kills, hell is real, but God is merciful, his kingdom can change you, and Jesus is the Way. We cannot say how many people in the 911 attack knew that Jesus is the Way – but we can be prepared.
Do you own Christ as your Lord and Savior? Jesus has a message for us: “Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God… do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out – those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned” (John 5:25, 28-29). No one wants tragedy to befall them. But should it come to our doorstep, let’s make certain we are prepared. Referencing John 5:29, to do what is good is to trust Christ; to do what is evil is to guzzle soda and think of life as nothing more than a never-ending parade. Today, don’t let that be you.
Hard times come for all in life, with no real explanation. When we walk through suffering, it has the potential to devastate and destroy, or to be the gateway to gratitude and joy. Elisabeth Elliot was no stranger to suffering. It was in her deepest suffering that she learned the deepest lessons about God.