In just a few days, our nation will pause to observe the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that affected all of us and changed our lives dramatically, some more than others. If you’ve been watching the news on TV at all, you’ve surely seen a good bit of coverage on this event. It seems that we all are corporately engaging in a bit of public remembrance, perhaps to soothe the wounds that still ache in our nation. Ten years is a long time, and much ground has been covered in the past decade. But moments like these seem as if they took place just yesterday.
I was a senior in college in the fall of 2001. I remember that we held a special chapel service in the afternoon of September 11 for the purposes of prayer, worship, and catharsis. The dean of the chapel was our worship leader, and I remember vividly how he led us from the piano in singing the hymn “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” He explained how we should rely on the Lord, who never changes or abandons us, when we experience tumultuous events. One of the faculty members stood up from his seat among the students and called out for a song of lament instead of the dean’s selection. A brief conversation between the two men ensued, but the dean’s choice eventually carried the day, and we sang of our faith in God. (Laments – expressions of grief – surely followed in the rest of the service.)
In every circumstance, we face the same two choices: either to reiterate our faith in God or to give voice to our emotions and desires. Both are valuable, and each is appropriate in its own time. However, I see one major difference between these two acts: our emotions and desires fade over time, but our faith in God must remain consistent.
Ten years after the terrorist attacks of 2001, we do not experience the same emotions as we did on that day. Some of us are young enough to not even remember that day. But as I reflect on our cultural remembrances, I think those of us in the church – and remember, the church is not the same as our culture – those of us in the church would do well to reiterate our faith in God, who will remain God in good times and in bad. No matter what happens, he will care for us. Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. And perhaps – just perhaps – at times like these, when people’s hearts are turned toward emotionally challenging memories, our message of salvation, wholeness, and hope in Christ might be able to take root in the lives of those around us.
Life is not about sorrow, anger, retribution, justice, prevention, or any of these things. Life is about a living relationship with the creator of the universe, the one who died and conquered death that we might know him, be set free from sin, and live eternally with him. On Christ the solid rock we stand; all other ground is sinking sand!