11th September 2001 is a marker in world history. It is the "where were you when..." moment of our generation. Much like July 20th 1969 was to a previous generation (Armstrong landing on the moon) and May 8th 1945 to a generation before that (V-E day), 9/11 is a day when everyone remembers what they were doing when they first heard or saw the news.
Sadly, since then the fears and anxiety created by terrorist threats have become an ever present reality. We wonder if we will ever be free of that sense of unease in our lives. Recent events including the murder in Paris of an 80 year old priest celebrating communion, continue to feed that unease.
Therefore, on this the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attack, it is worth pausing to consider how Christians should respond when horrible things happen (whether it be the carnage resulting from Islamic terrorism or an unexpected diagnosis in health or the sudden death of a family member). As someone has put it “Where is God when it hurts so bad?”
Part of the answer Scripture gives, is that the sadness we feel when bad things happen is one of God’s ways to tell us that this world is not all there is. The book of Ecclesiastes puts it like this:
“God has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men.”
In other words, the world is filled with much that is good and lovely but often things/people/circumstances ‘interrupt’ our joy causing us to wonder if this life is all there is. When, for example, relationships end and we feel heartbroken or when death strikes and we experience desolation, these are huge pointers to our longing for eternal life. All of us yearn for a world where there is no suspicion (of potential terrorists or of anyone else), where there is no need for scanners (at the airport or at the DGH) and where there is no sinfulness (big and public as at 9/11 or small and hidden such as anger or lust).
Astonishingly, the Bible offers us the chance to be part of such a wonderful sin-free world for ever! It is an offer which comes through a man – Jesus Christ – who lived the perfect life that none of us ever could and who died the death that each of us deserved. It is only by believing in His death and resurrection that God promises eternal life (rather than everlasting torment) – a life where there will be no more sickness, suffering or sorrow but limitless joy!
The phrase is true for the Christian believer: all will be well in the end. May we – whatever our suffering – put our trust in Christ as we await that day when all truly will be well, where evil will be finally overthrown and where Christ will welcome all who trust in Him into His everlasting kingdom. Amen.
Parish magazine article for 11th September 2016 AD