As we approach the 20th anniversary of September 11, 2001, have the events of the day that rocked America been on your mind? I’ve found myself reflecting on that horrific time in our nation’s history a lot lately, especially with what’s recently transpired in Afghanistan. My remembrance of 9/11, as well as the current Afghanistan crisis, has led me to cry out to Our Heavenly Father about why such tragic events happen, especially when they harm His people.
In the midst of my prayers, the Holy Spirit led me to Psalms 46:
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the Earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.” Psalm 46:1-3 (ESV)
Do you know that God is your safe place every day-– even, and especially– when you’re caught off guard and troubled by what’s going on in the world around you?
God Organizes Our Steps Every Day
When I think about the 9/11 attacks and our current crisis in Afghanistan, I can’t help but think of all the men, women, children, and the multitude of families who were then and are now directly impacted by the indescribable loss. And, if I’m not careful, I can find my mind getting consumed with fearful thoughts as well. Thoughts like, “Will there be another attack on America? Will the weapons the US left behind in Afghanistan be used on us? Are we in imminent danger? Are my family and I safe? What would I do if my family was killed or injured in such an attack?”
In order to stop myself from becoming overwhelmed with the ‘what ifs,’ I have to take a few deep breaths and remind myself that God is always in control, even when things in my own life and the world at large seem out of control. I tell myself this important truth: Nothing catches God by surprise!
“Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.” Psalm 147:5 (ESV)
…for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ Isaiah 46:9-10 (ESV)
God is Sovereign over all of the Earth, including everything that affects mankind, and He alone knows the beginning and the end of things. Even when we can’t understand His ways, we can trust Him, Who is love (1John 4:8), and full of mercy, kindness, and compassion (Exodus 34:6; Psalm 86:5; 15; Psalm 145:8). His thoughts and ways are indeed so much higher than our ways that it is hard for us to comprehend them, and how He is able to make all things-–even tragic events like 9/11– work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes (Isaiah 55:8-9; Romans 8:28
He Guides Our Path
Do you know that every single step you take and every small decision you make, God goes ahead of you? He tells us:
The steps of a [good and righteous] man are directed and established by the Lord, And He delights in his way [and blesses his path]. Psalm 37:23 (AMP)
Yes, we as a united nation were all incredibly grieved by the 9/11 tragedy and shared heartbreak for all who perished. But what about the stories of those who were supposed to be at the Twin Towers on that fateful morning and weren’t? What about the woman whose Mom insisted on coming to see her that day, so she missed an arranged reunion with her two best friends scheduled at 8:00 a.m. at one of the towers? Or the woman who never missed an annual media tour held at the Twin Towers but happened to schedule her vacation for that day in 2001? Or the woman who got laid off on September 7 who otherwise would’ve been at the horrific scene. Or the man who had car trouble that saved his life, or the one who happened to be running 20 minutes behind his usual schedule so missed being at the Towers. Did you know that famous pop singer Michael Jackson even missed an early appointment he had at the Twin Towers because he was up late talking on the phone to his mother and overslept, or he’d likely have died that day?
Several people–including actor Mark Wahlberg who made last-minute plans to charter a private plane and canceled his scheduled flight, and actor Seth McFarlane whose agent misinformed him of the departure time, were supposed to be American Airlines flight 11 that hit the North Tower. And there were, of course, a number of people who were supposed to be on United flight 93 that was hijacked by al-Qaeda who didn’t end up being on that fateful flight, including a painter, a businessman, and a flight surgeon. And what if Todd Beamer and the rest of the passengers who bravely revolted against the hijackers hadn’t been on Flight 93? Their sacrificial actions undoubtedly resulted in saving countless others from being killed by the would-be attackers’ intended target.
Can you think of a time in your own life or the life of a loved one when you know a change in plans or circumstances averted harm? Have you thanked the Lord for how He ordered your steps then and continues to order them today?
You can be assured that God will lead and guide– and when necessary, redirect– your steps.
It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8 (ESV)
A Specific 9/11 Bible Verse That Addresses Those Who Died
You may be thinking, “So if God led some people who ‘should have’ been victims of 9/11 away from the Twin Towers or away from the planes involved in the crashes on that day, did He also lead people to the Twin Towers and to the planes that crashed? Were those who died less loved by Him than those who didn’t die? Was it because of their sin that they died?
In Luke 13, Jesus addresses the basic question of whether bad things happen to people because of their sin. He responded to His disciples:
“And he (Jesus) answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Luke 13:2-5 (ESV)
Jesus makes sure his disciples–and we– know that the people who died in that tragic event weren’t worse sinners than those who didn’t die when that tower fell. The fact is, every one of us since Adam and Eve live in a fallen world; sin, suffering, and even death are part of living this side of eternity.
However, Jesus made it clear that for those who choose to repent of their sin and put their faith in Him, death is not the end of their story. In fact, that’s why Jesus came to Earth. He came to take on our sin so that everyone who believes in His atoning death on their behalf and surrenders their life to His will can be assured that their sin is forgiven. The penalty for sin– which is death– has been paid by Him, and death has been swallowed up in victory! (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 15:54-55)
Trust in Him with the Details of Your Life
We can trust the Lord to direct and even redirect our steps in this life. We can also trust that He knows the day we will leave this Earth and step into our eternal destiny: Heaven for those who have put their trust and hope in Him, and Hell for those who have rejected the free gift of salvation He offers to all. All of our days on Earth have already been ordained by the Lord. He has created and called us to live each one of our days in obedience to Him so that we will have abundant life here on Earth and then be able to experience the joy of His Presence in Heaven for all eternity!
“Since his days are determined, The number of his months is with You [in Your control], And You have made his limits so he cannot pass [his allotted time].” Job 14:5 (AMP)
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:16 NIV
We who know God and have received Him as Savior and Lord don’t need to live in fear of death since for us, ‘death has lost its sting.’ God knows the day and hour that our time on Earth will end. So let’s make sure to live our lives for the purpose we each were put on this Earth: to know God, to be transformed into the glorious image of Jesus, and to make Him known by our words and deeds. If we live daily in light of that magnificent purpose, we will be ready for whatever tomorrow might bring!
Lord, gather my thoughts this day and every day– may my thoughts be according to Your will and aligned with Your divine purpose– and order my steps that I might know You are with me at all times, leading and guiding me into righteousness for Your Name’s Sake. Amen.