Contemporary historians routinely declare that the twentieth century
did not begin with the changing of the calendar from December 31,
1900, to January 1, 1901. Rather they date the beginning of the century
over a decade later, June 28, 1914. On that day Serb nationalists
assassinated the heir to the throne of the Austrian empire, and the
First World War, which changed forever the face not only of Europe
but of the entire world, began.
We cannot predict what event future historians will see as inaugurating
the twenty-first century. However, it is possible that they will one
day say that the century did not begin on January 1, 2001, but on
September 11. Like the bloody killing that occurred eighty-seven years
earlier, the terrorist attacks may well invariably alter our world.
These events vividly revealed that there is no longer any haven that
lies beyond the pale of the potential for mass destruction precipitated
How can we live in the aftermath of 9-11-01? Is it possible to be
a people of faith in what some have dubbed as "the post-twin
towers world." In my attempt to seek an answer to this question
and to cope with the unparalleled realities unleashed by the terrorist
strikes, in the aftermath of September 11 I was drawn to a text, a
hymn and a movie.
The text: Since September 11, Psalm 46 has taken on new meaning for
me. "God is our refuge and strength...Therefore, we will not
fear, though the earth give way...Be still and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations." These words offer a needed
reminder that God alone is the one to whom we must turn as the ultimate
resource for living through perilous times.
The hymn: Since September 11, I sing with far deeper appreciation
the lyrics to the old hymn. "Grant us wisdom, Grant us courage,
for the living of these days." The prayer articulated by the
poet encapsulates the groaning of my own heart. I have come to see
more clearly that for us not only to cope with perilous times but
to serve the present generation in the name of Christ requires that
we be the recipients of the twin gifts the hymn-writer pinpoints:
wisdom and courage. These are crucial, as the hymn rightly declares,
"Lest we miss Thy kingdom's goal."
The movie: The Sunday evening after that fateful day, I was drawn
to watch in solitude Thirteen Days, which depicts the events
surrounding another potentially world-altering event that occurred
during my childhood--the Cuban missile crisis. As I viewed the video,
I was struck with a sense that God had graciously provided leaders
at that crucial juncture in world history who had been divinely
prepared to cope with a situation that could possibly have led to
the annihilation of humankind. This, in turn, led me to a deeper
sense of the presence in the current crisis of the God who is sovereign
over history. And it planted in my heart the reassuring hope that
perhaps God had placed in leadership positions today persons whom
he had similarly providentially prepared for the grave challenge
of navigating our way through these stormy days.
As Christians, we are called to live as lights in a dark world. The
events of September 11 came upon us as a stark--and unwelcome--reminder
as to just how dark our world in fact is. But God is greater than
the darkness around us. This God is still at work in human history.
He still grants wisdom and courage to all who ask. And he remains
forever our only sure refuge. Armed with these truths, we can discover
even in midst of the new reality--the changed world--that was born in
the aftermath of September 11, 2001, that faith in the God of history