A sickening feeling filled my chest as my husband and I watched footage from 9/11. I had seen basic news coverage and photographs of that awful day. But this was inside. Details. Stories. Horrifying things you only see in movies played out in front of our eyes.
Twenty years have flown by since the attacks, but time doesn’t erase the hurt that so many people felt. And it doesn’t dispel the anxiety that many people feel over our current world situation. I’m beginning to understand why adults get wrinkly and grey.
“Mommy, what’s that in the picture?” My eight year-old son peered around me to see a photo of the crushed Tower. I hesitated. How much do I tell him? He deserves an honest answer, but he also deserves to live in peace a while longer.
“A plane hit a building in New York, 20 years ago. The plane was too heavy for the building, so the building fell down.”
This response seemed to be enough information for him. He was in awe of the demolition, or at least that’s what he thought the photo portrayed. He never asked if people died.
Childhood innocence is one of the greatest gifts God gave mankind. But what about us, the grown-ups who sail on an angry sea of tragedies, questions, and opinions?
“I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart.” (John 14:27) Of all the things Jesus could have left behind when he returned to heaven, why peace? Maybe He chose to give us peace because true peace can only come from God, and it would be the unmistakable mark of His people. Or because He knew it was what we needed more than anything. Or perhaps it was because the world’s promised peace would look so foolish in comparison.
“And the peace I give isn’t like the peace the world gives.” (John 14:27)
At its foundation, the world cannot give answers to the most bothersome questions, because the world tries to do so without God. But God’s truth – his promises in the Bible – never, ever fail. They are bedrock when there is nothing else to stand on. When nothing makes sense.
I’m still trying to wrap my head around God’s peace. But maybe that’s the problem. God promises to give us peace which passes understanding. My mind is too small. I can’t reason away what I don’t like. I can’t understand childhood cancer. I definitely don’t understand 9/11, because I can’t see how it fits into anything. But God does.
These things all make sense to God. I suppose it doesn’t really matter if they make sense to me. I have a Parent who cares for me and makes things turn out right in the end.
“My thoughts are completely different from yours,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
Honestly, this is an attempt to work out in words the struggle in my heart. I believe Him, but my flesh doesn’t want to suffer without understanding. Or maybe I just don’t want to suffer. That’s the nasty little secret.
Yet deep down I know that the pains of this life are golden opportunities to learn who Jesus is: The Lamb who was slain. He suffered. He didn’t back out. The One who loves and loves and loves without limit, no matter who you are or what you’ve done. The One who makes wrong, twisted, awful things “work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” (Romans 8:28)
And deep down, at the core of who I am, there is a peaceful place. Peace with God. No sin, no shame, no record-keeping, no score-keeping.
Jesus Christ was brutally tortured and murdered for crimes he did not commit. Billions of crimes. My crimes alongside your crimes alongside the terrorist’s crimes. “He bore our sins in His body on the tree.” All of them.
His blood for my peace.
So I can start from a place of rightness with God. I belong to Him, no matter what comes.
Jacob wrestled with God in ancient times and wouldn’t let Him go until God blessed him (Genesis 32:22-32). Maybe wrestling with these events in our day, searching for peace in Jesus, is part of our calling. Here on the sea of tragedies, of questions, and of opinions, we may find a blessing beyond our wildest imaginings – if we keep hold of Him.
May His peace, “which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand…guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)