Today marks the 20th anniversary of the tragic 9/11 events. Many have already shared tributes, posts, presidential speeches, and memories. There are undoubtedly many emotions. There are lessons to remember and learn. For others, there is also a sense of realizing how more deeply divided we have become since 9/11 over twenty years ago. Every issue now causes a level of controversy that destroys relationships and divides families. There are new domestic and international threats. A global pandemic continues to cause death, disrupt economies, and divide people. There is much that could be reflected on.
It’s hard to believe I was still in high school when 9/11 happened. At the time, I was only concerned about two things: baseball and how to win back a girl who broke my heart!
Twenty years later, much has changed. The girl who broke my heart in high school became my fiancé in college and my wife the year after college. We now have four kids who grew up without the real-time memory of 9/11. I am also not a major league baseball player (surprise!) but went into full-time ministry, pastoring a church for six years and leading an international mission organization, ServeNow, for the past 6 ½ years. I have also now authored two books and traveled the world on mission trips.
ServeNow is actively working to help evacuate some bible translators and their families to safety due to the current events in Afghanistan. Our Middle East director just returned from a trip to a Yazidi refugee camp that feels forgotten and forsaken by the rest of the world. Many are women who were taken captive by ISIS and forced to be their wives. They bore children during that time that are now rejected due to their circumstances. A couple days before his arrival, a bomb was detonated in the camp. Tragedy, trauma, despair, and brokenness characterize much of the world still post 9/11 twenty years later.
Culturally, we seem plagued by increased depression, a sense of emptiness, restlessness, and despair. It’s what led me to write my newest book: Everything is Meaningless: Finding Purpose in a World of Despair and before that Hope Rising: Finding Hope in a Turbulent World. Now more than ever, we need real hope and renewed purpose.
I remember on 9/11, people were asking a question: Where is God? For some, it was more a statement of unbelief and anger than a sincere question and turning back to him. But for others, it was a wake-up call. That was the story of a woman, Jennifer Sands, who shared her testimony at our church in Jersey a couple times. Her husband was one of the people working in the Trade Center who died that day. The circumstances of this event and grief led her to a deep faith and walk with Jesus. Her question of “where is God” led her to find him in a meaningful and life-transforming way.
But today, twenty years later, I am not so sure this question is being asked anymore at any level. I think many have turned away from God altogether and no longer care to even bother to ask or wrestle with that question. We fill our lives with all kinds of distractions, activities, and entertainment. We feed on 24/7 news channels, and social media posts fuel our anger, anxiety, and division. We turn to every source but God.
I am preaching a message at our home church tomorrow morning titled “Where is God?” Our pastor has been preaching a series on Living Water. His first message pointed out God’s indictment on the Israelite’s, the people of God, in Jeremiah’s day. I believe it is similar to our own:
“My people have committed two sins:
They have forsaken me,
the spring of living water,
and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water. (Jeremiah 2:13)
In my message, I will point out what God asks before even this in the same chapter:
“What fault did your ancestors find in me,
that they strayed so far from me?
They followed worthless idols
and became worthless themselves.
They did not ask, ‘Where is the Lord,
who brought us up out of Egypt
and led us through the barren wilderness,
through a land of deserts and ravines,
a land of drought and utter darkness,
a land where no one travels and no one lives?’
The failure of God’s people during Jeremiah’s day was their failure to ask where the Lord was in their lives and land. They turned away altogether from the source of Living Water.
Let’s not make the same mistake. Let’s press in, even or especially to our pain points, and ask where God is. Let’s seek him until we find him. Let’s ask him to show up and work in our hearts, lives, and unique present-day situations we find ourselves facing. We need God. It begins with asking where he is, recognizing our need for him, and seeking him with all our hearts. Here is a good prayer to begin with:
Lord, I have heard of your fame;
I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.
Repeat them in our day,
in our time make them known;
in wrath remember mercy. (Habakkuk 3:2)