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20 Years on from 9/11 – What Can We Do?

20 Years on from 9/11 – What Can We Do? Hope With Ruth Podcast

This episode is also available as a blog post:

It’s been 20 years since the attacks on the World Trade Centres in New York. I had just turned 10 years old and I remember coming in the house after school to pictures of billowing smoke coming from the twin towers on the TV. Sirens sounding everywhere. Tears falling from distraught onlookers and the shock palpable on the streets of the city. It was such a long time ago, yet it is firmly etched on my mind – and I’m sure on the minds of many others today.

The reality of terror is very much at the forefront of the news at the moment. At the time of writing, the Taliban have taken control of Afghanistan as US forces were pulled from the country. ISIS are back in the news for being responsible for a suicide bomb in Kabul that killed US marines and many others. Civilians remain caught in the conflict, fleeing for their lives, hiding or continuing life on the ground in this new world. Many families and friends who have lost loved ones in the last 20 years because of the ‘War on Terror’ are left with more questions, and an even greater sense of loss (if that’s even possible) at the sacrifice made. It’s heartbreaking. As we watch our screens – now in our pockets and not just in our living rooms – we are faced with tragedy and those who are suffering more and more. What can we do?

Firstly, we need to acknowledge that we were never meant to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders. I don’t know about you, but it certainly feels like I am carrying a heavier load when I look at the world at the moment. The anxiety-inducing threats in our world are accessible 24 hours a day. How can we begin to make sense of it all? In all honesty, I don’t think we can. There are many that have more knowledge and insight into the current situation than we do. There are even more voices that don’t have a clue, but still have an opinion and freedom to speak it (although this freedom to speak is not free for everyone). We just can’t try and untangle the mess.

Although we cannot fully comprehend it all, we cannot hide. We cannot disengage from it all and pretend things are not happening just because it seems easier that way. There are things that we can do as we continue to daily live our lives.

Here are some things to consider as we reflect on the tragic circumstances surrounding Afghanistan at the moment:

  1. Choose to look up and around. I mean this physically. Look up from the smartphone or the iPad and remember that you are in the world. Yes, there are real events going on elsewhere. But right now, you are wherever you are. What needs your attention now? Take a break from the technology. Focus on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). You cannot take on the world by yourself.
  2. See if you can help in an area that concerns you. Or even in an area that you haven’t thought about before. There are plenty of charities and organisations who are set up to make a difference. Do what you can and see how you can help. See what you can do from home, locally or what is available to get stuck into nationally and internationally. Pray that the Lord will open your eyes to what you can do and soften your heart toward Him and others.
  3. Pray. Perhaps the most neglected, but the most necessary. Talk to God about it. Pray for the people caught up in conflict, pray for families of loved ones who are grieving, pray for wisdom for leaders in handling the crises we see and those we don’t see, pray that people will know Jesus in the midst of great trial, pray for the enemies of God, pray for practical needs to be met, pray in however you feel led. It’s OK to come before God and ask Him the hard questions. He knows your heart.
  4. Remember, we are in a spiritual war. If you are a Christian, you have a target on your back. Jesus has won the war by defeating the power of sin and death on the cross, but the prince of this world is Satan at this time and his end has not yet happened. Satan hates everything about Christ and His followers. But don’t forget that ‘the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world’ (1 John 4:4 NLT). This world needs Jesus and to know His love for them. He is the hope of the broken world we find ourselves in. We are told ahead of time what to expect in the pages of the Bible. It’s not an old book – it’s a living book with plenty of spoiler alerts of what is to come in the future, and plenty of prophecies that happened in the past that were fulfilled in Christ. God does not leave us in the dark. He is light and in Him there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).
  5. Turn to Jesus while it is still called ‘today’. Circumstances can change in an instant. We experienced that with the arrival of restrictions, anxiety, illness and death that accompanied the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic. Our world shifted and it continues to shift. Some people live in this world where unexpected and fearful circumstances are part of their daily lives. In the West, we are tasting just a small sample of discomfort compared to the safety and comfort many of us are used to. Life is fleeting. We are like a breath; our days like a passing shadow (Psalm 144:4). Whilst there is still air in our lungs, we need to cry out to the only one who never changes, who died for us, who loves us – Jesus Christ.

If you do not know Jesus today, consider your life from beginning to end. Do you have hope for the future in all its uncertainties? Put your trust and hope in Jesus – the light in this dark world.

Whilst I think it is important to acknowledge what is going on in our world, we need to remember that our lives are fleeting. It should not take the instability of our world to make us sit up and take notice, but maybe it’s the wake up call we need. We should consider our lives and know that one day, we all will pass away. This is the reality. Death is the great unknown. But what is known is Jesus Christ who died and rose three days later, appearing to witnesses in power. Through Him, we can know eternal life and enjoy God forever. That can start today. We can know God now. Indeed, we should press to know Him now, whilst there is air in our lungs and a beat in our heart. Death is not the end for any of us, but do you know where you’re going when you die? This is something that I will return to at another time, but for now I leave you with an excerpt from ‘On Living in an Atomic Age’ by C.S. Lewis for some reflection.

In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”

In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.

C.S. Lewis from ‘Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays’