Today is, of course, a day to give thanks. The destruction could have been much worse on that never-to-be-forgotten morning ten years ago. And we should thank God it wasn’t. We should also thank God for the thousands of brave souls who made it so, and who have ensured that our lives have been much safer these last 10 years than we may have then dreamed. We should thank the Lord, too, for souls who may have been awakened to eternity by the events of that awful day, and who are now trusting and serving Jesus because of it. God really did work for good that which was meant as inestimable evil – the half of which working we may never fully know. So today is a day for giving thanks.
But it’s also a day to remember. We remember, today, the many people who lost their lives that day, and mourn over them. We also remember, in light of their loss, that eternity may be much closer than we sometimes think, waking up in the mornings and heading off to the daily routine. But perhaps, especially, on this tenth anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy, we who are old enough will vividly remember where we were when we first heard the news. We will remember exactly what television set first broadcast those horrible pictures before our stunned eyes. Some of us will clearly remember certain other events that took place on and around that day, too. Sudden tragedy has a way of permanently searing certain normally forgettable circumstances into our memories.
Let me tell you what I remember most about September 11, 2001. Most vivid in my mind is actually what happened on September 13. That night Tobey and I attended a Passion collegiate conference with Louie Giglio. Yes, we were well past college at that point, but he had made such a profound impact on us that we went to the event anyway, just down the road from my seminary. As you can imagine, there was a different atmosphere in the air than might have normally been the case with several hundred college students in the room. It was sober, weighty. And, of course, the events of recent days were addressed prominently. Here is a paraphrase of what I remember Louie Giglio saying that night:
In the days ahead there is going to be a great deal of discussion about what should be done with the country of Afghanistan. Our government will have some decisions to make. And it’s not for me to speculate about what they must do. But I know this – the likelihood is that thousands of Afghan people, with no access to the gospel, are probably going to go out into eternity in the months ahead. And, before that happens, some of God’s people are going to have to risk their lives in order to walk into that country and take Jesus to them. I wonder if it will be anyone in this room.
I was stunned. I did not do much singing the rest of the night. Was it me? Did I need to go to Afghanistan – at the time the least Christian and most vehemently anti-missionary country on the earth? It was hard to sleep that night thinking about what I might need to do, and what might become of those thousands of people – indeed, what has, now, become of many of them ten years later.
After talking with my missions professor the next day, we determined that, given the political situation, there was no way on earth any American was going to walk into Afghanistan without military credentials. I took that as God’s ‘no’ to the question of whether I was called to that country. I hope I was right. Thankfully, in the ten years since, the country has opened up significantly. The breaking of Taliban power has allowed the gospel to at least trickle into the country in tiny streams here and there. A few dozen believers before 9/11 have blossomed into several hundred. Not many in a country of 29 million people, I know. But exponentially more than before! That is one of the great Romans 8.28 victories of 9/11.
So when I think of 9/11, I grieve for America. I hope we never see a day like that until Christ returns. And I pray that our nation might be much more ready for that day of terror than we were for the one ten years ago. Right now we are scarcely prepared.
But I also grieve for Afghanistan when I think of 9/11 – because, even with all the opening up over the last decade, it is still the least Christian country on earth. Ten years later, there is still great need for workers sent out into the harvest. Would you pray that the Lord of the harvest would send them?
Finally, when I remember September 11, 2001, I also rejoice for the people of Afghanistan. Although still far behind the rest of the world, the people there are now at least somewhat more politically free. And some of them, having met the Son of God, are (as Jesus says in John 8.36) “free indeed”. I hope you are too.