Where is God in the terror?
Kiev, Ukraine, August 19, 2016 Children play in front of tanks during a military parade rehearsal. Ukraine marked the 25th anniversary of its Independence on August 24, 2016.
(Photo Sergei Supinsky/AFP/Getty Images)
In September we remembered the attacks that shook America and the world to its core 15 years ago.
As then-New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani said on the day, "The number of casualties will be more than any of us can bear".
But it was about more than the casualties and the destruction the event brought to their families. It was a threat to our deluded sense of safety, to democracy; it was a slap in the face that everything we had could be taken away from before our very eyes.
In the last 12 months relentless attacks from Islamic State have awakened similar feelings. We find ourselves systematically shaking our heads in desolation and anxiety as we contemplate the state of our world.
November 2015 saw the most fatal event on French soil since World War 2 with 137 dead in the Paris attacks.
Boko Haram gunmen raided their way through Nigerian villages, killing men and abducting girls.
The Brussels bombings in March this year killed 35 and wounded more than 300.
The April Kabul attack was the Taliban's biggest attack on an urban area since 2001.
A mass shooting in Orlando revived the US debate surrounding gun laws.
And at the end of July a priest's throat was slit and four nuns were taken hostage in a church in Rouen, France.
A mere selection out of dozens of attacks this year.
And the question is asked: where is God in the midst of all this pain, this death, this incomprehensible suffering?
The answer is, He is right there among us.
... "I thought I would die"
Sujo John, New York bombings 9/11
Sujo John was working on the 81st floor of the north tower on September 11, 2001. He was faxing papers when a deafening explosion rang out – the first plane had hit his building.
"The building was swaying and we could feel [it] tilting to the left. [We fought] our way through the fire and [made] our way to the stairwell," he remembers.
Sujo made it down to watch the south tower collapse 15 feet away from him, and he huddled with 20 other people against the wall.
"I started crying out 'Jesus!' Almost immediately these people started [to call] upon the name of the Lord," Sujo says.
"Imagine this building going down, this tremendous roar... But what is etched in my mind is not really the roar of the building going down, but the cry of these people reaching out to the eternal God."
Sujo says watching people die on 9/11 has completely changed his life. "That night I said, 'God, I am done chasing the things that have been on my heart. I've been chasing success, fame, and financial security. But from now on I want to chase that which is in Your heart. And I'm convinced that all that's in Your heart is people.'
"Ground Zero for me is not just New York City where the tragedy happened. Ground Zero for me is now my community, my city, the city where I was born."
Now when disaster covers our eyes with dust, blood, and tears, it is no wonder we cannot see God.
We might be looking in the wrong place, our gaze towards the heavens waiting for God's all-powerful strike that will make it all better ... when we should be looking down among the rubble, in the heart of the pain.
The steel cross now at the
9/11 Memorial and Museum.
(Photo Jin Lee-Pool/Getty Images)
On September 13, 2001, Frank Silecchia, a worker at Ground Zero, discovered a 6-metre cross of two steel beams amongst the debris. Those with access to the site used the cross as a shrine of sorts, leaving messages on it or praying before it.
After a few weeks within the cleanup site the cross hindered nearby work, so was removed and later erected on a pedestal one block from Ground Zero. Some 10 years later it was housed in the 9/11 Memorial and Museum.
People of many faiths, and people with no faith, were caught up in the 9/11 tragedy. And among all the pain, sometimes, God brings good, like the phone call Sujo John received shortly after the attack from his pregnant wife whom he had presumed dead.
Those seeking answers and solace saw two steel beams in the shape of a cross. They remembered God was not averse to getting involved in man's mess. He never absented Himself from suffering, even sending His own Son, who also would be covered with dust, blood and tears as He hung on the cross to pay for our sins.
He calls us to look up and find Him over all and in control of it all; to look down and find Him intimately involved and caring for it all ... to trust Him as the ultimate Lord of it all.?