Q. Where is God? Has God forgotten everyone? Too many people are suffering from the terrorist attack.
A. I just returned from spending a week in New York City, and I can assure you, God is present and doing amazing things there and throughout the United States. I saw strangers stop on the street to talk to one another, sharing stories from Sept. 11. I saw numerous places in the city with pictures posted, honoring those who died, while people stood, looking at each picture, remembering the lost and reflecting on their own lives. I even saw the most surprising event--people showing kindness and patience on the subways! Things are different in New York City, and if you live in the United States, things are probably different in your area.
Here's a great verse that reminds us what happens when a person continues to believe in God, despite chaotic events:
"Such a person will not be overthrown by evil circumstances. God's constant care of him will make a deep impression on all who see it. He does not fear bad news, nor live in dread of what may happen. For he is settled in his mind that God will take care of him." (Psalm 112:6-7)
So where is God during times of crisis? God is walking with us!
"God is our protection and our strength. He always helps in times of trouble. So we will not be afraid even if the earth shakes, or the mountains fall into the sea." (Psalm 46:1,2)
Where was God when those planes crashed into the World Trade Center ... or the Pentagon ... or went down in Pennsylvania? He was walking with us. How does God walk with us during times of crisis? I want to suggest three ways.
1) God walks with us by comforting us
One way God comforts us is by listening to us. When we go through a tragedy, the first thing we need to do is release our grief. Many of us are still feeling emotion from the Sept. 11 event, and we will for some time. I don't know if you saw David Letterman's first show after the atack, but his opening monologue was not filled with laughter ... but with tears. David's first guest, news broadcaster Dan Rather, cried on two separate occasions, apologizing both times for crying because he was a "professional." Finally, David Letterman reminded him, yes, you're a professional, but you're also a human being.
Jesus encourages us to express emotion when He says, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" (Matthew 5:4). We have to face our feelings, and the first thing we've got to do is release our grief because if we don't, feelings pile up and they will eventually explode in some form or another. We have to tell God how we feel. He's listening to us and God is not intimidated by our response. He wants us to share our real feelings.
Another way God comforts us is by sending others our way. Check out these verses:
"Share each other's troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2).
"Look after each other so that not one of you will fail to find God's best blessings" (Hebrews 12:15).
It's a big mistake to isolate ourselves from others when going through a crisis. We need other people. We need their perspective, their support, their encouragement, and their presence. To make it through a crisis, we need the promises of God and the people of God.
2) God walks with us by reminding us
During times of crisis, God reminds us what really matters. Disasters have a way of clarifying values and they help define our values. Notice these verses:
"Jesus said ... Life is not measured by how much one owns" (Luke 12:15).
"We brought nothing into this world, and we can't take a thing out of it" (1 Timothy 6:7).
You and I are never going to see a hearse with a U-Haul behind it. It's fun to have "stuff," but "stuff" gets old, leaving us wanting more. Instead, the greatest perspective we can have is to remember the importance of a relationship with God. If we want real security, we have to build our lives on something that can never be taken from us, a relationship with God.
Related to that is the reminder that people matter to God. During my time in New York, talking with family, friends, and people on the street, not one person shared sadness for losing a computer, or a desk, or a favorite item. But everyone shed tears for the relationships that were affected. People matter. And that's why we weep. It's essential that we invest in relationships, with God and others, and make that a priority over everything else.
3) God walks with us by inviting us
"I know what I am planning for you," says the Lord. "I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future" (Jeremiah 29:11).
During times of crisis, God invites us to go deeper with Him and to begin a relationship with Him. If you've been shaken during the recent events, remember that God loves you and wants you to know that He hasn't disappeared or forgotten you. Instead, He's right there with you ... walking with you step-by-step. Even if you feel like you've walked away from God, He hasn't left you. Turn toward Him and allow God to walk you through any challenging time.
"We were really crushed and overwhelmed, and feared we would never live through it ... we saw how powerless we were to help ourselves; but that was good, for then we put everything into the hands of God, who alone could save us ... And he did help us and saved us ... and we expect him to do it again and again" (2 Corinthians 1:10).