Divine Tension on 9/11

It was a comfortable morning and I was on my way to chapel. I had just transferred to my new school in Clarks Summit, PA and I was only two weeks into the first semester. As I entered the student center I noticed a crowd around the little 20" T.V. in the cafe outside the main meeting room. I immediately recognized the twin towers front and center on screen (from my love of New York sitcoms in the '90s of course). One was smoking, the other was about to be hit...

Thus began a day like no other. I'm sure you all remember where you were on that day 11 years ago. Amazingly, there are many alive now who were too young to remember. Funny how time passes so quickly. Maybe you were at school too, or headed to work, or starting to clean your home or go grocery shopping. Wherever you were, landmark events like this fix those situations in our hearts and minds. As the students in my school were herded into the meeting room, the president of the school gave us regular updates. Just before our scheduled speaker was to take the pulpit, the first tower fell, followed soon after by the second.

Our speaker, Dr. Colin Smith, who went to be with the Lord just a few years ago, opened to the book of Romans and spoke to us a message that he hadn't prepared, but felt was appropriate given the circumstances. I don't remember every word, but I do remember a main thrust of his talk. The destruction of these buildings and the catastrophic loss of life weren't evidence that God was not in control. Whatever happens, God is on the throne, He is in charge, and we should still put our confidence and trust in Him.

Through the years since then, that principle of God's sovereignty has been a foundational principle for my understanding of Him. But that understanding brings a ton of tension. It makes us uncomfortable to think that God was in control of an event like 9/11. Surely He helps us recover from it, but He wasn't a part of that, was He? That is the question Christian's must wrestle with. Scripture is full of passages that might make us squirm. Passages like the Amos 3:6 - "...Does disaster come to a city unless the LORD has done it?" , Lamentations 3:38 - "Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?" , or Isaiah 45:7 - "I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these thing."

These verses are in the Bible and we can't just ignore them. God is God over all things, all events, all circumstances, and all of His creation. This would be a problem when you think of these tragic events in our recent history, like 9/11 or hurricane Katrina, if God was like us. But God is not like us. He is a wholly other kind of being. To say that we wouldn't do something, therefore if God does it He is wrong, is to place ourselves level with God.

In the end, we must live with the divine tension that God is in control, that "bad" things do happen. yet God is still a good God. He said it Himself in Exodus- 'The Lord passed before him [Moses] and proclaimed, "The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation."' Ex 34:6-7

So how do we respond to all of this? Is there an answer? If there is, I don't know how to explain it or understand it fully. I must be content as Isaiah was when he wrote these words and end with that.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."     Isaiah 55:8-9


  1. This doctrine brings me such peace in difficult situations. If God did cause the event then how can He be in control of it? He is just reacting to it.
    There are so many events that we see as "bad", but we don't see how those are for our good. Without the loss of this job, how would I be open to a new one? Without this move how would I have met the close friends I have now? Without my spouse leaving me how would I have turned to God? Without the loss on 9/11 how would we be safe-guarded and protected today?
    I may not understand in that moment why He has done it, but I take this comfort:
    Romans 8:28 - "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
    ~M. Huff


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