When Our City Lies in Ruins
I remember watching the footage that fateful September morning. My wife was holding our three month old little baby girl as I prepared for an ordinary the day at the office. I remember the chaos and confusion. The strength and honor. The evil and wickedness. I watched in stunned disbelief as the two magnificent towers crumbled into a heap of toxic dust that rose above New York city like a distress beacon. I listened to the screaming sirens of New York's Finest, the erie wailing for lost loved ones, and the constant buzz of media reporters grasping for the words to describe the utter destruction unfolding before their eyes. I fought back the tears, clenched my fists in anger, and felt the heaviness of grief press hard upon my soul. I will never forget that day. 9/11/01 will live in infamy with the likes of Pearl Harbor, the assassinations of JFK & MLK, and the day the Challenger exploded. Days, that for a brief instant cause the world to stop turning, memories to freeze time, and realities forcing the surreal. These are moments that force us to stop and determine if what we are witnessing is really happening and how we could possibly be able to move ahead. It was this very reality that caused the writer of Lamentations to pen the grief stricken words of the book of Lamentations. "How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become, she who was great among the nations!" (Lam 1:1) The writer laments in utter horror as his beloved Jerusalem lies in ruin and desolation while his people are murdered, captured, and drug into captivity at the hands of the mercenary tidal wave of the Chaldean army. Those who remained in the city were left to starve or forage through the rubble to find enough food to sustain their hopeless existence. The treasures that they sold their souls to acquire were now being pawned away to gain a crust of bread just to survive (Lam 1:11). The writer admits that the devastation around him is driving him to the brink of utter hopelessness, "my soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is; so I say, “My endurance has perished; so has my hope from the LORD” (Lam 3:17-18). Moments such as these cause a person to question everything.
It was here that the memories of 9/11 become so vivid for me as I listen to the wailing of a soul in the depths of grief. All the hope that he could find in his heart was gone. He had nothing left. He was spiritually bankrupt. He had no hope from within himself. This is a cross roads that many people come to in their lives. We are utterly hopeless when the things that we thought were secure come crashing down. Military might, charismatic leaders, revolutionary dreamers, and scientific wonders can be snuffed out at the pinnacle of their influence. How will you respond when your twin towers of invincibility come crashing down? Will you turn to functional saviors, despair, or denial? Will your faith be snuffed out by disillusionment or skepticism? Will you rage against the perpetrators or melt in fear? I pray that when I experience unthinkable grief I will turn to the only place of refuge; the nature of God. Lamentations points us to the only hope for our souls, "But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him" (Lam 3:21-24). There may be a day when my experience tells me that all hope is lost; it isn't. Wherever the presence of God is there is hope. When our world lies in ruins and our dreams are but ashes; hope remains. God has promised that for all that he removes from our life He will fill with Himself. My friends, He is enough. He is more than enough! God's steadfast love and mercies gently rise over the horizon each morning and chase the darkness of despair away with the warmth of His marvelous light. He quenches our souls with living water and satisfies our hunger with the bread of life. When our hope is in Christ alone, we will always have hope. We may not be able to make sense of the chaos around us but we can rest assured that our God is sovereign and good, wise and powerful. He is able to work all things; the good and the bad, the difficult and the heart wrenching, the painful and the confusing, for good and for His glory. Ocean Park, when our world crumbles, may we trust in the God who stands strong and put all of our hope in Him alone.
Soli Deo Gloria