Why did 9/11 happen? Short answer: because evil exists. Why was it allowed to happen? Only God knows.
On this tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001 that last point about God’s providence is more profound than glib.
On that horrific day, jets hijacked by hate-driven men were flown into the World Trade Towers, the Pentagon, and, because of the heroism of passengers, the Pennsylvania countryside instead of the White House or U. S. Capitol. The cost of that day has been severe. Markets and real estate dropped and trillions have been spent on security, insurance, gasoline, and two lengthy wars. And the greatest cost has, perhaps, been a loss of American confidence and optimism.
Why did God allow this? Or put another way, what should we have learned from this tragedy? One thing is that God is there in the midst of the worst kind of adversity even when it doesn’t seem so—a point I tried to make in a recent article called “What Robinson Crusoe Teaches Us About Adversity.”
God is sovereign, meaning he exercises authority over the world and its issues and events. This doesn't mean he causes or desires everything that happens, because in his providence he allows human choice including evil ones. It does mean that he is not surprised, is never off-balance, and is always governing or restraining the full potential of human sin natures. He also, eventually, brings things together for good—even when and where we cannot see it, even in the wake of tragedy like 9/11.
This last point is difficult for some people to take. Actually, the idea that God knew about and allowed 9/11, let alone could bring good from it, is hard for people to understand or embrace. For some it makes God seem at best uncaring and at worst capricious and nasty.
And I cannot provide a pithy explanation that answers every criticism or doubt. But I can say that God is not only sovereign but characterized also by love, righteousness, and justice. He does not use people, treat human beings like pawns, or play games. He does not kill people for the fun of it. He is good and not evil, and he brings blessings in the working of his will that we cannot anticipate or even necessarily recognize when they come.
So, yes, I believe 9/11 falls within the sovereignty of God. I don’t know all the “Whys,” but in faith I believe God has and will use it for our good and his glory. In this I pray for those who lost loved ones and those otherwise hurt by 9/11. May God be present always in our adversity.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011
God is sovereign. This means he is in full authority over the universe he created. Nothing happens in God’s Universe that is outside the will of God or in some way surprises Him. Nothing.
That means that not only acts of good but also acts of evil are within God’s universal and permissive will. God does not cause evil. He is not the source of evil. Satan is the source, along with the evil heart of humankind. But even evil men or women committing evil acts do not catch God off-guard and do not unsettle Him in any way. God is always in control.
Recent events in Tucson might make us think otherwise. People killed, including a nine year-old girl. People gravely wounded, including a United States Congresswoman.
Christians killed in a church bombing in Alexandria, Egypt, the last day of 2010. People seriously wounded.
Is evil somehow triumphing over good? No, not in the worst imaginable circumstances. Not even in the face of tragic, senseless loss of lives.
Death, destruction, human savagery, terrorism, mass murder, abortion, and any other debauchery humankind is capable of devising still takes place under the restraining arm of God. I don’t understand this, but I believe it, for God says this is so.
Consider this passage from the Psalms: “God reigns over the nations: God is seated on his holy throne. The nobles of the nations assemble, as the people of the God of Abraham. For the kings of the earth belong to God. He is greatly exalted” (47:8-9).
Psalm 52 is too long to quote. Just think about these phrases: “Why do you boast of evil, you mighty man…Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin” (52:1,5).
No mass killer, no deranged gunman, no suicide inclined hijacker, no evildoer, no strongman, no terrorist, not even Satan himself can operate beyond the limits of God’s sovereignty. These thoughts should provide immense comfort, for they imply that life is fully understood by God.
While we are finite and cannot anticipate, much less eliminate, all risk, God is omnipotent and has us in the palm of his hands. While we may hear of random violence, nothing is ever random in the omniscient eyes of God. While we may at times be understandably fearful in an unsettling world, we need not live in fear. God is still in control.
God knows when we rise up and when we lay down. We belong to the Lord, and so does history itself.
A version of this blog was originally aired on “Making a Difference,” September 17, 2001.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011
About ten years ago, the university where I served as president experienced significant financial pressure.
We did everything organizations do in times of financial duress: postponed new initiatives, cutback programs, curtailed operations, discontinued activities, delayed hiring, and worst of all, laid-off personnel.
Somebody once said that when you’re squeezed what’s inside of you comes out. It’s true. Some people responded to the pressure, even loss of their own position, in remarkable demonstrations of faith and fortitude. Others, not so much. None of this was fun.
Professionally speaking, it was the most challenging thing I’d ever endured. I remember a weekend when I literally bent over with stress pains.
Of course I prayed, perhaps like never before. And I read the Scripture, certainly like never done before. In two months I read the entire book of the Psalms—twice.
I confess that up to this time the Psalms didn’t make much sense to me. David seemed to forever be in trouble and unable to deal with it. I used to think David needed more resolve, more “toughness.”
But I began to understand the Psalms in a new way and realized my assessment of David woefully missed the mark. Until then I’d never experienced anything that stopped me where I stood. I’d finally, as we all inevitably do in life, faced something I couldn’t handle. I felt like David.
Now I saw the Lord’s teaching clearly. When we face challenges beyond our capacity God is there. When we feel like failures God’s “unfailing love” is there. When we cannot go on God’s “strong arm” is there.
A year ago I wrote about God’s “unfailing love,” a phrase repeated many times in the Psalms. Now I share the other truth the Lord taught me in the Psalms: God’s “strong arm,” his “right arm,” upholds us.
Financial duress isn’t fun. It generates stress and anxiety. But God’s strong arm undergirds us.
God teaches us many things in adversity:
--He strengthens ministries during or even because of financial challenges.
--We can grow spiritually.
--We can actually make some needed adjustments more easily.
--We can re-vision, reposition, and restructure for greater mission effectiveness.
--We can experience what it means to be part of the Church when supporters pray and give.
--We’re reminded who owns the ministry.
The Apostle Paul said God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. So God’s strong arm is even stronger in the midst of financial shortfalls. Like the old hymn says, we can take heart “leaning on the everlasting arms.”
A version of this was originally published as "Encouraging Words" in "What's New With Our Family," SAT-7, Number 133, September 2010.
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010
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