“The cockpit’s not answering. Someone’s stabbed in business class, and um I think there is Mace that we can’t breathe. I don’t know, I think we’re getting hijacked.” With these words, American Airlines flight attendant Betty Ong calmly alerted reservations agents to the hijacking of Flight 11. Her call came at 8:19 A.M. Her airplane crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center 26 minutes later.
Seventeen minutes after, United Airlines Flight 175 hit the South Tower. American Airlines Flight 77 flew into the Pentagon at 9:37 A.M. United Airlines Flight 93 then crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania at 10:03 local time. The attacks cost 2,977 civilians from 90 countries their lives–more than died at Pearl Harbor or D-Day.
This Sunday our nation will pause to remember the worst terrorist attack in America’s history. We will pray for the families of those who died on that horrific Tuesday morning. We will intercede for our soldiers, numbering more than 100,000, as they defend our freedom in Afghanistan. We will pray for the families of the more than 6,000 American servicemen and women who have died in the war on terror. And many of us will wonder when–or if–our nation’s longest war will end.
Today’s let’s consider some good news. According to the current edition of Foreign Policy journal, the last decade has seen fewer war deaths than any decade in the last 100 years. While jihadists remain capable of “microterrorism” attacks such as the Times Square Bomber, our military response to 9/11 has rendered them far less able to stage large-scale assaults on our soil.
The Arab Spring, while introducing the frightening possibility of a larger Muslim Brotherhood role in the Middle East, has proven that a generation of young adults want democratic reforms in their region. When asked their wishes, Muslims affirm by large majorities their desire to live under democratic governance.
To me, the best news of the last ten years is the remarkable number of Muslims who have become Christians, more than ever before in Islamic history, many after seeing visions and dreams of Jesus. God is still on his throne. As Martin Luther reminded us during a period of similar crisis and chaos, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”
Consider the psalm that inspired the most famous hymn in Christian history. It begins: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1). A refuge is helpful only if we trust it; God’s strength is ours only if we seek it. When we do, we discover that our Father is our “ever-present help,” standing unseen at our side through every disaster we face.
Luther’s Psalm ends with this promise: “The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress” (v. 11). Why do you need that assurance today?