“It was like hell,” said an eyewitness to the Istanbul airport attacks. “It looked like a disaster movie,” said another.
As you watch the continuing covering of the tragedy in Turkey, what do you feel? Grief for those who are in shock and mourning? Anger at the deluded murderers who slaughtered innocent people in the service of an ideology that is a lie from hell? I share your pain and outrage.
But there’s an unstated realization in the back of our minds as well: we know we could be next. If terrorists could kill Muslims in Turkey and Americans in Boston and San Bernardino and Orlando, they can strike anywhere. This is something new and insidious for us.
I recently saw Free State of Jones, a film portraying an uprising against Confederate hostilities in Mississippi. I had not realized the degree to which innocent civilians were brutalized during the Civil War, many by troops on their side of the conflict. During World War II, artillery was stationed along the West Coast to combat a possible Japanese invasion, but few Americans worried that foreign soldiers would attack them as they went about their daily lives.
Now for the first time, we live in the knowledge that the next airport bombing or workplace terrorism attack could find us. How should we respond to this reality?
Some choose fiction. They deny the reality of their mortality and refuse to think about death and the beyond. A recent poll asked unchurched Americans how often they thought about whether they would go to heaven when they die. Only eighteen percent said they consider their eternal destination daily or even weekly. But denying mortality, like denying you have cancer, doesn’t make its reality less real.
I was listening to sports talk radio this week and heard a conversation regarding the death of NFL coach Buddy Ryan. His twin sons Rex and Rob are coaching on the same NFL team for the first time, but he didn’t live long enough to see their first game. One radio commentator stated, “Wherever he is, he’s watching them.”
However, our personal opinion about the afterlife doesn’t affect eternal reality. Fiction doesn’t change facts: “The earth will wear out like a garment, and they who dwell in it will die in like manner” (Isaiah 51:6). We must all die and then face judgment before Almighty God (Hebrews 9:27).
Others choose fear. The Istanbul attacks are expected to decimate the Turkish economy as tourists stay away. This is the very thing ISIS wants. Terrorists terrorize. They want us to stay home, to live in trepidation, to fear their next move. Many “fear continually all the day because of the wrath of the oppressor, when he sets himself to destroy” (Isaiah 51:13).
Our Lord wants us to reject fiction and fear for faith: “I am the LORD your God, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—the LORD of hosts is his name” (v. 15). If we turn fear into prayer, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
In a time of fiction and fear, faith is our greatest witness. And it is our best response to those who would terrorize our world: “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” (Psalm 34:8).
Let’s choose to be blessed today.
Note: for more on finding God’s truth in a word filled with deception, please see my Benghazi report: can you trust the media?