Our Hope in the Face of Tragedy: Reflections on September 11

Photo of the 9/11 Memorial

Photo of the 9/11 Memorial

Tragedy. It is something that strikes without warning, shaking us to our very core and causing us to question our foundations whenever it occurs. This is the way I felt living just outside of New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina struck in the fall of 2005. Our property was damaged, people’s lives were lost, and the city continues to rebuild a “new normal” in the wake of the storm from almost 10 years ago.

In some ways, I see a connection between the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. These tragedies came out of nowhere and drastically impacted the cities that were struck. Yet, at the same time, these two terrible days are also fundamentally different. Hurricane Katrina was a natural disaster; 9/11 was a deliberate, hate-filled, extremist attack on our country, our way of life, and innocent people that has essentially changed the shape of our world. In reflecting on both tragedies, our heart should break for the families that were affected.

As we continue to remember tragedies like Hurricane Katrina and the attacks on 9/11 that occurred now 13 years ago, the cause of these disasters should serve as an ever-present portrayal of the brokenness of this world and of the ultimate hope that can be found in the gospel.

Hurricane Katrina serves as a sobering example of Paul’s words in Romans 8:18-22,

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

The terrorists on September 11, 2001 demonstrate the next part of that passage, Romans 8:23-25,

And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

With this in mind, what is our hope? Where can we take comfort? Paul provides the answer as he concludes in verses 26-28,

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Though tragedies in life will leave us broken, there is an ever-greater hope in the gospel of Jesus Christ, our ultimate redeemer, reconciler, and restorer of all things. Let us pray together this day that this hope will continue to push back darkness and spread throughout our world.

This blog was originally posted on Rob and Riley Russell’s personal website. You can go to www.robandriley.com to follow the Russell’s as they set out on their journey to plant a church in New York City.