I dropped my sons off at school and was back home, cleaning my kitchen. I chose to watch Good Morning America for some company but quickly noticed something big had happened.
I walked over to the back of the sofa with a dish towel in my hands so I could see the television better. The show had switched to a live broadcast, and the two commentators were trying their best to fill the airtime with conversation.
No one understood yet what the fire meant.
About that time, I saw the airplane fly into the second tower, and I knew we were in trouble.
I ran to the phone, called Jim at the church, and told him to turn the television on.
Another plane crashed into the Pentagon and then another, near Philadelphia.
What did you do that morning?
I tried to call my folks and then remembered that my parents were in Philadelphia that day, on vacation. They didn’t own a cell phone, and I didn’t know where they were staying. I felt sure they would be fine, but I couldn’t be certain.
I wondered when my boys would hear the news. I remember wanting to drive up to the school and bring them home. I also remember telling myself that would be the wrong thing to do—so I stayed home, glued to the television, wishing the school would call.
I watched the news for the next couple of hours until I couldn’t watch any longer.
I didn’t know what else to do. I just knew I needed something else to do. So, I filled my car up with gas. I went to the bank and withdrew some cash. I went to Sams and bought plenty of canned protein, fruit, and water. I remember the hushed lines, the worried looks, and the uncertainty of those hours.
Doing those things didn’t alleviate my fears, but they refocused my thoughts for a little while.
What were you most afraid of?
9/11 was a day of uncertainty. There were a lot of reasons to feel afraid, angry, concerned, powerless, and deeply sad.
But, the strongest memory I have of 9/11 was my first and greatest fear of the day.
I watched the plane fly into the second tower and was overwhelmed with the thought that I had two teenage sons and our country might be at war. I didn’t know what the news that day would mean to our family in the future.
There were other thoughts, but none more consuming than that one.
What did you pray for?
I stood behind my sofa, wringing the dish towel in my hands and begging God to stop our enemies. I prayed for God to protect us and give wisdom to our leaders. And I pled with God to protect my family.
As the days moved forward, I prayed hundreds of prayers. But, I don’t think any of those prayers were offered with the same intensity of those first moments.
I begged God for his divine protection on 9/11. I was truly afraid for the future.
What did you learn?
God never stops teaching us. God never stops caring. God is always in control and at work remodeling the moments of this life for his greater good.
But, God takes his time.
We all wanted answers, but sometimes there was only information.
We all wanted peace, but all these years later, we are still at war.
We all wanted miracles, be we didn’t get all the miracles we wanted.
We all wanted the Bible verses to comfort, but sometimes reading those verses disappointed instead.
Did you wonder what God was doing on 9/11?
I learned something about God during those days, weeks, and months of uncertainty. That lesson has been one of the most valuable spiritual lessons of my life. I struggled to trust a verse, so I learned to pray it instead.
Those prayer times with God gave me comfort. Knowing the verse was only the first step. It was praying the verse that made the difference. That lesson has changed and strengthened my spiritual life more than I can say, mostly because it was a lesson I thought I already knew.
Truthfully, I didn’t really learn it until I lived it.
My life verse for fear
If you have read my blog for a while, you know I sometimes refer to a “life verse.” Most of the time, I call it a life verse because it changed my life.
I will probably always watch the videos of 9/11 with tears in my eyes. I feel those news reports. But, the Lord retaught me a verse during that time, and I have carried his lesson ever since.
The verse I prayed and learned to obey because of 9/11 is the life verse that carried me through my son Ryan’s cancer—and I truly mean the word carried.
Psalm 56:3 says, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.”
- This verse says “when” not “if.” Fear is part of living on this side of heaven. We will all live with fears, but there is something all of us can do.
- The action words are “I put.” Fears involve our free wills, our right to choose. I don’t really ask God to “take my fears away” anymore. I believe the Lord has instructed us to make a choice when we are afraid. God asks us to put our fears down, at his feet, and back away. He won’t “take” them because we are supposed to give them.
- We try to control our fears, but that is the opposite of what God intends. He wants us to trust him enough to put them down and step away from them. When Jesus said, “Do not fear” (Matthew 10:26, 28), he said it as a command. Our best choice is to obey Psalm 56:3.
- Knowing this verse won’t calm your fears as much as praying and obeying its words. It is obedience to knowledge that makes all the difference.
When you are afraid . . .
Are we waiting for the next 9/11? Maybe.
Are we waiting for the next senseless shooting? Yes.
Are we waiting for the next hurricane? Yes.
Are we waiting for the doctor to call? Someday.
The best time to get ready for moments of fear is before those fears come.
Do you really believe God’s instruction in Psalm 56:3?
You will know it the next time you are truly afraid. For now, pray that verse until you know and trust the words. Then, when the “when” happens—make your choice.
For now, make your commitment: “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.”
I hope that verse will change your life too.