I wasn’t going to write today. I felt my memories of 9/11/01 probably weren’t much different from yours or anyone else. But then the Holy Spirit reminded me, not of what I was doing twelve years ago today, but of who I was twelve years ago today.
Twelve years ago today my life was very different. I was a newlywed wife of two years, living in a small one bedroom apartment with my handsome new husband. Twelve years ago today, I was going to my second day of my first “real” job since completing undergrad the previous spring. Twelve years ago today, I was still reminiscing about my first foreign mission trip I had just taken that summer, to Minsk, Belarus. Twelve years ago today, I was living in fear.
This had been a season of lessons on fear and faith for me, and the events of 9/11/01 propelled me into a realm of fear I never saw coming. Although I accepted Christ as my Savior at the age of 9, I always struggled with fear and doubt. When I was 12, at GMA camp in Gary, TX, I heard an older teen girl’s testimony that made me truly reevaluate my salvation and relationship with the Lord. I clearly remember that night, asking my mom if we had some sort of “certificate” or documentation proving I was saved and going to heaven. Of course we didn’t, so Momma shared the Gospel with me again and explained to me the assurance I have in Christ. I sorta got it, but not really. I knew I was saved, but I feared I could lose it, I guess.
From that point on, I knew my faith in Jesus was what saved me, but I still feared I hadn’t done it right. It drove me crazy that I didn’t know the exact calendar date that I was saved. I knew where I was and remembered how it happened, remembered I was baptized on Easter Sunday, 1988, but that was it. All I knew for sure was that when Jesus returned, I did not want to be left behind. And I have an embarrassing confession: Sometimes, when I couldn’t find anyone around the house, I would panic, fearing the Rapture had occurred and I had been left behind. Don’t laugh! I’ve talked to others who’ve done the very same thing! Maybe you have, too? Anyway, even though I attended church every time the doors were open, even though I was considered a “good Christian girl” by everyone at school, even though I was actively serving Christ through the GMA (Girls Missionary Auxiliary), I lived in fear that my salvation wasn’t real.
Fast-forward 10 years from that point and you’re at 9/11/01. Yep. Still fearful. Still trying to find some way to increase my faith and let go of the fear. Reminding myself multiple times a day that God had not given me a “spirit of fear, but of power, love and sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7). The attack on our nation that fateful day revealed that, though I had made huge strides in handling my fears, I still had a long way to go. That mission trip I mentioned? Let’s just say that if it hadn’t been for my husband’s determination to go, I would have stayed home. But, there was NO WAY the Love of my Life was gonna get on a plane and fly halfway around the world without me, much less be apart from me for 14 consecutive days. That just wasn’t an option. So, I reluctantly agreed to go. It was–without a doubt–The Thing I needed to boost my faith in Christ. Had I not taken that trip and experienced the provision and protection of my Lord, I can truly say 9/11/01 would have been even more terrifying for me.
Twelve years down the road, I can look back and see how incredibly gracious God has been. I can see how He’s grown me in ways I had no idea I even needed to. He used my fearfulness to draw me to Himself. In the days and months that followed 9/11, I began to seek Him, as did many Americans. We can all remember the sight of our congress men and women praying, seeing our local churches filled, and the kindness and love we suddenly had toward one another. But I wanted to get the heck outta Dodge, so to speak. I wanted to be free from the grip of fear and doubt. I wanted to truly live the abundant life promised to me in John 10:10. I prayed about it constantly. I dug into His Word and began to really read it for myself. I began to ask questions of Him and actually get answers as I read.
I wish I could tell you that it only took a few weeks or months before I was free. It didn’t. It was a few years later that I finally got it. And it wasn’t like an “aha!” moment, either. It came with time. It came with communication through prayer and Bible study. It came with an intimate relationship with Jesus. The more I understood the covenant between God the Father and God the Son, the more I realized that my salvation was not about Me. It wasn’t about what I had done, what prayer I prayed, what works of service I had given. It was about the promise made by The Father to The Son. Sweet freedom at last! God graciously showed me that, in order for me to NOT be saved, He would have to renege on His acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice. Romans 3:25 (TLB) tells us, “For God sent Christ Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to end all God’s anger against us. He used Christ’s blood and our faith as the means of saving us from His wrath. In this way He was being entirely fair, even though He did not punish those who sinned in former times. For He was looking forward to the time when Christ would come and take away those sins.” Another passage in Romans 5:1-2 further explains, “So now, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith in His promises, we can have real peace with Him because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. For because of our faith, He has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to actually becoming all that God has had in mind for us to be.”
God the Father forgives me and accepts me entirely because of what Jesus did on my behalf. Period. All I have to do is believe that. There’s no magic prayer, no special duties to be done or commemorative service to attend. I simply have to keep my faith in what Jesus did as being enough. Reading God’s Word and understanding His character was the proof I needed to KNOW that He cannot and will not go back on His promise. God the Father will NEVER look at His Son, Jesus, and tell him, “Well, you did a good job, Son. But I dunno about this chick…(sigh)… Your sacrifice might not do the trick for her.” Seriously? That’s CRAZY!!!
Friend, if you’ve struggled with this or if you’re battling it right now, know that there is hope. You CAN come out on the other side of this battle victoriously, but it’s not going to just suddenly happen. You’re gonna have to get to know God, be intimate with Jesus and truly seek out His Truth. Stop turning to self-help books about how to stop worrying and start living–I tried that. It didn’t work. Take my word for it as a friend and sister in Christ. Let your fear drive you to His side. Fear in and of itself is not a bad thing. It can be a very good and real motivator toward a deeper relationship with Christ. Philippians 2:12-13 encourages us to “work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.” God will use fear to draw you to Himself.
To use my current motto for life–Just Go With It. Stop trying to hide your fear by pretending to everyone that you’re strong. Admit you’re a nervous wreck. Go to The Word. Get to know The One who wrote it. Then, let Him do the rest of the work. Because technically, it’s already been done for you.
“Because of His kindness, you have been saved through trusting Christ. And even trusting is not of yourselves; it too is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good we have done, so none of us can take any credit for it. It is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:8-10a