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Tammy Real-McKeighan

, Spiritual Spinach

To this day, I can remember where I was sitting in the newsroom when the report came in.

Mike Buckley, who was then our staff photographer, hurried into the office to say a plane had hit one of the World Trade Center towers in New York City.

It was Sept. 11, 2001.

News reports filled television screens around the world and I — like so many other people — saw footage of another plane slamming into the second tower and erupting into a ball of flames.

I remember hearing about a third plane hitting the Pentagon and another crashing in Pennsylvania.

Terrorists had hijacked four aircraft. History recorded the grim statistics:

  • American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the WTC’s North Tower at 8:46 a.m.
  • American Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the WTC’s South Tower at 9:03 a.m.
  • Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m.
  • Flight 93 crashed in a field in Pennsylvania at 10:07 a.m.

So many people were killed.

And people around the world were in shock.

I had an eerie feeling even as I sat in Nebraska and found myself looking over my shoulder — because no one knew what would happen next.

That night, I took my youngest son, Zachary, when I went to cover a community prayer service at Fremont High School.

This was part of history and I wanted him to remember it.

A little more than 17 years later, I thought about that day after hearing Lisa Harper mention it in a video portion of her Bible study about Job.

Job was the Old Testament man who suffered terribly. Poor Job lost all of his livestock (and he had a lot) and almost all his servants.

Then his 10 children were killed and he broke out in sores from head to foot.

We can learn so much from the book of Job — not the least of which involves trusting God even amid suffering.

No one is immune to heartache.

Bad things happen to good people.

Lisa mentions this when talking about a lesser known Bible story found in Luke, chapter 13.

At this point, Jesus is talking to crowds of people when he’s told about Galileans who were killed and their blood mixed in with pagan sacrifices.

It must have been horrible — and ancient-day people automatically assumed folks must have done something really bad to suffer so much.

But Jesus refutes that.

“Do you think these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? …

“Or those 18 who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them — do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?

“I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Wait a minute.

Why would Jesus follow up these tragic reports by warning people they’d also perish if they didn’t repent?

Was he just telling them to shape up or they’d get killed, too?

I don’t think so.

Instead, I believe Christ was reminding his listeners just how short life is.

And warning them to repent of their sins so they could spend eternity with him in heaven — instead of perishing in hell.

Life on this earth is temporary — and has been ever since Adam and Eve munched on that forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.

People have suffered throughout the ages.

Commentators have said the tower in Siloam was kind of like an ancient-day 911. That tower wasn’t built very well and fell, killing people who were walking under it.

Innocent people.

Even more innocent lives were lost in the terrorist attacks.

Such tragedies raise the age-old question of “Why does God allow suffering?”

I’ve wondered that since my late husband, Chuck, and other loved ones have died.

That’s when I’ve turned to the Bible and authors like Lisa and atheist-turned-Christian Lee Strobel and Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church.

Thus far, I’ve learned is this:

God created a perfect world and gave humans the ability to love.

But he also gave us free choice — because it wouldn’t be real love if we were all programmed like a bunch of robots to love him.

So people can choose to love or hate — and to do good or bad things.

And ever since Eden, we’ve lived in a world where natural disasters occur.

Why doesn’t Christ come back to earth — like the Bible says he will — and just fix everything now?

Because he’s waiting for some of us to put our trust in him so we can spend eternity together.

As it says in 2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

God also uses tough times to shape our character, helping us become more like Jesus, whom the Scriptures say learned through what he suffered.

I’ve learned something from every tough time I’ve had and I’ll bet you have, too.

What’s more, God can bring good out of our suffering.

Pastors cite the Old Testament story of Joseph — sold into slavery by his jealous brothers and later sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. In the end, Joseph became second in command in Egypt where he saved the people from starvation — and eventually helped his own family.

When Joseph’s nervous brothers wondered how he would treat them, he said: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20)

Joseph couldn’t have known when he was going through all the bad stuff what miracles, grace and peace would fill later chapters in his life.

And neither can we.

Best of all, we can have the greatest epilogue ever — that final chapter in heaven, which is really just the beginning.

Consider this: British church leader Galvin Reid tells a story about meeting a young man, who’d fallen down steps as a baby and shattered his back.*

He’d been in and out of hospitals his whole life, but still said he believed God is fair.

The young man was 17 years old — yet had spent 13 of those years in hospitals.

“And you think that’s fair?” Galvin asked.

To that the teen replied, “Well, God has all of eternity to make it up to me.”

Our lives on this earth are so short compared to what’s coming as we trust in Christ.

In the meantime, we can cling to Christ who can help us heal and get us through life’s darkest times.

After the planes crashed into the towers, which subsequently collapsed, first responders and others worked feverishly at Ground Zero to clear rubble and conduct rescue — then recovery — efforts.

At one point, they found a cross made by the beams. That cross became a sign of hope.

In a documentary called: “The Cross and the Towers — In the Midst of Devastation,”** a pastor said we’ll all face our own Ground Zero to some extent.

But that pastor — Bob Appleby, a Ground Zero chaplain — also said this: “No matter how dark the hour it might be, no matter how much loss people can experience, no matter how much pain they become enveloped in, Jesus is always able to penetrate that pain or that darkness.”

And amid that darkness, I believe he can bring us peace.

*Lee Strobel, from a sermon preached in response to the mass shooting in Aurora, Colo., at a church in Highlands Ranch, Colo.

** “The Cross and the Towers—In the Midst of Devastation,” The Erwin Brothers.

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Tammy Real-McKeighan is a reporter with the Fremont Tribune. She writes a weekly spiritual column.


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