A tragedy of that magnitude left millions of people searching for answers. It caused many of us to reflect on our lives, and to appreciate what we had.
That was a Tuesday. Five days later, these millions of people flocked to churches in the hope that God could provide some sense of meaning in the tragedy.
I recall discussions among church leaders at the time about how best to handle all the people who would be seeking answers. Sadly, I don't think the Church was prepared, and within a couple of weeks, these "seekers" returned to their lives outside of the church.
I don't really believe that the Church in America "blew it," but I do think that the majority of those who flocked to the local worship center didn't find what they were looking for.
One of the issues I think the church faced on September 16, 2001, was the large numbers of people looking for comfort and compassion, but too few people in the congregations prepared to love on them and give them that shoulder to cry on.
During tragic times and great difficulities, people don't want much. But, they are looking for a few things that the Church should be prepared to provide.
- Answers: When life turns south in a hurry, one of the first things people want are answers. They want to know why and how the bad stuff could happen. And, as a Christ-follower, our response needs to be well thought out. The people asking the questions do not want a lengthy speech about the origins of sin, and how it translates into the pain and suffering experienced today.
- Comfort and Compassion: Hurting people need others who can show them the love of Jesus, and to admit that they don't have all the answers. They need someone willing to stick with them for the long term. They need a friend they call on for the long haul.
- A Good Neighbor: All of this translates into being a good neighbor. Loving our neighbor isn't a quick fix, Sunday-only kind of thing. It is a long term process of developing relationships that can guide the hurting through the healing process. And, it's through these relationships that you can present Jesus as the ultimate answer to their questions.