The Desolation of the City – Mercy Reigns


I thought I was over it.

9/11

Last week, I’d have told you that I don’t have strong feelings about it any longer. It’s been ten years, after all. I didn’t lose anyone I knew personally, although I feel affected by the firefighter deaths.

Then, yesterday, the morning news replayed scenes from the moment the planes hit the towers and an unexpected wave of sadness overcame me like a flash flood. Caught completely off guard, I sat and wept until it passed.

I guess I’m not completely over it.

Zack was 12. Hannah was 8. I was 40. When I saw what was happening, I set Hannah up with a DVD in one room but Zack joined me in another as we tried to figure out what exactly was happening. I recall watching a line of firefighters enter the towers as civilians poured out. I had just gotten off the phone with my dad, who was watching on the firehouse television.

I said to Zack, “That’s why firefighters are so special. When everyone else is trying to get out of the situation, they run in to save others.”

No sooner had I said that when the South tower collapsed.

Something inside me collapsed then as I thought of the firefighters inside, their families, their fellow firefighters, the others in the building who wouldn’t be saved that day. I was accustomed to explaining things to my son, framing news stories so he would understand them, offering him explanations.

In that moment, I was helpless to do anything but cry as he looked from the television to me with confusion. I didn’t know what was happening but I knew that God was the only one who could intervene as the news just got worse.

There are times when we can’t control the circumstances affecting our lives, our children, our neighbors, our nation, or our world. Modern man has made significant progress installing controls on life – laws, technology, central air and heat, disaster resistant architecture, risk management, protective gear, early detection systems, radar – you name it, we’ve invented it, to exhibit a measure of control unknown to ancient peoples.

9/11 reminded us – there are still things we can’t control.

9/11, Hurricane Katrina, tornados, flooding, earthquakes, wildfires, tsunamis, terrorism, disease, death – all repeating the same message to modern man. There are things beyond your control. There are times that no matter how hard you try, you will come face-to-face with the limitations of being human, and you will cry out for mercy.

You had better hope there is someone who hears.

There is.

God had offered the Israelites a certain measure of control. If they obeyed Him, they would prosper. If they rebelled and defied Him, they would face trouble. That was the deal

They went through hundreds of years cycling through obedience, rebellion, disaster, repentance, forgiveness, obedience, rebellion, disaster, repentance, forgiveness until finally God allowed an enemy nation to not only defeat Israel but, also, to empty them out of their promised land. They watched as Jerusalem was destroyed and they were taken as captives into exile in a foreign land.

The prayers they prayed then were not the prayers of a proud chosen people but of a defeated nation crying out for mercy. But one thing the Israelites got right was this:

They remembered that God is merciful.

“Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.” Daniel 9:17-19

Mercy is for the guilty but mercy is also for those who are helpless to save themselves from the circumstances that have come upon them. Sometimes they are one and the same.


God heard Israel’s prayer. Israel exists today as a nation and that is proof of both the existence of God and that He is merciful in nature.

When we see the desolation of the city, we should cry out for mercy. Not because we are righteous but because He is merciful. Not because we are deserving, but because we cannot save ourselves and there is One who can save.

On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, it would be good to remember that we serve a God who is full of mercy and who wants us to show mercy to one another.

“And the word of the LORD came again to Zechariah“: This is what the LORD Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’” Zechariah 7:8-10

This is how we rise above the ashes, this is how we rise, on wings of mercy.

Show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not plot evil against each other. This is how we rise, on wings of mercy.

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1 Comment

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  1. Reading this article brought back the emotions that I, too, felt ten years ago and again yesterday on the anniversary. I had hoped the raw emotions would be gone, but perhaps it truly is better if we never forget them. Wonderful article, Lori. Thank you.