“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around… looking for someone to devour” (I Peter 5:8–NIV).

The hum of an airplane caused me to scan the sky, and I saw him. High above in an old, dead tree the vulture loomed, eyeing the ground in search of his next meal.

Right on cue, our naturalist guide said, “There are two kinds of vultures here on Little St. Simon’s Island–the turkey vulture and the black vulture. While both are scavengers, the turkey vulture only feasts on that which is already dead while the black vulture is more of an opportunist–eating not only animals that have died but also seeking out the wounded or frail as well.”

Under my breath, I leaned over and commented to my husband, “Remind me not to show signs of weakness,” and we chuckled.

Our guide continued. “This particular spot is interesting in that, as you can see, a large tree fell some time ago. Subsequently, due to its absence, more sunlight reaches the ground. As a result, many new saplings have started to grow, soaking up the light that now penetrates, that which the oak previously prevented because of its thick branch coverage.”

Scanning the ground just beyond where I was perched in the open flatbed of the pickup, I observed this new life. The small patch of ground several yards away was so different compared to the shadowed acres of mighty oaks all around, each tree cloaked in thick Spanish moss, making them appear ancient, mysterious even.

As sunlight danced in and around the flora, even with no more than a gentle breeze rustling new leaves, I shivered, and my heart, too, stirred with an unsettling irony–a reminder of that which took place twenty years ago.

Just as this old tree was felled by storm’s wind and sea surge, allowing sunlight to reach the forest floor, two towers fell on 9/11/01–the result of terrorists’ attacks on the Twin Towers in NYC. When the dust finally settled after that sudden storm, something our country had never previously experienced, though sunlight shone down upon ground previously in shadows, such brought no comfort. From the fallen buildings, Ground Zero was born at the cost of so many lives.

If there can be anything good to come from such tragedy–if even a glimmer of hope–it was the early, and I believe earnest, spiritual revival. As one article states–

“… the last months of 2001 [were] a time of unprecedented religious and spiritual revival in the United States” (“Religious and Spiritual Responses to 9/11” by Jeremy E. Uecker).

Like the little saplings growing toward the sun’s light, after that fateful day two decades ago many returned to church, seeking to grow spiritually, calling upon the Lord in prayer. People leaned in to people, finding comfort in each other, and it seemed for a season that we were unified, though the root cause was born of tragedy.

But the enemy lurked, seeking whom he could devour–and he did.

Like the vulture high above, with the airplane passing by on a bright blue morning–a reminder of other airplanes on another cloudless day–the enemy of this world, for this season, is waiting. He’s yet at work. In fact, research shows that, unlike immediately after 9/11 when people flocked to church, found stability in renewed faith with statistics claiming that 81.6% considered themselves Christian in the U.S., today, according to the latest Pew Research Center poll (2020), this has declined. Studies showed that only 65% of adults considered themselves Christian, and in only a year, this number has likely continued to fall. Furthermore, for the first time, studies show that less than 50% attend church regularly.

The early new growth that took place after the Twin Towers fell, after the Pentagon was struck, and after the attempt on the Capitol Building, though it failed due to the heroic efforts of others, is dying. And the enemy–Satan–seeks whom he may devour. Like the black vulture, he’s not only interested in that which is already dead but, rather, that which is wounded or frail as well. He’s watching. He’s waiting.

So how does one stay strong and not fall prey to the enemy’s attempts?

  • Stay in community with like-minded believers.

    • “Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25 ESV).

  • Stay in God’s Word, hiding it in your heart and holding it as a weapon.

    • “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand… Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:13, 17 NIV).

  • Stay on your knees in prayer–both speaking to and hearing from God.

    •  “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms… And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people” (Eph. 6:11, 12; 18 NIV).

These are ways one stays strong and continues to grow. These are the ways one remains alert, watchful.

And let us not forget that day 20-years ago–the day that roused a complacent people to return to God. Though born of tragedy, 9/11 sent us running to the One who alone brings comfort in our distress, peace in the chaos, and joy in the sorrow.

Where were you 20 years ago on 9/11? Call to mind that moment you learned of this tragedy. How did you respond?

Pray for those who lost a loved one two decades ago today. Pray that they sense the abiding presence of Jesus and that they stay strong against the enemy.

Dear Jesus, comfort all who mourn today. Protect our nation from further terrorist attacks, and help us be a light to the world. May we grow in our relationship with You, with roots that go deep like the mighty oak. Amen.

To read a past blog about 9/11, click HERE.