On this day after Independence Day, I am still thinking about our country. My heart is burdened and stirred for our nation. In reflecting on this, my mind went back to an essay that I wrote just days after the 9-11 Tragedy. Some of the references are bit dated, but I think the message is still relevant… and needed.
Where Are The Tears?
September 24, 2001
There have been many times over the past two weeks in which I have considered putting fingers to keyboard and writing a Trogo. Like you, I have experienced such a wide range of emotions. I have been sad, angry, grief-stricken, upset, and restless. I have experienced feelings that I do not even know how to describe.
I have wanted to write about it all—but it has been difficult. Where to start? How to express feelings that are so deep and so desperate? What specific things to say when your heart is overflowing with things to say? And yet, how do you speak when you are numbed to silence with your own emotions?
I suppose, like all of us, I have had to process all that has happened—and try to assess what it all means. I have wrestled with this question. What can it mean? But after much thought and prayer, I do believe that there is indeed meaning for us.
Over these past days we have seen our country unite as seldom before. It has been heartening to see. I feel encouraged by the new wave of patriotic enthusiasm that has swept our country. My heart warms at the sight of the Stars and Stripes so proudly displayed throughout the land. There is soul-stirring emotion felt when I hear throngs sing “God Bless America.” (Did you ever think you would see Congressmen standing in front of the Capitol lifting their voices together in such song?) I have driven through the streets of several towns in Pennsylvania in recent days. Everywhere I look I see signs and placards and marquees that proclaim, “God bless America,” “Pray for America,” and “One nation under God.”
Yet, with all the patriotic singing, and “God bless America,” and pleas for prayer there is something missing. I wait for it. As I watch the nightly news, I find myself almost holding my breath in anticipation. When I see films of thousands gathered in prayer, I anxiously and longingly hope for it. But it has not come.
What is it? What am I so desperately hungry to hear? What aches in my gut?
I long to hear word such as these…
“God, forgive us! Dear, sweet Lord, have mercy upon us! Help us, redeem us, deliver us from our evil ways and our sinful behavior. Forgive us for our rejection of You and Your ways. We repent. We bow. We humble ourselves before You!”
Oh, there are a few who speak it. A God-sent, heavenly minded, precious few. A scattering of preachers and a handful of devout believers. But not enough. Not nearly enough!
Franklin Graham (Lord bless him!) is speaking it. He has often been interviewed recently. And on every occasion he turns the interview into an opportunity to witness. He proclaims the Good News of the Redeemer, and reminds us that every individual needs a Savior.
Pat Robertson (Lord bless him!) is speaking it. He has emphasized that this is a time for repentance. This is a time for Americans to fall on their knees in contrition and humbly implore God for mercy and help in the days ahead.
David Wilkerson (Lord bless him!) is speaking it. I heard an excerpt from his sermon on the Sunday following that awful Tuesday. He said that there are preachers all across the country who are declaring, “God had nothing to do with what happened on September 11!” But that is not true. God may not have caused it. Satan may have been the direct instigator. But God allowed it. God permitted it. And David Wilkerson says that God wants to speak to us through what has happened. He says that we must realize that it has only been God’s mercy and protective hand that has prevented such atrocities from occurring before. But now, because of the unrepented wickedness of our land, God is lifting His shielding power from our nation. More terror and hardship will likely follow.
Sound harsh? Too “mean” for your tastes? Too judgmental?
But it’s not. Our dear brother is saying the most gracious and loving words possible. He is speaking the truth! And truth sometimes hurts. Truth may cut like a knife, but it is so necessary.
It has been at least 20 years, perhaps longer, since I first heard someone say something to this effect: “If God does not bring judgment on America because of her sins, then He will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah!” It was from Billy Graham that I first heard these words. I don’t know if he originated them. But back then I remember acknowledging, “This is true!” Today, I still think these are true words.
I have heard many in the church echo these words through the years. I have seen congregations nod their heads in agreement with this sentiment. But now… now that this prophecy seems to be coming true, too many question whether God has any part in what is happening in our country. Too many of us are not listening to His message, shouted at us in tragic events.
“But Victor…” (I can hear the loudness of your thoughts) “But Victor, we are turning to God. Our country is praying. We are singing ‘God bless America.’ We are going to church like we haven’t done in years. Don’t see you the revival of interest in religion?”
Yes, I sure do. I see a revival of interest in religion. But I do not see a revival in Christianity. I do not see a nation in mourning and repentance for sins. I do not see a people returning to the God of their fathers.
Yes, I hear prayers—but they are prayers offered to God and Allah and Krishna and Brahma and any other available deity. Offered up as though all these varied impersonations of divinity were all alike, were all one and the same. We glory in the fact that our prayer services promote spiritual unity. We exult in the fact that Muslims and Jews and Sikhs are saying prayers in our churches (in our churches!). We delight in our newfound oneness in spiritual matters. We are so impressed by our own spiritual tolerance.
But do you think God is impressed? Do you really think that the God of the Bible—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Eternal Lord revealed by the Son of God—that He is pleased with our national unity in proclaiming there is no God but Jehovah (or Allah, or Krishna, or Vishnu, or whoever…). Do you understand what we are doing? We are de facto declaring that religious syncretism is the true religion, that spiritual pluralism is the path to truth. But it is not! (Read Ezekiel 8 to get God’s perspective on this issue.) Our spiritual understanding is all wrong.
But there is more. I will elaborate.
There is a tavern about a mile from our church here in rural Pennsylvania. Filthy reputation. Our church can bear witness to a history of drunk drivers leaving this bar and killing others in automobile accidents. We can testify to homes wrecked, wives abused, and families destroyed by the patrons of this bar. But if you drive past this tavern you will see a sign out front. It was placed there in the aftermath of September 11. It reads, “God bless us all.”
Do you think God is impressed?
Do you think God is impressed when we utter our prayers in church and sing our hymns in stadiums, and then go home to our drunken profanity, our adulterous affairs, our murderous attitudes? Do you think God is impressed when we pray for God to bless our land—and ignore the reality that this is a land saturated with the blood of millions of unborn babies? Do you think God is impressed when we sit in memorial services for the dead, but leave with our hearts unchanged and our spirits unregenerated?
I heard of a message that Francis Schaeffer once uttered with prophetic voice. He spoke many years ago to a gathering of American believers, a gathering that included many pastors. He called them to task for the spiritual apathy and deadness of our land. In this challenging message, he repeatedly provoked those assembled with one heart-tearing phrase: “Where are the tears?”
I ask you this question. Where are the tears?
Oh, it is just and good to weep over the loss of thousands of lives (and I weep too). But have you wept at the realization that most of those thousands of people are probably in hell? Have you wept over that the fact the widows and orphans who have canonized their memory still have not received the Savior into their grieving hearts? Have you wept in understanding that Usama ben Ladin and his fiendish cohorts are on a personal course that means eternal damnation unless they accept Jesus? Have you wept that Madonna can end a concert with the words “God bless America,” but still does not understand that she is on her way to a devil’s hell? Have you wept that Hollywood’s celebrities can read scripted words of mourning for those who died, but have no words of mourning for their own spiritual deadness?
Have you wept over the lost souls of America? Where are the tears?
Thank God our hearts are not so hard that we are unmoved at such a tragic loss of life. Thank God that as nation we are stirred to sorrow at the loss of over 6000 lives in one day. But where are the tears for the 4000 children destroyed every day by abortion? Where are the tears for our fathers and sisters and sons and friends whom we see every day, and yet who are dying without Jesus? Where are the tears wept over the greed and pornography and homosexuality and violence and hatred and fear that are rife in our land? Where are the tears over a nation that has forgotten God?
Do you think God is impressed with our tears? With our prayers? With our songs? Read Isaiah 1:10-20. God is not impressed with our prayers and religious acts, our sacrifices and generosities, unless they are accompanied by hearts yielded to Him in surrender, in contrition, in repentance. It is tears of sin-sorrow that will touch God’s heart. It is tears of mourning for our lostness that will move heaven in our behalf. Only such tears will avail for us.
God help us!
God forgive us!
God give us tears of humility and remorse for our sins as a people.
It is our ONLY HOPE as a nation.