Don’t put that pressure on me: A lesson from 9/11

Yesterday was 9/11 and is probably the next closest thing to Pearl Harbor. Ten years afterwards, and it still remains fresh in our minds and hearts. I imagine my kids will eventually understand 9/11 and perhaps even pass it on to their kids. I can’t see our country forgetting that event for a while. 
In light of this I saw a fascinating, though very brief interview with two 9/11 survivors still carrying with them the scars of their experience: one working in the towers and the other a fireman, if I remember correctly. The interviewer asked the fireman this seemingly appropriate question: “How do you live life differently because you were saved and others were not?”
His answer kind of astounded me in both its brutal honesty as well as its depth: “No, don’t put that kind pressure on me. I can’t deal with that. I just do my job the best I can each day.”
I don’t know if this man experienced “survivor’s guilt,” where one wonders, “Why wasn’t it me that was taken?” But clearly, he felt some pressure to “do something great” by this reporter. This is often the question we raise when someone is saved from calamity and the person siting next to them isn’t. Why did God save you and not them? He must have something pretty amazing for you to do? I guess I never thought about that kind of pressure before? That really puts pressure on folks to first of all, find that “mysterious” plan of God, and then the pressure to accomplish it.
Now perhaps God does have something “special” and extraordinary for such a person like curing cancer or something crazy like that. But to assume that is nonsense, because we have no idea why God allows one person to live and the other to die. I like this lad’s response, “Don’t put that pressure on me.”
But I also like the 2nd part of his response: “I just try to do my job the best I can each day.” Nothing sensational. Just trying to be a good husband, good worker, etc….We know God’s plan for us, and much of it isn’t sensational. When we’re told to find “the will of God” it is primarily in terms of our walking with Jesus and growing in Him (Eph 5:17, Col 1:9, I Thess 4:3). It is about sanctification, not our professional calling. Kevin DeYoung’s book Just Do Something really fleshes this out a bit more and better than I could if I had more space. You can download it for free here
Instead of thinking sensationally like there is something crazy out there, or something so specific that we have the burden of trying to figure it out, why not think more simply like this lad? Be a good husband, good parent, good Dad, love Jesus, follow Jesus daily, serve the church with your gifts. That seems a lot more biblical than the pressure of trying to figure out why you were delivered and the other bloke wasn’t.

God has made known to Christians the “mystery” of His will in Christ (Eph 1:9), so no other mystery should cause us to lose much sleep or put pressure on us.

2 thoughts on “Don’t put that pressure on me: A lesson from 9/11

  1. Great post, Geoff. And thanks for the link to the free book download. I know that I often struggle with wanting to do what is "bigger" instead of doing what I need to do with the circumstances I've been providentially given. It is an hourly struggle for me. I appreciate your encouragement today.And along the lines of the beginning of your post, did you see Piper's Tweet yesterday? It went something like this: "God's sure word to me on 9/11: Don't be amazed that the towers fell. Be amazed that they didn't fall on you."Staci Thomas

  2. Staci,Thanks. It's a daily struggle for lots of people. While I was writing this, I talked with someone who felt "un-gifted" and "just" a parent and housewife. Obviously not what the way the Lord wants us to look at things. But its probably the same with pastors just as much. I wish I would see more cool and crazy stuff. Now don't get me wrong, I'm encouraged by the work God is doing here at Redeemer. But I just need to be responsible with the people, place, lack of building, finances, etc, with we have and relax that He'll do what He wants to do. Glad you were encouraged! Cool quote from Piper!

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