It happened more than twenty years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. The ring of our dorm phone jolted me from a deep sleep. My roommate reached over and picked up the beige receiver. “Hello?” Sarah said in a froggy voice. I rolled over on my top bunk in annoyance — my one morning without an early class!
After a brief minute, Sarah hung up the phone and said, “That was my mom. There’s been a terrorist attack.”
The words hadn’t even registered when Sarah turned on our tiny box TV. We watched as a second airplane crashed into the Twin Towers on the live broadcast. My mouth fell open but no words came out. I couldn’t comprehend what I was witnessing.
As the news slowly spread throughout the dorms (this was long before the days of smartphones and social media), so did a sense of panic. RAs came knocking on doors announcing that classes were canceled and the entire campus was shutting down out of an abundance of caution. We were on the opposite coast, but could another attack be coming? Would Los Angeles also be targeted?
The phone lines were jammed, so I pulled on a T-shirt and a crumpled pair of jeans and walked to the building next door to see my boyfriend. We congregated in the dim hallway with a couple other friends from our college ministry group. After sharing our shock and fear, someone finally said, “We should pray.” So there on the dingy carpet, with fellow students coming and going, we sat and prayed. For those trapped in the burning skyscrapers. For the first responders and everyone who inhaled the ominous gray plume of ash and debris we watched sweep through Manhattan’s streets. We asked the Spirit to groan for that which our group of nineteen- and twenty-year-olds had no words.
Eventually, our small gathering dispersed, leaving just me and my boyfriend. His eyes revealed a troubled soul. “Do you want to come back to my room so we can watch the news with Sarah and see what’s going on?” I asked.
“No, but I would like to go somewhere… just us. To talk.”
He grabbed my hand and we hiked up the long, paved hill toward upper campus. The image of that plane piercing the building kept playing in my mind. I couldn’t swallow the lump in my throat.
At least we’re together, I thought, squeezing my guy’s hand. No matter what happens, we can face it side by side.
We finally stopped on the grassy knoll near the north traffic circle. A weeping willow bowed its branches away from a brick office, offering us a crescent cocoon of shade. He put his arm around me, and I leaned my head on his shoulder. We sat in comfortable silence, best friends not needing to fill the undeniable void of pain and confusion of this historic day.
Finally, my boyfriend shifted his body to turn toward me and inhaled a deep breath. I was eager to hear his sensitive and insightful thoughts on the attack. But instead he told me we needed to break up.
Breath left my lungs like I’d been punched in the gut. Again, I felt disoriented, unable to grasp what was happening. He was the one. The one who stole my heart with his dimples and curly hair. The one who earned my trust with his unfailing honesty and integrity. We shared the same major and served together on our ministry leadership team. Every picture of the future I envisioned had a ring on my finger and his arm around my waist. I loved him. How could this be happening?
We talked and cried until there was nothing left to say. I couldn’t change his mind. I couldn’t fix it or turn back time. We walked slowly back to the dorms and said goodbye.
I spent the rest of that day and night in bed. My eyes ached from crying, and I felt a physical pain in my heart. All sense of safety and security had vanished. My future was a shattered mess of broken dreams. It felt like a brick pressed on my chest. It was hard to breathe.
One morning a few weeks later, I opened my Bible after another sleepless night. I didn’t even know what to read, so I opened to John because it was familiar. I skimmed a few passages, and then a word jumped out from the page like a 3D special effect. PEACE.
Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Don’t let your heart be troubled or fearful.
John 14:27 CSB
In the aftermath of 9/11 and in the wake of that devastating breakup, God was inviting me to change the way I defined peace, and change where I looked for it. Living in a prosperous first-world country is no guarantee of peace. Peace doesn’t come from titles like boyfriend and girlfriend. That heartbreaking September showed me that the peace the world gives is temporary, circumstantial, fallible.
But God offers a different kind of peace. Lasting. Unshakable. Perfect. When the whole world fractures or my own life shatters, the peace of Jesus is still available because the person of Jesus never changes.
Whether we’re in a time of crisis or just trudging through the struggles of ordinary life, we can entrust our troubled, fearful hearts to the one who is worthy of our trust.
Dear Jesus, thank You for offering a peace so different from what the world gives. Without You, my heart would be perpetually troubled. Fear would be a constant companion. I acknowledge that I can’t control my circumstances or strive for peace. I surrender my life and heart to You. Please use this study and time in Your Word to create in me a heart of peace. Amen.
Start living with a peace that changes everything.
Meet Create in Me a Heart of Peace, the new (in)courage Bible study from DaySpring, written by Becky Keife and featuring stories from your favorite (in)courage writers.
Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you.” So why are we still wracked with stress and anxiety? Why do we look at our world, our own churches and neighborhoods, and see anything but peace? What causes this disconnect between what we read in Scripture and what we often experience in our own lives?
If you’ve ever asked yourself these questions, then this is the Bible study for you, friend.
Create in Me a Heart of Peace will help you experience an inner calm-meets-strength that can’t be rattled by volatile circumstances or swallowed up by busyness. You’ll discover that the peace of Jesus is more powerful, practical, and applicable to our lives than any counterfeit version this world could offer.
Our prayer is that this study will encourage you to seek the Lord and the peace He offers each one of us. We are SO excited to see how God will use it to speak to your heart. Sign up below to get a FREE full week of Bible study from Create in Me a Heart of Peace, and order your copy today!