by Martin Poehler
Events have moved swiftly since four airplanes crashed in America on 11 September, killing more than 3,000 people. An international coalition has been forged by American President George Bush to capture or kill Osama bin Laden and smash the terrorist al Qaida network suspected to have caused the crashes. The coalition began bombing Afghanistan in early October to destroy the Taliban regime. Despite international questioning of the morality and appropriateness of this action, the bombing continued. A near total victory was gained after six weeks of heavy bombing from the air, and fighting by opposition Afghan troops on the ground. Now Hamid Karzai has been selected as the new Afghan Prime Minister. He has from 22 December headed a broad-based coalition government in Afghanistan.
Many salient events come to our minds as we consider the past four months. One of them, of course, is the horror of planes crashing into buildings which caused the war on terrorism to begin. Another is the re-alignment of the political landscape. Countries previously neutral or hostile to the United States such as Russia and Pakistan have pledged support to fight terrorism. Also of importance is the questioning worldwide about what Islam really is. Does it stand for religious tolerance, or for murderous confrontation? Yet another amazing event is the relatively small amount of time it took to dethrone the ruling Taliban government through American air power-a strategy many said would either take long months or years to succeed, or would fail altogether. The liberation of key towns, most poignantly the capital Kabul, let the world see jubilant Afghans, glad as they shook off the yoke of the repressive Taliban. This sparked much debate in both the Western and Middle Eastern worlds, with some calling on the Middle Eastern regimes to become more open both politically and economically.
As we consider these past remarkable events, we are all probably wondering: After the Taliban is removed and a stable government starts to rule in Afghanistan, what will happen next? Many people are saying the things needed for the benefit of Afghans are "modernisation, globalisation, democratisation, women's liberation, secular education, rural electrification, lots of computers, and a market economy." 1 Of course, to bring all these about, there will be many hurdles to clear. They include: the Afghans' suspicions of Western governments' motives for introducing these changes; the threat of instability within Afghanistan; the need for a new order of relationships between regional nations like Syria and Saudi Arabia with Afghanistan, the United States, and other nations; and the influence on the Arab world of the difficult-to-solve Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
A moment's reflection makes it clear that no man-not even any group of men-knew these remarkable things were going to happen. It was all obviously in someone else's hands. We don't know what will happen next, but we can know that as was written many centuries ago, God accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will. 2 He has been guiding events. The plane crashes in America, the war in Afghanistan, even the social and political situations in the Middle East that contributed to all these actions, were all allowed by God. Why did he allow them, you probably ask? The reason is he respects our free wills. He allows us all at the many different crossroads in our lives to choose which way we will go. We can either freely choose to go the right way-God's way-or a different way.
In another place it has been written, "In him (God) we live and move and have our being. "3 Every one of the 6 billion people in the world, including you and I, are actually inside the God who made the entire world and universe. That's how close and important we are to him. He applies the same knowledge and skill with which he made the universe to shield us from certain events happening, while letting other events through to us, in all cases for our benefit. The reason? He greatly cares about us. We said earlier that God accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will, and we mentioned we all have free wills to make important decisions in our lives. God accepts those decisions we make, and weaves them into our lives for our good-even if we choose poorly, wrongly, or mistakenly. Like a master carpet weaver, he takes a strand of thread that seems to have been woven in the wrong place, and weaves it into the whole to produce something beautiful-a perfect design. He takes our free-will decisions, combines them with free-will actions of other people, and makes them all work for good in every person's life.
God has everything firmly in his control. Although we don't always understand how he does this, or why he lets what look like bad things happen to us, we can take comfort that he acts based on his great love for us.
The world's events-those things now taking place in America, Afghanistan, and Pakistan-are bigger than we are. But when we consider that they seem to be totally out of anyone's control, we need not despair. Instead we can take comfort that our responsibility is to do those actions that we know are right to do, and trust that God is dealing with the entire complex situation. Not only that, but God, as we get to know him, will show us more and more what we are to do with our lives-his special plan that is unique for each of us. This plan will be useful or uplifting in some way for others, even while it is fulfilling for us. He who made the universe knows very well what each unique individual is best suited to accomplish in it. On the other hand, if we don't get to know God, we will certainly miss out on his plan for our lives. But as we seek to know him, he will reveal his plan to us a bit at a time-not more than we can take in, but small bits of direction just as we need them.
So do you or I know what will happen in Afghanistan and the Middle East, and how this will affect the entire world? We can't know this-but we can know the comfort and peace that comes when we reflect on the truth that God does know-and is permitting and guiding-what will happen. He will fashion different men's and women's actions into his overall good plan for every one of our lives. We can rest in that reality-and seek to know the God who is working in our lives for our good.
1. "Silly Question: Support the Palestinian Authority or Hamas?" by William Pfaff, International Herald Tribune, 14 December, 2001.
2. Ephesians 1:11, The Bible.
3. Acts 17:28, The Bible.
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