(Photo: Saddleback PICS Ministry/Edward Arce)
LAKE FOREST, Calif. – Grief coming as the result of devastating tragedies such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States is not something anyone can simply process alone, said Orange County megachurch pastor Rick Warren during special weekend services.
The five "Hope & Freedom" services at Saddleback Church led by Warren paid tribute to the families who lost loved ones on 9/11 and the wars that followed. Also, given tribute were the U.S. military members serving in Iraq or Afghanistan in the last 10 years, and the first responders at the scene of the 9/11 attacks.
Warren told the more than 3,000 people at each service at the church's main campus and those watching the webcast at Saddleback.com that there were lessons to be learned from tragedy.
“This last week I was reading a number of different opinion pieces and editorials, and a number of them were saying that America needs to move beyond 9/11. America needs to move past it. America needs to let it go. One of the headlines read, 'Get over it,'" Warren said.
“Obviously, the people that wrote those articles know nothing about human behavior because grief is not something you can ever get over. Grief is something you get through,” he continued. “Grief is a tool that God has given us to move through the transitions of life. We are living on a broken planet and you are going to have a lot of losses in life.
“Jesus said, ‘Blessed are those that mourn for they shall be comforted,’” Warren said, quoting the Bible. “Grief is not what paralyzes us when we go through a 9/11 of our life. When you go through a difficult time you need a transition period and that’s what grief is.”
Warren emphasized the need for Christians to be members of a small Bible study group in order to help go through the various stages in life, including grief.
"We were made for community," Warren said. "God meant for you to not do life alone."
During the services, a video was shown of members from Lower Manhattan Community Church in New York City sharing their memories of the fateful day. The church began as Bible studies by Saddleback Church members in a community close to ground zero in the months following the 9/11 tragedies.
Also, shown at the services was a video clip of former President George Bush being interviewed by Warren earlier in the year discussing a speech made by the former president at the National Cathedral just days after the attacks.
Bush said he attempted to calm the nation by saying that real comfort can be found in God.
“That was a hard speech to give because I was standing in the church pulpit,” Bush said in the video clip. He said he was trying to accomplish three things with the speech: let the victims’ families’ know that the country mourns for them, that God can help in the time of tragedy, and that the United States was going to “go find the people that did it.”
Later in the service, Pastor Ryan Holladay of Lower Manhattan Community talked about the unique dynamics of the people of New York City and the neighborhood surrounding the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in a taped interview.
“When September 11th happened it didn’t just create a physical hole in the ground, it also left behind a spiritual vacuum,” Holladay said. “Part of the reason for that is that the attacks carried a rather mixed message. The planes that were flown into the buildings were meant (by Muslim terrorists) to send a message of God’s hatred and judgment on New York City.
“But, what God says is the exact opposite: ‘People who are far from me are the ones I love the most. The people who have decided to do their own thing are the ones I am seeking the most. Not only do I not hate them, but I am running after them.’”
Holladay said the reason his church is where it is now is to proclaim the love of God because Christians have been given the authority to do so.
The church services at Saddleback ended with a prayer from Warren, followed by a medley of patriotic songs, including “God Bless America.”