When Terror Works (& How To Fight It)

This post is the best thing I’ve read in a long time about understanding and responding to terrorism. I had to share it. If you only have 20 seconds to read it, skip to the last heading, Certainty in One Place.

If this helps you, please pass it on:


paris-memorial_3501108b_316_197_90I was 14 when Islamic terrorists attacked my school. In the years that followed, I was often physically overwhelmed by an anxiety that came from knowing I could never feel safe anymore.

As I read live updates from Paris last week, I felt that same cold, knotting fear climbing up my back and reaching around my neck.

Even though Louisville and Paris are thousands of miles apart, these attacks feel different—closer somehow. These terrorists brutally murdered people doing everyday things—going to a soccer match, a concert, a restaurant. Things you and I could’ve been doing. These attacks weren’t just on Parisians, in other words. They were attacks on normal life.

The point of terrorism—and what makes it appealing to those who cannot fight traditional-style battles—is to inject fear into others. To freeze economies by making people too afraid to go out shopping. To tear societies apart since people are too afraid to gather in public places. In short, the point is to make us too fearful to go about our daily lives.

For all the bravado or stiff upper lip we may put up against acts of terror, the fact is sometimes they work. Sometimes, they make us afraid.

But that fear—that uncertainty and hopelessness threatening to paralyze you—is the very thing God uses to strip away your confidence in this world.

Uncertainty of This World 

Physical safety is so illusory, so fleeting. Once you sense this, you may suddenly discover parts of Scripture to be more relevant to your life than you thought. Ecclesiastes reminds us repeatedly of the brevity of human life, and how little control we have over our plans. James instructs us to say “Lord willing” as an expression of our dependence on God’s protection and provision in the fruition of our plans (James 4:13–14).

Hebrews was written to believers being beaten, imprisoned, and robbed (Heb. 10:32–34). In a sense, these were acts of terrorism—designed to teach the young Christians there was no guarantee of protection for their belongings or persons. And yet, these believers weren’t told to make themselves more secure. They weren’t told either to fight or to flee from the danger.

The Holy Spirit, through the author of Hebrews, tells us the ultimate response to physical uncertainty is to fix our eyes on Jesus—to go to him, outside the camp, and place our hope in an everlasting city, not earthly ones (Heb. 13:13–14).

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