His name is Chaplain Ray Giunta and he had worked in professional care crisis since 1987. On that fateful day know as 9/11, he arrived on the scene to minister to the firemen, police, and other rescue workers who were on duty, not knowing the horrors that were to come. Ray showed up each day after the disaster to sift through the rubble; helping the other workers find whatever they could of their brothers’ and sisters’ remains. He gave out water and food to the individuals who worked 12-hour shifts, with many of them wanting to work more. Chaplain Ray toiled right alongside the rescue workers for a straight 68 days, and every night he would spend counseling people who were struggling under the vastness of the pain. This was all part of his job, but another responsibility was just as important, if not the most important. Ray would answer questions along the way. Questions like: “Why did God allow this to happen?” “What if we don’t find our friends’ remains?” Will God protect us in the future?” “Where was God all this time?”. They were all legitimate questions; all with difficult answers.
As I thought about these questions, I realized one very important truth. God WAS there, Jesus WAS there! Dane Ortlund, in his book which is about the heart of Jesus, writes: “This is deeper than saying Jesus is loving or merciful or gracious. The cumulative testimony of the four Gospels is that when Jesus Christ sees the fallenness of the world all about him, his deepest impulse, his most natural instinct is to move toward that sin and suffering, not move away from it.” (from “Gentle and Lowly”, page 30).
One of the amazing things that happened on that horrible day in September was the reaction of the first responders. There is the iconic picture of a fireman going up the south stairwell while hundreds of people were moving swiftly down those same stairs. That scene was repeated time after time as rescue workers arrived who were more concerned about saving people than they were about saving their own lives. Despite the horror and suffering going on all around them, their hearts said there were hurting people inside and they needed help. Just like the rescue workers, Jesus sees this fallen world and reaches out to us. He doesn’t shy away, but He wants to rescue us, he wants to save us. Jesus moves toward that sin and suffering, not away from it.
Will Jesus be there for us when the enemy attacks? When the walls come tumbling down? When the doctor comes in with that news we expected, but did not want to hear? Will Jesus be around when everyone else has deserted you? The answer to those questions is: Yes! It tells us in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”. In this passage we see the heart of Jesus. Jesus continues, “I am gentile and humble in heart.” There is no doubt that Jesus knows about our suffering and pain because the Bible says He too has been tempted as we have, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15). That is why we may find mercy and grace in our time of need, because he is already there. Our pain and suffering don’t surprise Him, instead it gives Him reason to say, “Come to me and give me all your burdens!”
What do we know about Jesus? We know He could teach because he attracted thousands of people every time He opened his mouth. We know He could do miracles; we know He ate food, and He drank water. But what makes Him different from all other teachers and healers? What is it about him that draws us to him, that makes us want to worship him? His heart. Jesus is the one who runs into the building when our building is on fire. But it is more than that, it’s because He loves us, with all his heart!