BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – Not long ago, Faisal Shahzad had a pretty enviable life: He became an American citizen after emigrating from Pakistan, where he came from a wealthy family. He earned an MBA. He had a well-educated wife and two kids and owned a house in a middle-class Connecticut suburb.
In the past couple of years, though, his life seemed to unravel: He left a job at a global marketing firm he'd held for three years, lost his home to foreclosure and moved into an apartment in an impoverished neighborhood in Bridgeport. And last weekend, authorities say, he drove an SUV loaded with explosives into Times Square intent on blowing it up.
I read this story and wondered, how does that happen? How does someone who lives a supposedly "great life" have it all fall apart so quickly? How does a well-educated person with a home and family end up leaving a car bomb in the middle of Times Square?
And it's not just this guy. I remember a story from a couple of years ago of a man who lived not far from here who killed his wife and small children seemingly on a whim one night because he was hearing voices that told him to do it. This guy lived in a nice home in a nice suburb with a lovely family, and yet he threw it all away.
Stories like this turn my stomach, but they also make me wonder how on earth that can happen. In my wildest dreams I can't imagine it.
And yet. . . .
Could I? Could my life just as easily fall apart? I pray not. The phrase, "There but by the Grace of God go I" seems apt.
Just yesterday I read the first chapter of Joshua. Moses had just died, and Joshua is supposed to take the people of Israel into the Promised Land. God is having a little chat with Joshua before they head out--a little pep talk, if you will. He's giving Joshua instructions for all the people, telling him what they are supposed to do. I was struck by God's words early in the chapter, how encouraging He is, how much He wants to see His people succeed.
Verses 7 and 8 especially hit me. God says to Joshua, "Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do."
Twice here God talks about success. It's like He's saying, "Want a successful life? Who doesn't? And I want you to be successful, so here's what you do." And then He lays it out. Simple.
God tells the people of Israel two things to do if they want to have a successful life. First (verse 7), obey. I know, I know, that's harder than it seems. But it's there and it's pretty straightforward. Obey God's word.
Second (verse 8), study God's word. The only way we can obey what God tells us is to know what it says. Again, this sounds easier than it really is. There are days--many days--when this just doesn't get done in my life. Breakfast, dirty dishes, laundry, kids all seem to crowd in and my time in God's word gets pushed aside. But when I look at reading the Bible, really knowing it, as the path to success, it seems like it should be easier to make the time.
Now, I have no idea where the NYC bomber is spiritually. I wouldn't even want to speculate--that's not my job. But when someone's life falls apart and desperation creeps in, I can't help but wonder how it happens. I wonder what could have stopped it.
And I know in my heart that the only solution is a spiritual one. The only way for us to feel safer in this life, the only way children can go to sleep in security, the only way to have true success in this life is to know God--the one true God who created us, loves us, and who is cheering for our success.