Shock. Disbelief. Horror. Bewilderment. Grief.
These emotions and more hit me in waves as I read about the death of a River Valley High School student. The 13-year-old boy was found with multiple wounds in a school toilet on July 19, and a 16-year-old schoolmate has been arrested and charged with murder.
Each new detail that emerged in the news reports seemed to get more and more upsetting: the fact that both boys didn’t know each other; that an axe that was believed to have been used was bought online; and that the 16-year-old had attempted suicide when he was just 14.
As I mourned the tragic loss of a young life in such an unimaginable way, I wondered: How can we make sense of such a tragedy?
Reflecting on God’s Word and reading some resources on this issue, I discovered some things that helped me:
1. Pour Out Our Feelings to God in Prayer
Hear my prayer, Lord; let my cry for help come to you.
Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress.
Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly.
Some of us may be battling a storm of emotions, especially those of us who are parents, educators, or students. Others may not know what to feel—or even how they’re supposed to feel.
Whether or not we’re up to talking about it with others, what we can do is to pour it all out to God in prayer. We can cry out to God in grief and lament, knowing that we do not have the answers: Why did this happen? Why this 13-year-old? Are our schools still safe? Is there anything I could have done?
In the same way, the writer of Psalm 102 begins with a heartfelt lament as he describes his pain, distress, and afflictions (vv. 1–11). He doesn’t have the answers for his suffering. Yet, as the psalmist prays, he remembers God’s character—His sovereignty, compassion, and eternal purposes—and this results in a transformation of his own tone and disposition (vv. 12–28). Praying and refocusing his gaze helps him to find hope and relief in the Lord once more.
We can find comfort knowing that God hears us—and is near to us. All we need to do is to turn to Him in prayer.
2. Remind Ourselves of God’s Truths
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true,
whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable
—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
At a time when life feels so uncertain and death so imminent, we can draw strength and comfort from the unchanging truths of the gospel. As Paul calls on us to do in Philippians 4:8, we can choose to go back to His Word and focus on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. The truths in God’s Word can encourage and strengthen us, for they remind us of God’s character:
- His sovereignty over all events, history, and the hearts of man (Colossians 1:16–17)
- God’s perfect and ultimate judgment and justice (2 Corinthians 5:10)
- Our certain hope of redemption, reconciliation, and eternal life in Jesus, when we repent and turn to Him (John 3:16)
Knowing these truths and promises can help us—as the familiar hymn, “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less”, tells us—to stand firm on Christ our solid Rock when all other ground is sinking sand; and to rest on His unchanging grace when darkness seems to veil His face.
3. Offer Comfort to Those Affected
Praise be to the God and Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion
and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles,
so that we can comfort those in any trouble
with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
—2 Corinthians 1:3–4
If we know of anyone who’s been particularly affected, such as a student, parent, or teacher, we can ask them how they’re doing—and pray for them.
At a time when many people are confined to their homes, letting someone know that we care is a tangible way of extending to others the same comfort that we’ve received from Christ, as 2 Corinthians 1:3–4 calls on us to do. We can take time to listen to them, encourage them, and pray for them.
While we may not know why this tragedy happened, what we can do is to cry out to God in prayer, to anchor ourselves in His unchanging Word, and to extend Christ’s love to those around us.
In doing so, we can have the assurance that He will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because we trust in Him (Isaiah 26:3).
Lord, we mourn as a nation in the face of such a tragedy.
We commit into Your sovereign and loving hands
all who have been affected.
We ask that You comfort us and help us to comfort others,
as we fix our eyes upon Your unchanging and unfailing love.