When the breaking news alert flashed across my screen, I did a double take. A shooting at the Covenant School, three children killed. My heart stopped for a minute as I read the details and confirmed that, though the name was very similar, this wasn’t my children’s school. Later in the day, I learned those three precious children were 9 years old—the same age as my oldest son.
Five days a week, I pull through the drop-off line at Covenant Day School, tell my boys I love them, and send them on their way. I take for granted that they’ll be at the same spot later when I come back to pick them up. But today I approach the line a little more hesitantly. Do I really want to let them out of the car? What if the next headline is about our school?
Tragic situations make us confront hard realities—evil in the world, the brevity of life, and our limited ability to protect our children. We grieve for parents walking through unfathomable loss, not wanting to imagine ourselves in their place but fearing one day we will be. What does it look like for us to entrust our children to the Lord while rightly acknowledging how evil and suffering affect us?
Taking Our Cares to the Father
There are no easy answers, but prayer is a good place to start. As we take our children to school, we can take our anger, grief, and fear to our heavenly Father. And when we’re at a loss for words, the Psalms can help. In recent days, I’ve turned to Psalm 139 to guide my prayers.
You Know My Children
O LORD, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways. (vv. 1–3)
Lord, when I send my children to school, I can only wonder about what they’re doing, what they’re thinking, and how they’re feeling. But you have known my children from before the foundation of the world, and you know where they are and what they’re doing at all times. You know when they sit down at their desks and when they rise up to go to the playground. You know their thoughts—when they’re worried or afraid.
You Are Always with My Children
Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me. (vv. 7–10)
When we’re at a loss for words, the Psalms can help.
Thank you, God that although there are many places my children may go without me, there is nowhere they can go without you. Wherever they are, your Spirit is present with them. If they go to the library, you’re there. If they go to the cafeteria, you’re there. If they go to the soccer field, you’re there. If they go into the path of danger, you’re there—and your hand will hold them.
You Created My Children
For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well . . .
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them. (vv. 13–14, 16)
Father, my precious children are wonderful works of your creation. As I look at them, I’m in awe of you. You took care to form each of them, and you took care to form each of their days. You are sovereign over all things. All their days were ordained by you before I ever held my children in my arms.
Your Thoughts Are Toward My Children
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them! (v. 17)
God, I don’t know how to think or feel amid tragedy like this. How can I make sense of the evil displayed in killing children? How can I not be overwhelmed by anxious and fearful thoughts? Help me to set my mind on you, knowing your thoughts are toward my children and you’re wisely working for their good.
You Give Justice to Children
Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
O men of blood, depart from me! (v. 19)
Father, you are loving and just. You delight in little children, and you grieve when they’re harmed. I plead with you to stop school shootings. Thwart the wickedness that targets our children as they learn and play.
You Lead Your Children
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting! (v. 24)
Lord, as I mourn sin in the world, let me not overlook it in my own heart. Show me how I might be idolizing power, comfort, control, or even my children. Though I struggle against sin and grieve death now, thank you that as your child I have the promise of eternal life in Christ. As you’ve led me, please also lead my children in the way everlasting.
Taking Us by the Hand
Every Friday morning as I drive away from campus, I pass a group of dads in a circle under a gazebo, heads bowed in prayer. I see them week after week, but the beauty of it never gets old—strong, successful, capable fathers humbly coming before their heavenly Father, looking to him to guide and protect our beloved school.
Surely, God the Father understands how we feel as we send our children to school, not only because he searches our hearts and minds and knows us but because he sent his own Son into a dangerous world. His Son was forsaken so he can say to us and to our children, “I will not leave you or forsake you.” No matter where we are—in the carpool line or in the day of tragedy—even there our Father’s hand will lead us and his right hand will hold us (Ps. 139:10).