Another school shooting.
This time it was Noblesville, Indiana, a quiet and beautiful suburb north of Indianapolis. The reports were troubling. A middle school student left a classroom and returned with two handguns. He started shooting. One student was hit. Apart from the heroic efforts of the teacher who tackled the shooter while absorbing three bullets, who knows how many children would have been severely injured or killed.
The shooter was arrested. Both the teacher and the student appear to be on a path toward recovery. But the images of students evacuating a school building, panicked parents waiting for their children, and law enforcement swarming the scene were shocking.
Where do we go when events like a school shooting invade our lives? What words do we use to express shock, outrage, fear, and deep sorrow?
The local fire department voiced the sentiments of the community on Facebook:
Waking up this morning, many are left drinking a large cup of despair, lost, scared and wondering how we get over this. The short answer is, we don’t. But we do get through it and we get through it together.
The Bible has a category for this moment. It is called lament – a prayer in pain that leads to trust. Over a third of the Psalms are laments. They express the need to turn to prayer, tell God about our pain, ask him for help, and renew our trust. Lament is one way we can process our pain and express our outrage.
The day after the Noblesville shooting, my heart was burdened with tangled emotions and thoughts. I wrote the following prayer of lament.
How long, O Lord, must we lament shootings at schools? How many more lives will be needlessly lost or scarred at the hands of other children? Our souls are weary of seeing panicked parents, fleeing students, and bewildered teachers. We are tired of the senseless violence in places like Columbine, Sandy Hook, Parkland, Santa Fe, and now Noblesville, Indiana.
We mourn the brokenness of a culture where children kill children. We grieve that a 13 year-old would bring guns along with books to school. We weep over the pain that must have dwelt in his heart, and we groan over the rage that led him to harm others. We lament the isolation and madness that leads to days like these.
Where do we go with our fears, our concern, and our frustration? We feel powerless to prevent this kind of tragedy. We feel unable to protect our children – even at school.
O God, we turn to you and ask for help. We cry out to you in our pain:
- Would you bring comfort to students, teachers and parents traumatized by this shooting?
- Would you give wisdom to counselors, pastors, and friends as they care for those who are hurting?
- Would you help our children know they are loved and allow that love to be demonstrated in kindness, compassion, and affirmation every day?
- Would you bring peace to the hearts of troubled children who feel isolated, lonely, and desperate?
- Would you provide healing to the student and teacher who were injured?
- Would you bring remorse and repentance to the young boy who caused this day of violence?
- Would you give wisdom to those in authority to know what justice and protection should look like?
- Would you turn the hearts of children toward your son, Jesus, so that they could find their meaning in him?
- Would you give the city of Noblesville a resolve to be united in the care and love for our children?
O Lord, moments like these shock our hearts. We are deeply grieved over another school shooting. We cry to you for help.
We feel the weight of the brokenness of our world today. And we need your grace to find the healing we cannot discover on our own.
As we lament this shooting in Noblesville, we look to you.
Come Lord Jesus!