What Shall We Do When Grief Makes No Sense?

When I was in first grade my best friend died. I was devastated. I remember my teacher Mrs. Williams coming into the room to tell us and I remember burying my face in the fake fur collar of my mom’s coat while we visited his family at Dietrich’s Funeral Home.

None of it made sense to me then and it does not make sense to me now.

When children die, unnatural grief leans on us with a heavy shoulder.

When I first heard of the unconscionable events at Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday my mind turned to the massacre of the innocents in Matthew 2.16:

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men.

Herod expected the wise men to return to him and tell him where the baby king had been born so he could eliminate his potential rival. When they did not cooperate, he killed all the children who were young enough to have been born during the time the wise men visited.

We are reminded that the one who created the universe placed the infant baby, vulnerable as he was, in the arms of a young Jewish girl. We understand how vulnerable children are. God came that way.

The biblical story exposes the insecurity of a powerful man who would stop at nothing to maintain his sense of control. I wonder if taking his mother’s guns, killing her, and killing others may have made this young man feel powerful. What was he trying to control?

It was and has been shocking to me how quickly people moved to justify gun ownership. Even more, I have been stunned to hear some suggest it happened because “God is not allowed in the public schools.” Have that conversation if you want in a different time and place but it dishonors the children to have it now.

Such conversation ignores the grief of the parents. It politicizes the death of children who Friday morning were counting the days until Christmas.

Rather consider the shadowy figure who stood in Bethlehem when Herod’s henchmen came through town killing the babies. That same figure stood in the hallways of Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday morning. It even pushes its way into our conversations about tragedies such as this to divide us even more.

Evil inhabits the shadows. Evil always takes, it never gives. It consumes and always starves for more. It never satisfies its thirst for power.

What sense can be made of evil? What salve exists for our broken hearts? What comfort for inconsolable grief borne by the parents?

What shall we do when grief makes no sense to us?

Let us be reminded that something shadowy moves among the edges of our lives seeking to consume us and all we love.

Let us remember so we live with new determination to resist evil.

Let us not sentimentalize the death of these innocents.

Let us mourn.

Let us grieve more honestly than we think possible.

Let us love more fiercely than pain subtracts.

Let us live more gracefully than actions deserve.

Let us hope for the day when the shadow of death is known no more.


  • Amen. Well said. I’m sharing this link.

    • DarrellGwaltney

      Thank, Barrett. I appreciate it. This was difficult to write.

  • Julie

    Sharing… Thanks, Darrell!

    • DarrellGwaltney

      Thanks, Julie.