As we minister to child victims of abuse, we must for a season
allow abused children their reluctance to think of God as a
heavenly parent until some very real, intentional healing processes
begin. This isn't counter to our goal of helping people come to
know Christ as Lord and Savior. In reality, helping abused children
see God as God alone may, in effect, remove some barriers or
stumbling blocks for these precious little ones we desire to bring
to Christ. The following healing points can bring an abused child
to a healthy understanding of our Abba God.
- Allow children to express concerns and doubts about God's
reliability. I'm not encouraging heresy or sacrilege here. I'm
encouraging discovery of God's loving nature and his
trustworthiness. Dr. Hanson points out an important fact about
abused children. He says, "Love is colored by punishment…Guilt --
even shame -- begins to dominate one's life. The idea that one is
not good enough or cannot do anything right to please an angry God
builds in the life of the child."
- Allow children to freely express anger toward God. Dave Pelzer
remembers his hatred of God as he lived through his ordeal of
abuse. "At that instant, I hated God more than anything else in
this world or any other world," Pelzer writes. "God had known of my
struggles for years, but He had stood by watching as things went
from bad to worse...Inside I cursed His name, wishing I had never
- God is fully aware of the atrocities against children. He is
not only able, but also willing, to withstand questions about his
character by these hurting children. He desires to lovingly calm
their fears and heal their hurts. Scripture is full of promises and
proclamations of God's goodness that speak to the doubts and
concerns of those estranged from God or under attack from others.
For example, read Psalm 55.
- Teach how vastly different God's nature is from human nature.
As adults, we often belittle ourselves when we fall short. We can't
believe that God could love and accept us. We fail to remember the
grace of God. How much more awful can this be for child victims of
abuse? Help children accept God's grace and understand that the
abuse is not their fault. The abused child no longer has to accept
guilt for the things others have done to them.
- Help children know that God loves them -- in spite of their
human family situation. Abused children have feelings of
inferiority and low self-worth but God's love is unconditional. God
loves them completely and without reservation. God's love is not
based on the kind of home a child lives in or how happy a child's
family life may or may not be.
- Redefine "family." Explain that the word "family" refers to
relationships, and that we all can be members of more than one
family. One family might be hurtful; the other heavenly family can
be based fully on unconditional love and respect. In Sunday school
lessons and children's programs, teach the fundamental similarities
and differences between the family of God and the human family. God
wants children to be in his family, and Jesus is their brother and
- Explain the difference between remorse and repentance. An
abuser may feel remorse, but without true repentance, the abuse
will continue. The abused child, as well as the church and the
state, can and should expect a change in an abuser's behavior
instead of false repentance with empty promises.
- Resist "politically correct" remedies. Some might argue that a
solution is to stop calling God "Father" altogether. Only through
the love of a father to his child can we see Abba's fondness for
us; only through the death of God's child can we see the depth of
our Abba's sacrifice. It's through the concept of Jesus being God's
child that we can identify with Jesus' true humanity and suffering.
Only then can we fully realize our joint-heir status in God's
family. These terms must remain vital in the Christian community
for children to fully understand their salvation and heritage.
Martin Johnson has been a Christian education specialist for
more than 15 years, serving in churches ranging in size from
mega-church to church plant. He currently serves as the Pastor of
Family Life Ministry at Washington Church in Toledo, Ohio.
CHILD ABUSE RESOURCES
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