Talking Jesus With A Survivor
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” Matthew 19:14.
During his ministry on earth, Jesus was an advocate for children. He scolded his disciples when they tried to keep the children away from him. He held up their faith as an example for adults to follow, and he warned of dire consequences if anyone caused a child to sin. It would “be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea” Matthew 18:6.
Child abuse does not only affect a child’s body and emotional health. It touches their spiritual health, too. A child who was abused may have difficulty believing in a loving God. They may believe that they have some intrinsic quality that means God cannot care for them. Sometimes this comes as a direct result of hearing ugly words from the abuser. Other times, it comes from the child’s internal thoughts.
When you have the incredible responsibility of being the caretaker of a child who was abused, you have an opportunity to share God’s love with that child. Too often adults think the child was not affected by the abuse because they seem happy and cheerful or never talk about it.
Don’t fall into this assumption. Children excel at presenting the face they think you want to see and burying what they truly feel. No matter what you see on the outside, that child is in special need of hearing about Jesus and his love for them.
Sunday schools present lessons based on Bible stories for a reason. Children understand stories, and they stay with them a longer time. Share stories of Jesus’ love with the child (a list if provided at the end of this article). You do not have to memorize the story; tell it in your own words. It doesn’t even have to be the whole story. It could be something as simple as, “That bird finding worms makes me think about how Jesus said God provides for the birds and how much more he’ll provide for use—because he loves us.” Make it a point to share a story with each interaction with the child.
Listen for the little ways a child may express feeling of low self-esteem. This could sound like put downs, “I’m so ugly” or inability to do something right, “I’ll never get an A.” These are pleas for help from you. Gently disagree with the self-assessment and state a positive about the child. Then remind them God created them and gave them just the right skills and other assets.
Doing this once is not enough. Your reassurance will be needed over and over. This is a lot like that child who want to keep rereading the same story over and over because they need to have the constancy of a story that doesn’t change. The child abuse is looking for the same from you—repeated assurance that they are okay.
Bible stories to use
Jesus and the Little Children (Mark 10, Matthew 19, Luke 18)
Children: The Greatest in the Kingdom (Matthew 18)
Protecting Children (Matthew 5)
Jesus Raises a Girl from the Dead (Matthew 9)