Trauma and God’s Care for Children

As followers of Christ, we are called to care for the weak, vulnerable, and hurting. Children who experience trauma are, sadly, a prime example of this. They are a sobering reminder of the reality that things in the world are not as they should be. Too often children have been passed off as a nuisance and a burden, something to be “seen and not heard.” But the Bible shows us that a child is someone made in the image of God and deserving of our care and attention.

When children suffer from trauma, it is critical that we understand God’s care for them, so that we can help teach and manifest the heavenly Father’s love and concern toward the hurting young people in our lives.

A High View of Children

Scripture has an incredibly high view of children. Jesus praised the humility and simple faith of little ones, and exhorted adult believers to imitate their humble and straightforward approach to God (Matthew 18:1–4). He also indicated that children can perceive spiritual matters that the “wise and understanding” cannot (Matthew 11:25). Likewise, in Psalm 8:2, King David highlights the glory God receives when little children praise him.

Part of God’s law, given at Mount Sinai, was that no one should “mistreat any widow or fatherless child” (Exodus 22:22). Indeed, God is one who “executes justice for the fatherless” (Deuteronomy 10:18) and curses anyone who perverts the justice due to orphans (Deuteronomy 27:19). The Lord says that no one should do wrong or be violent toward innocent children and orphans (Jeremiah 22:3). Not only does God want his people to love and care for children, but he calls them to do everything in their power to stop those who try to hurt, abuse, or oppress them: “learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1:17). Children are a gift from God (Psalm 127:3) and a blessing; they are to be loved and protected.

Receiving Little Children

The tenderness and care Jesus showed for children during his earthly ministry is an expression of God’s heart toward the small, the weak, and the vulnerable seen throughout the Old Testament. In fact, Jesus often included children in his teaching, to the surprise of his disciples. In addition to his instruction about humility, he emphasized to the disciples that part of their duty was to receive little children, and insisted that it would be better for the person who causes a child to sin to be drowned in the sea than to continue living (Matthew 18:5–6; Luke 17:2). Later in the Matthew passage, Jesus says that children have a special place in God’s heart: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 18:10).

When people were bringing children to Jesus so that he would pray for them, the disciples rebuked these people, thinking that Jesus had better things to do (Matthew 19:13). To their surprise, Jesus insisted, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14).

Part of Jesus’s ministry on earth involved healing children. In Mark 5:39, Jesus came into the house of a ruler of the synagogue, whose daughter had just died. Jesus said that she was not dead but only sleeping. After they laughed at him, Jesus said to the child, “Little girl, I say to you, arise” (Mark 5:41). Mark recounts what happened next: “And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement” (Mark 5:42). Similarly, in Mark 9, Jesus encounters a young boy who had been having demonic attacks. Jesus commanded the unclean spirit to come out of him (Mark 9:25), and the boy fell down as if he were dead. When Jesus took him by the hand, he was healed (Mark 9:27). Jesus, who calls himself “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25), brings life and healing to children.

God’s Heart for the Vulnerable

Jesus wants his followers to honor, protect, and care for those among them who are small and vulnerable, especially children. Jesus referred to children as messengers from God and made it clear that our treatment of children speaks volumes about what we really believe about God (Mark 9:36–37).

Helping Children Who Have Experienced Trauma

As we react with shock and horror to the many ways in which children suffer trauma, we should be driven to step into these children’s lives, tangibly demonstrate Jesus’s love, protect them, and advocate for them. God’s deep love and concern for children should spur us to imitate his tender care for them and to offer them hope and a sense of safety.

The compassionate and helpful response of parents or caregivers can help children who have experienced trauma to access spiritual, emotional, and physical healing.

“How a community responds to individual trauma sets the foundation for the impact of the traumatic event, experience, and effect. Communities that provide a context of under- standing and self-determination may facilitate the healing and recovery process for the individual. Alternatively, communities that avoid, overlook, or misunderstand the impact of trauma may often be re-traumatizing and interfere with the healing process. Individuals can be re-traumatized by the very people whose intent is to be helpful.”

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Trauma and Justice Strategic Initiative, SAMHSA’s Concept of Trauma, 17.

As you seek to care for the children in your midst who are dealing with trauma, or to help others care for these children, I would encourage you to remember that you are not alone and God will have the final say. One day, he will put all things right. Until then, it is our privilege and calling to provide safety, comfort, and hope for those afflicted, and to walk patiently through this process with them as individuals made and beloved by the God who created the universe and holds it in his hands.

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Children and Trauma: Equipping parents and caregivers

Authors Justin and Lindsey Holcomb help parents and caregivers recognize the signs of trauma and guide them in stepping into children’s lives and demonstrating Jesus’s care and protection for them.

Photo by Liliana Drew from Pexels

About the author

Justin and Lindsey Holcomb

Justin Holcomb, PhD, is a minister and professor at Reformed Theological Seminary and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Lindsey A. Holcomb, MPH, works in non-profit development and is an advocate for survivors of abuse. Lindsey and Justin, conduct a variety of training seminars on parenting topics such as child sexual abuse prevention, body image, and how to talk about sex. They also provide trainings on how to prevent, recognize, and respond to child, sexual, and domestic abuse. They are the coauthors of God Made Babies, God Made In His Image, God Made All of Me, Is It My Fault?, Rid of My Disgrace, and the minibook, Children and Trauma.

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