It has been my privilege to counsel an 11 year old recently who has abuse in her past. While we often think that children need a different approach to counseling (and we certainly want to tailor our teaching and interaction to the understanding of the child), it’s my observation that children struggle with the same desires adults struggle with, they are lured by the same lies that adults fall prey to, and they find hope in the same source adults find hope – in our Lord and Savior.
I’ve been struck anew during this counseling opportunity, with the profound thoughts and questions in an 11 year old’s soul.
Early in our counseling, I asked this precious child, Audrey, to draw a picture for me of her relationship with God. The picture she drew was heart-wrenching. Her picture had four frames. In frame one, she depicted kneeling by her bed to pray to God. In frame two, she showed God responding to her prayer by saying, “Hmm… her. Her prayers don’t matter.” In frame three, she depicted herself searching for answers by reading the Bible, questioning why she couldn’t find answers. In her final frame, she drew God responding to her Bible study by asking, “Why should I give her answers?!”
As we discussed this, Audrey told me that she didn’t believe God responded to everyone this way, just her. She was convinced that she was different. Audrey reported that she didn’t think she was precious to God. Audrey said that God doesn’t always mean what he says in the Bible. I concluded from these remarks that it would be fruitless to immediately direct Audrey to passages which show the depth of God’s love for her. I felt certain that Audrey would be convinced that these passages might be true for everyone else, but not for her.
Along with other things, I decided to have Audrey look at the book of Job with me. Even as I directed her to Job, chapter 1, I was internally asking myself if I was being stupid. Job is not the easiest book of the Bible to digest, and here I was asking an 11 year old girl to study it.
Nevertheless, we began to look at Job who also suffered and didn’t understand what God was doing. After looking at Job 1, Audrey initially observed that God was letting Satan into her life, but, unlike Job, she was not keeping faith. Audrey also stated that Job got answers, but she doesn’t get answers.
We then looked at Job 3, where Job questions what God is doing. He doesn’t understand God.
Over the next few sessions, we continued to look at Job. We spent time in Job 9 & 10 looking at the questions Job asked God and some of the statements he made.
- Job 9:14-20 – God won’t answer my questions.
- Job 9:21 – I despise my life.
- Job 9:22 – There is no difference in how God treats the wicked or the blameless.
- Job 9:23 – God mocks the despair of innocent people.
- Job 9:25-28 – Even if I decide I’ll act like I’m happy, God will still be against me.
- Job 9:29 – Since God has already decided I’m guilty, what’s the use?
- Job 9:30-31 – Even if I tried to clean myself up, God would just make me dirty again.
- Job 9:32-35 – If I could go to court and get an impartial judge, the judge would tell God I’m good.
- Job 10:1 – I loathe my life.
I asked this 11 year old to identify where she had similar questions and thoughts. To my surprise, Audrey was able to reframe each of Job’s responses to a similar struggle in her own soul. Audrey identified that she had thoughts similar to all these things.
Eventually we moved to the end of Job and God’s response to this godly man. I observed that God didn’t answer Job’s questions, rather God revealed himself. Following this, we looked at Job’s response in Job 42:1-6.
Then Job replied to the LORD:
“I know that you can do all things;
no plan of yours can be thwarted.
You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know…
I paraphrased Job’s response in the following way: “God is at work doing things far more wonderful than I can understand or imagine. I need to trust.” As part of her homework, I asked Audrey to write this on a card and reflect on this response a number of times each day.
When Audrey came back the next week, she had done an excellent job of thinking about Job’s response, and she had made some connections with his response to her response and her life. This gave her some hope. When I assigned Audrey to continue to reflect on this paraphrase for another week, Audrey responded that she intended to write it out on another card and put the first card on the wall by her bed.
This was not the sum of our counseling. (For example, we also looked at Christ who was dearly loved by his Father, yet cried in agony on the cross, “Why have you forsaken me?”) This was a tiny snippet in a process that would take months to complete. And even when we stopped meeting, the book wasn’t closed. Audrey, like all of us, is a work in progress. God in his kindness, guides us in our walk with him, step-by-step. Audrey will probably face new questions as she gets older, just as all of us find we need to ask for more and more wisdom.
But for 11 year old Audrey, the struggles, the desires, and the hope were no different than the struggles, the desires, and the hope that we adults have. For all of us, Christ is our Light.
Join the Conversation
How have you tried to help children with their struggles? Have you seen parallels with the struggles adults face?