If a child was abused and God didn’t answer their prayers for protection, how can we help them develop faith now?
Transcriber: Suresh Gupta
Question: If a child was abused and God did not answer their prayers for protection, how can we help them develop faith now?
Answer: Whenever we want to develop faith in God or question his existence, we need to understand God and how He works? God has created systems in this world for our protection and sustenance and usually he offers his care and attention to us through those systems. It is very heart-breaking to hear when a child has been abused. Such abuse can leave permanent emotional scars on them. At the same time, we all need to recognise that God has given everyone free-will but unfortunately, people can misuse their free-will. Humans misuse their free-will and humans also create systems to protect others from such misuse and victimisation. They also need to take the initiative to protect themselves. For example, if thugs beat up someone on the street then it is for other people to stop the thugs or, the person being victimised needs to run or call for emergency or do what is required to protect himself.
In case of children, they have very little intelligence or strength to protect themselves but then children also have guardians who are meant to be very available and protective. If a child has been abused, then it is important that the child be alerted and trained by the parents to report that abuse. Unfortunately, we live in a society where perverted individuals or those who are psychopaths or sociopath prey upon the weak and helpless. People in close family or extended family, whom we would normally trust, turn out to be the ones who betray our trust and commit horrendous abuses. Therefore, belief in God or the expectation from God that he should act as a replacement for the breakdown of human system of protection and rectification, is an unrealistic expectation. When things go wrong at human level, then things need to be rectified at human levels. A child praying to God when in pain; is good, but the child also needs to go to the doctor.
Abuse is not like shame or sickness, it involves element of shame, horror and trauma because the children may feel that they did something to agitate the other person and attract the abuse and unwittingly think that they deserved it. Unfortunately, abuse is widespread in today’s society and it is important for parents to educate the children about “what comprises abuse” and to make them feel safe in reporting anything that they may feel as abuse. This culture of alerting people needs to be created in schools, families, society otherwise children may suffer in silence and it can leave life longs scars on them.
But then, what is God’s role? Is it that when the human system fails then we may turn towards God and expect God to intervene? Well, God also intervenes often through a human agent. In exceptional situations, God may intervene by super-natural or para-normal means or by personal manifestations but often God sends help through a human agent. As a story goes, a man was drowning, and he prayed to God for help. A fisherman riding on a boat asked this man to enter his boat but he rejected his proposal saying God will help me. Here, God is helping this man and responding to his prayers by sending this rescue boat. Hence, if there has been abuse, it is definitely unfortunate and heart breaking, but the one who has been abused needs to take the initiative to seek protection and to counter that abuse and whoever helps him in countering that abuse, they should see them as agents of God’s grace.
The fact that an abused child is still alive and in adulthood indicates that he has certainly gone through some positivity in his life, somebody has been besides him, otherwise they could well have been so traumatised that they might have ended their lives. Tragically speaking, there are so many cases where children end up their lives due to such abuse.
We find that we can never be grateful for all the situations in life, but we can be grateful in all the situations. Thus, whoever has helped us survive and grow; we can see them as agents through whom God has acted to respond to our prayers. It is not that God does not hear or does not care for us, but he responds in ways that are often different from our expectations.
Most importantly, rather than seeing God as the “preventer of sufferings” or “protector from sufferings” we can also see him as the “healer amidst sufferings”. Some sufferings are unavoidable and analysing their specific causes can help us prevent their repetition but sometimes we get stuck with the why questions – Why such a thing happened to me? Why did this person act like this? Why God did not intervene? Such questions are simply expressways to frustration. Rather than tormenting ourselves with such questions which have no answers, we can see God as healer and change the inner question from why to how. For example, how can we move forward now? How can I do something positive now? If we see God as the healer, then we find that there is tremendous healing available for us in whatever situations we may find ourselves in.
Hence, connecting with God through prayers, through meditations, through spiritual wisdoms, can help us gain inner calmness and clarity by which we can make the best of whatever situations we may have faced in the past.
God is like a physician who wants to help us heal but if we are obstinate to know why a particular disease infected us, the approach becomes difficult. If we are consulting a physician and get a disease then rather than blaming the physician for not warning us or protecting us from the disease, if we take the prescribed medicine then we will be healed. Similarly, if we turn towards God then whatever maybe our past, we can move forward, grow and ultimately be healed.
We can use the acronym ACE (Around, Combat, Emerge) to see God’s grace in such terrible situations.
Around: Look for the good around the bad. Indeed, it is unfortunate that bad things have happened in our life but whatever good that has happened in our life, we can see it as God’s grace and can appreciate how God has helped us in all those phases. It may not be about specific abuse but overall in other aspects of our life where there has been good, we can see it as God’s grace.
Combat: We look for the good that can help us counter the bad happened to us and then accordingly deal with it. We can do this with the help of a supportive family or understanding counsellors who are trained, or we look back at something positive that we did which helped us gain a sense of self-worth.
Emerge: Look for the good that may emerge from the bad. Sometimes life breaks our bones but the places where we are broken are often where we become strongest. Many people have found the deepest meanings and purpose to their lives through sufferings that they have gone through and we too can get a similar insight. We do not have to, in anyway, see the bad thing as good but we can see that from this bad thing some good may emerge that will help us be distinctively, uniquely prepared for special contribution in our life. We can deal with the fire of abuse that we have gone through in the past by the positive direction of thoughts. If we connect with God through prayers, through meditation, through devotion, through worship, then we will find that this redirection will become much easier.
At an intellectual level, we may think we can do redirection ourselves, but the intellectual level is often not enough to counter emotional power. However, if we have spiritual power then it becomes easier and this comes by connecting with the supreme spiritual power of God and we find that God’s love and God’s grace are still available for us to create a better life for ourselves.
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