If I were to offer you a brand-new $100 bill, you would be happy to accept it. But what if I gave you the same bill after it had been wrinkled, stomped on, and dirtied? Would you still accept it? Of course you would. Why? Because the intrinsic value of the bill is not changed by what was done to it. The same is true for all of us. Psalm 139 says that each of us was perfectly formed by God. He knew our days before we were even born. Our value is given to us by God Himself.
Sometimes children suffer trauma. They may be exposed to danger, harm or loss, such as abuse, abandonment, exposure to disease, lack of food or water, the dangers of war or the risk of being trafficked. They are damaged—like the $100 bill. But this does not change their value. They are still equally valuable to God, and they ought to be equally valuable to us.
Here are six things you can do to begin helping these children to see their value.
Love them—Loving children seems easy, but vulnerable children can be difficult to love. They often respond emotionally, expressing fear, loneliness, anger, rejection, loss of identity, worthlessness, shame, abandonment or sadness. They may exhibit behaviors such as deceitfulness, hurting others, acting out, disruptiveness, selfishness, lying, withdrawal, escape and manipulation. But loving them in spite of their behavior helps them to understand that they are valued.
Listen to them—The stories these children tell are hard to hear. And sometimes they don’t really want to share them. Don’t force them to tell their stories; instead, give them the opportunity. Sometimes sharing the pain is the first step to healing.
Learn from them—As vulnerable children get to know you and begin to share their pain, be sure to listen. Hearing about their situations and needs will help you to understand how you can best help them.
Allow them to hurt—You can’t take their pain away. Saying things like “Don’t cry! Everything will be okay!” or “I know you are hurting, but you need to move on” do more harm than good. Healing is often painful, so give the children space and time to hurt—and let them know you understand that their pain is real.
Laugh with them—Vulnerable children have been robbed of their childhood. They haven’t been allowed to experience the joys that come with being young! Finding ways to laugh with them and help them to experience joy is an important part of the healing process.
Lead them—You may not be trained to help vulnerable children, but they do not have the authority or resources to help themselves to heal. They need someone to act on their behalf. Discover what each child needs and guide him to the help that will lead to healing. That might mean giving care for physical hurts or finding counseling to help him overcome emotional hurts. These children need trusted adults in their lives who can lead them through the healing process.
And most importantly, pray for them. Only God can bring true healing, so share your heart with the Lord. Allow Him to give you the strength and wisdom you need to minister to these valuable children.