Spiritual Impact of Abuse on Children

9 December 2021 by Wes Bredenhof

I’ve been reading this book by Darby Strickland for a few weeks now. I can only take it in small chunks because it’s so emotionally weighty. Nevertheless, it’s an important book which needs to be widely read. Chapter 11 is on “Helping Mothers and Children.” Children can be dramatically affected by abuse in the home, even when it isn’t directed right at them. Strickland points out how the majority of parents in such situations believe their children are unaware, but research has shown that 90% of them are fully aware. Strickland describes the impacts this has. In this excerpt, she describes the spiritual impacts:

To my mind, the most profound damage that childhood domestic abuse causes is spiritual damage. When children have a father who pretends to be pious but abuses them or their mother spiritually or with Scripture, the damage that is done to these children’s faith can be formidable. It is grievous when children’s hearts are immersed in an environment that provides a distorted representation of God, Scripture, and spiritual leadership.

I have seen this happen with wives who have chosen to remain married for the sake of their children. Many of those children have turned away from their faith as adults, and it is heartbreaking. Here are women who felt that, as Christians, they would help things to be better for their children if they stayed in their marriages. But now the effect that abuse has had on their children’s faith has left them deeply grieved, and they wonder if it might have been better if they had left after all.

Leaving, however, does not always produce good outcomes — nor does staying in an oppressive home mean that children are guaranteed to fall away from the faith. I have seen churches and elders tend lovingly to children who live with domestic abuse, and their words can go a long way toward representing the true gospel for these children who have seen God and his Word being distorted…

Darby Strickland, Is It Abuse?, pp.266-267