By Vicky Stinziano
1. Caring for vulnerable children reveals your need to be rooted in the word of God.
Bringing children that are in need into your home is exciting. It’s an extraordinary privilege and a wonderful calling. It’s important to know up front, though, that the process can be intense and unpredictable. It quickly brings about a heightened awareness of our dependence on God and it illuminates our need for faithfulness in our pursuit of the Lord. Caring for vulnerable children exposes our desperate need to be in God’s word. It’s a priority we must fight for even, and especially, in the chaos of bringing in a new family member.
We need to know and be able to trust the Lord’s character. We must know that His sovereignty is sure, His ways are good, His grace is extravagant, and that His justice will prevail. As we step out from our semblance of order, predictability, and comfort, into the world of the marginalized child, we must be able to lean hard into the truths of who God says He is. Knowing that His perfect will is what is best, tethers us as we depend on Him and find our footing in the midst of uncertainty.
"For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope."
2. Caring for vulnerable children requires you to obey the word of God.
Not only do we need to know Scripture, but we also need to hear and obey what it says. The Lord’s instruction is perfect, right, refreshing, enlightening, clarifying, and comforting. His commands are for our good. If there is any hope for joy, any hope for flourishing, any hope for fruitfulness, there must be faithfulness… faithfulness to seek the Lord and faithfulness to do just what He says. It’s not enough to just know Scripture, we must seek His help in following it. We need His daily guidance as we strive to become more like Him. Our kids need us to be practicing wisdom such as “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1) and commands like “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10). It’s not enough to have the word in our heads without allowing it to affect our hearts. Our children need kind eyes and gentle care. Only by living into what the Lord has put before us can we effectively minister to the kids in our homes. God, in His word and through the power of the Holy Spirit, has given us everything we need for life and Godliness. We must be prepared to seek and obey Him. He is our stability as we live by faith.
"Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great."
3. Caring for vulnerable children is a call to discipleship.
"For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith."
Bearing another’s burdens, sowing spiritual truths, doing good to one another… these are all aspects of caring well for a child in need. Children come into our homes with a history and these histories, these traumas, can present as burdens. As disciple-makers, we have the privilege to help carry those burdens… those hurts, those behaviors, those triggers. We must understand the gravity of what we have been entrusted with… day-to-day opportunities to sow spiritually, to show grace, lend perspective, to demonstrate a gentleness that can’t be found anywhere but in the work of the Holy Spirit. It’s a spiritual labor; an intentional work, a sacrificial offering, and often, a costly endeavor. But the Lord is kind in His word to exhort us to press on! Don’t give up. Scripture gives full acknowledgement of the wearying effects that good works will have on us and calls us to continue anyway. It will be worth it. His word promises this. There will be fruit to reap and we don’t want to miss out.
4. Caring for vulnerable children may stretch you to love beyond your capacity.
Sometimes vulnerable children come into our home as beautiful, angelic newborns that we instantly fall in love with. But, that is not always the case. Sometimes the children are challenging. They come angry and sad. They come extremely hurt. They come irrational and erratic. They come with survival strategies and manipulation. They come difficult to love and difficult in general.
But Jesus calls us to love not only those that are easy to love, but also those that are most difficult. He calls us to generously love even our enemies. It seems safe to say that with those being the parameters, everyone in our lives falls somewhere on that spectrum.
27 “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
Love your enemies… do good…. expect nothing… for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil man. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
This is possible only through the work of the Spirit. We call on the Spirit to help us remember who we were outside of Christ and to overwhelm us with the love that has been lavished on us. As we consider His love for us and act with kindness, the Lord is faithful to turn our hearts, break our hearts, and change us. We practice His love and it is perfected in us.
5. Caring for vulnerable children exposes your own brokenness.
This just can’t be overstated.
Caring for vulnerable children can be exhausting, frustrating, and completely out of our comfort zone. This ministry brings you out into a different terrain… what can often seem to be a much darker terrain. There is a dual work that this call affords. Not only does the light of Christ go forth as we serve in His name, but the call also brings to light what lays in the depths of our own hearts. As intensity rises in our circumstances, so also can our flesh rise. Our own issues and brokenness are most certainly revealed. The call is too emotional and too intense for our own sinful natures not to surface.
We must be prepared to find out just how desperately we need the grace of the Father. How we react, how we calculate, what plays on our feedback loop… these distinguish whether we’re keeping in step with Spirit or trying to survive in the flesh.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires."
Our frustration, anger, impatience, and desire to control, all reveal what we value, what we believe, and what kingdom we’re building. Our reactions and responses will expose what we believe about God, what we believe about ourselves, and what we believe about our relationships. The call to this sort of emotional intensity is guaranteed to unearth your sinful nature. The beauty of the cross is that the grace of Jesus Christ is already present the very moment of repentance. Not only that, but this process of repentance can fuel a greater capacity for the grace you extend to your children- as you come to terms with how very similar all of our shortcomings are.
6. Caring for vulnerable children will be difficult.
"Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; Your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and the speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail."
Isaiah 58:6 -11
There will be scorched places.
It will be hard. We live in a broken world filled with broken people, broken systems, and broken hearts. And that is the world we’re called to minster to, to pour ourselves out for, to bleed for, to cry out for. It’s a Gospel undertaking and we can’t be caught off-guard when it’s harder than we thought it would be. We can’t be discouraged when it doesn’t go the way it seems it should. It’s Kingdom work and therefore will require Kingdom faith and Kingdom perspective. And so, we see it through. We keep going until the Lord says to stop. We trust His providence and His refinement. The difficulties don’t change the call, but rather make room for the Lord to change us.
Frustrations and sorrow are part of the mission, but the Lord ministers to us there. In the middle of our brokenness, our hunger, our pain, our darkness, we see Him care for us. We see His light rise and we find that He alone can satisfy, renew, and make strong… perhaps most fully in our scorched places
*Be sure to check out the following resources:
-The Beauty and Brokenness of Foster Care by Jason Johnson
-The Connected Child by Dr. Karen B. Purvis Ph.D., and David R. Cross,
Ph.D., and Wendy Lyons Sunshine
-The Whole-Brained Child by Daniel J. Siegal, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson,