Relationship Connection: My daughter is having a faith crisis

Question

About two years ago, my daughter, 11 at the time, suffered something terrible. It broke her and our family. I have tried to “counsel” her. I’ve been her supporter through it all. She did have professional counseling, but stopped because she felt it wasn’t helping.

She has asked me, “Why did God let this happen to me? Why didn’t He stop it?” And I do not have an answer for her. I have asked my church friends, and they talk about our having free will and it’s in God’s plan, but these “answers” hold no comfort for my daughter. I don’t know how to show her that God loves her and cares about her. She says she does not believe any more.

Answer

My heart breaks for your little girl. Trauma at any age is awful, but it’s especially difficult to watch a child grapple with their loss of innocence at the hands of an abuser. Children are so trusting and simple in their view of the world. I’m sorry to hear she had to experience something so life altering.

Her questions are actually very normal for anyone who has been abused or betrayed. The concept of God or a Higher Power helps most people feel safe and protected, especially when difficult things happen. However, when someone has a traumatic experience that completely overwhelms his or her ability to cope, it’s common to begin questioning everything, including the reality of a God.

We ask these difficult questions because we want to know what we can trust. Trauma is unpredictable and completely changes our perception of the world as safe and orderly. For most people, God is part of that order in the world. When everything is turned upside down from a betrayal, it’s common to wonder what is real and what is true.

Unfortunately, most well-meaning people don’t tolerate these types of questions very well and begin providing trite answers that are really attempts to decrease their own anxieties. I’m glad to know that you aren’t pretending to have the answers. Pretending is lying and that would be insulting and dismissive to your daughter. She doesn’t need any additional confusion right now, especially from her mother. She’s looking to you for safety and stability in a world that was turned upside down. Admitting that you don’t know will help her feel safe, even though it doesn’t answer her question.

Admitting you don’t know the answers to her questions does answer one fundamental question. She wants to know if she can count on you to be there for her. She needs to know now, more than ever, that she isn’t alone and that you can be trusted. As you give her room to ask hard questions and wrestle with uncertainty, she is learning that the world isn’t completely unsafe. She is learning that at least one person can be counted on to protect her. Your presence and protection gives her something that is bigger than any explanation you could give her at this point.

You might consider having her attempt counseling again with a trauma specialist. There are effective trauma protocols, such as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Lifespan Integration, Somatic Experiencing, play therapy, and other research-based techniques that are highly effective in resolving traumatic symptoms. Talk therapy isn’t always the best route to pursue, especially for children.

Stay close to her and show her that she is safe. It will take time for her nervous system, brain, body, and heart to all realign. You’re doing more for her than you may realize. You don’t have to have all of the answers. Your presence is a large part of the answer to her biggest questions.

 

Stay connected!

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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5 Comments

  • 42214 March 2, 2016 at 11:14 am

    Maybe she just had a youthful reality check. Good for her.

  • ladybugavenger March 2, 2016 at 12:58 pm

    That’s the number question, isn’t. If God is a living God than why did this or that happen.

    She will know one day. We all have to find this answer for ourselves

    There is evil roaming around like a lion seeking whom he can devour. The devil doesn’t win but he will knock us down, turn us about and make us stumble if we let him. That’s where true faith comes in. Jesus died for us. Beaten, bruised, and suffered until death so we can have eternal life.

    That’s what she will realize one day. The devil is real just like Jesus is. But in the end, the devil loses. She will see, if you let her. To Gos be the glory!

    Perhaps the Mormon church does not teach this and that’s a problem. Stop being Mormon and be a Christian, throw the Book of Mormon away and get that Bible out!

    • radioviking March 3, 2016 at 10:22 am

      What specific story or verses in the Bible help in this situation?

      • izzymuse March 5, 2016 at 11:43 am

        Looks ladybug can’t find any Bible verses worth reading. Hmmmm?
        .
        *crickets-crickets *
        –awkward silence—

  • anybody home March 2, 2016 at 3:57 pm

    Questions arise…you don’t say specifically in the Question from the Mother part that the girl was abused, but you do say this in your answer, so I’ll take that to mean it was physically abuse, probably sexual. Was it a member of the family – someone close to her? I can tell you flat out that years of therapy does not take this away. Abusers have no idea the harm they do. The best you can hope is that this girl will learn to live with what happened and to make it less and less the focus of her life. But it won’t be quick and it won’t be easy. Therapists who specialize in this field will tell you more. Anyone who has been through this will suffer serious PTSD, including flashbacks, sometimes for years.

    This child has lost much more than her faith in God and it will affect her for years to come.

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