Social worker and author Heather Forbes said: “The most important ‘nutrients’ our children need are unconditional love, acceptance and validation.” While she’s writing from a secular standpoint, her point is spiritually astute.
Children are fragile despite their insistence that they can handle whatever comes along. The scars of abuse and rejection that children all over the world endure is staggering.
Sadly, even in many good homes, children don’t receive the fundamental things their hearts and souls require. We all need these nutrients so much that the lonely will invent them or invest in an inanimate object if necessary.
Christians will claim Forbes’ list is incomplete because it neglects the spiritual. But that’s not exactly true.
God constantly assures his children that they’re loved (1 John 4:10; Jeremiah 31:3; Romans 8:35-39). Moreover, we had to know that we’re accepted by the Lord (Ephesians 1:4-6).
While spiritual acceptance is contingent on faith, God has lovingly created us in his image (Genesis 1:27) in a beautiful world where all spiritual blessings are available to us (Ephesians 1:3). In these gifts we find a measure of acceptance and validation as humans (John 3:16).
Likewise, children need unconditional love, acceptance and validation before they feel safe to step out on faith.
Unconditional love is strangely rare in parenting. We should love our children without question no matter what happens. Their actions are separate from who they are. While we may not be able to accept all their beliefs and behavior, we should never stop loving them.
Changing from a fleshly to a spiritual worldview is an enormous change. Children must know that we’re there to educate, encourage, console and comfort them along the way. When their basic needs are met, the environment is ready for growth.
The child that can trust God when they don’t trust the most important people in their lives is exceedingly rare. For the rest, God may be too far away.
Church leaders need to remember that Christians in a congregation must know they’re in a safe, loving, accepting environment. If God is there, these qualities should be, as well (1 John 4).