“A D O P T I O N S U C K S.” The cursor blinked at me as I stared at the words. I hit ‘enter’ and received several links. What I found didn’t help, but was rather like a kick when I was already down. Never mind that I should have taken my complaints to God instead of typing it into the Google search box. Never mind that I shouldn’t even have been feeling like this at all. . .
My husband and I received the calling from God to adopt three children from Ethiopia in the winter of 2005. We were in Germany during our son’s surgery awaiting the doctor’s permission for him to travel home with us to Senegal. At church that weekend, God spoke very clearly to my husband Mark. When talking about this experience, he describes a physical response to a mental “vision” from the Lord. Sitting at a German sidewalk café after church, the aroma of bratwurst and sauerkraut filling the air, my husband shared this vision with me. With some apprehension and growing joy, we pondered and prayed about the future of our family. After discussing this with our three biological children and praying with them, we decided to begin the process of adoption. Given clearance from our son’s doctor to return home, we flew home to Africa.
Almost two years later, we flew from Senegal to Ethiopia to meet our new children. Five months after that, we moved home to America and, still experiencing reverse culture shock, we were told that our adoption was now finalized and we could come and bring the children home. I could go into all of the crazy behaviors we saw and lived through during the first six years of becoming an adoptive family. However, this is not the story of a difficult adoption, though ours was not a fairytale by any means. If you have adopted older children, you have probably lived through many of the same things we did. If not, you’ve probably heard some stories on the news or have friends or family members that have had some pretty difficult experiences. I won’t go into the details or air my children’s dirty laundry; this story is about my own dirty laundry and how the God of the entire universe washed me clean.
My story is called Death by Adoption because our adoption is the means God used to change me. He desired to put my old self to death and create in me something new. Your story might be entitled Death by Depression or Death by Abortion or Death by Infertility or Death by (you fill in the blank). Your story may seem very different from mine, and you may think that God cannot forgive you or fix whatever is wrong with your situation. Whether your story of suffering has been self-induced, seeming happenstance, or clearly ordained by God, what we have in common is that God can and will work in our stories. He will bring life out of what may seem impossible to redeem: impossible to persevere through. But what we find in persevering God’s way, is that when we die to self, then and only then can we find that we are finally, truly alive.
“I can do all things…I know you can probably finish this verse. Many of us have had Philippians 4:13 memorized since childhood. Yet, do you truly believe this? Really, truly believe? I do. I have lived this verse, “through Him who strengthens me.” There is nothing impossible for God. These are not just words in a book, but words in 'the' book. What I learned in my struggles with anger, bitterness, depression, self-doubt, and doing battle with the enemy is that truly, nothing is impossible with God.
Have you had an abortion and you think that what you have done or who you are is unforgiveable? Have you struggled with feelings of anger and bitterness in your infertility? Have you felt so depressed and worthless that you cannot accept His forgiveness? I am unforgiveable too. I have struggled to love my children as God has asked me. I thought that love would come easy, but I learned that love is not a feeling of affection, but a conscious decision to do what is right for that child even if it is really hard. It is a conscious decision to continue the hard work of loving even when your child wishes you weren’t her mother. I have felt worthless and unforgiveable, but the Lord of the universe whispers in my ear in those moments that I am his beloved daughter, and with me He is “well-pleased” (Matthew3:17). At first I found it hard to imagine, that with all of my failures as an adoptive mom, I am beloved of the Father? Well, I am, in the blood of Christ, forgiven and loved by my Father. And so are you, no matter what you have done.
On Disappointment with God, Anger, Bitterness and Depression
When my husband, three biological children and I decided to adopt three children we knew that our lives would change. We knew that we would face a difficult adjustment. Mark and I read many books on adoption and learned about Reactive-Attachment Disorder (RAD); how to bond with our new children; and tried to understand many of the issues we would face as a chocolate and vanilla family. We took several internet courses and a class on adopting older children given by our adoption agency. We expected a short period of adjustment but never anticipated the heartache we were about to embrace. We thought, because we were Christians, that God would deliver us from issues like RAD, lying, stealing, and heartache.
He didn’t. The Lord of the Universe ordained this suffering for our family and I began to wonder if He truly cared for us. I became disappointed with God. I shook my fist at Him, “Why have you done this to me?” I couldn’t understand why He had called us to this life and didn’t make it easier. Can you relate to this? As a Christian I am not supposed to suffer, right?
At this point I became angry with God. “Why did You do this to my family? We stepped out in faith, did as You called us to do and You’ve let us down. What have I done to my family (because I listened to You)God?”
Bitterness followed anger and eventually led me towards depression. I struggled with finding help, but finally sought out a Christian psychologist, who suggested anti-depressants and sent me to my medical doctor. I did try that for about six months and I am sure that they helped me. However, I began to feel the Lord’s conviction that while I was suffering from PTSD and anxiety/depression, I was looking for a cure in the wrong place.
Now, please don’t take this as advice that you should not take anti-depressants. Nor should you consider yourself a weak Christian if you choose to do so. God gave our doctors and scientists who make these medications their wisdom and when needed He allows us to use them to improve our lives.
God was speaking to me when He showed me that I needed a spiritual and not a medical cure to this problem. He began to gently remind me of Peter (crucified upside down on a cross); Paul (executed with the sword by Nero); Amy Carmichael (who gave her health to save young Indian girls); Jim Elliott (martyred by Ecuadorian cannibalistic tribes); Martin Burnham (martyred in the Philippines) and so many others who gave up their lives for their faith. We are not promised an easy life when we become Christians but only that He will be with us (see Joshua 1:9). Remember Jesus’ prayer for believers in the book of John? He prays not that we might be taken out of the world, “but that [God] would protect them from the evil one” (John 17:15 NIV).
And about all of that yelling: No, He didn’t strike me with lightning! Every time I yelled at Him (He’s a big God, He can take it!) He listened patiently. When I typed “Adoption Sucks” into my computer, ignoring the help I could find in Him because I was angry; when I was lying on my kitchen floor, screaming, crying, feeling abandoned; when I would cry out to Him, ”Help me, I can’t do this alone,” He was always right there. He would never tell me, “You shouldn’t feel like this!” The Lord knew already what it was like to have to love at all costs a child who doesn’t always live up to His expectations (um, me).
And always, His peace would come, sometimes more slowly than others, but it would come indeed. I would often begin to hear His soft answering voice and imagine his knowing look. Sometimes He would remind me that I too was an adopted daughter who could be difficult at times. Other times he just held me up while I cried. Still other times He would remind me of his love for me. Always, if I let Him, He would slowly fill me with His peace. Never did He leave me nor forsake me; even when I raged against Him (see Joshua 1:5).
On God’s call
During our very dark days through the first four years of our adoption, days when we asked ourselves what we had done to our biological children, the one thing that kept us going and refusing to give up was the certainty of God’s call to this adoption. We knew that He had spoken to my husband. I knew that He had confirmed it to me many times in His Word and through His people, so there was no turning back no matter how bleak and difficult the future looked.
And always as we would pray through those difficult moments, days, and years the darkness would lift and we would see joy: our two nine year olds (the chocolate and vanilla twins) holding hands as we hiked. We could not only see the majesty and beauty in God’s creation all around us, but running joyfully before us in the hearts of those two little boys. We could feel God’s pleasure as our two eleven year olds (one bio and one adopted) seeking out, instead of avoiding, each other’s company. The day our adopted son asked Christ into his life, his physician told him that the angels were rejoicing in heaven. We rejoiced even more, knowing that this was the purpose in our suffering: that these six children would come to know the King of the Universe as Lord of their lives.
Just like our family, whatever situation you are now in is God’s call for your life. Whatever you are struggling with right now is God’s will for you and its purpose is to bring Him glory! We know that all things work together for good, for those who love God (Romans 8:28 NIV1984). Our calling was sure (2 Peter 1:10) and so is yours. Whether your suffering is ordained or allowed by God, and even if it is happening because of a wrong choice you have made, He has a plan for you. He has a plan to “prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV1984). So, if His call is sure-- and it is, you must choose.
Will you let God work in your depression, your feelings of guilt or your (you fill in the blank)? You must choose if you will remain in your frustrating circumstances or endeavor, in His strength, to bring Him glory.
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power trough his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:16-19 NIV1984)
I pray that especially in your suffering, you will come to know the God of the Universe who washed me clean. I pray that, just as he has used me as a witness to His glory and for His purpose, He will use you for an even greater purpose. And by and by, may you hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant…” (Matthew 25:21 NIV1984)