Romanticizing adoption is so very easy and tempting to do.
But adoption always involves suffering. Just ask any birthmother or a child who is one of three hundred orphans in a Chinese orphanage or an adoptive couple who has lived with infertility for years or an adoptive couple who is experiencing the high-ups and low-downs of the adoption process. Sometimes the suffering is deeply intense and ongoing—like that of an orphan languishing each day in a nightmarish orphanage—while other times it’s the heavy heart of the couple waiting to bring their child home. There is no such thing as adoption without suffering.
The same thing is true of our adoption by God. The adoption to which we were predestined (Eph. 1:5) could not have happened without Jesus redeeming us “through his blood” (Eph. 1:7). There is no such thing as being adopted into God’s family apart from the suffering of Jesus. Jesus cried “Abba! Father!” in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:36) so that we could become sons of God who cry “Abba! Father!” by the Spirit (Rom. 8:15). Our adoption necessarily involved suffering—infinite suffering.
I love windows. They allow me to sit in a small “world” (my home, for example) and look out into a big world. Through windows we can see beautiful beaches, lush green meadows, and towering snowcapped mountains.
I once sat in a small room in China looking out through a window that allowed me to see a beautiful mountain vista. I was very thankful for that window because the room I sat in was hot, humid, and confining. The window allowed me to see a “world” that I would not have seen otherwise; and it opened up for me an experience of joy that my little room could have never given me. But in order to look through that window I had to sit in a room of uncomfortable and sometimes suffocating humidity.
Our suffering now as the children of God is a window that provides us with the opportunity to get glimpses of a world more beautiful and more wonderful than can be imagined. Paul writes, “we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23). You don’t groan unless you are suffering. Happy people don’t groan. Suffering people do. Orphans groan. Poverty stricken families groan. Birthmothers groan. Adoptive families groan. A broken world groans.
But with the eyes of faith suffering people who have been given the Spirit of adoption (Rom. 8:15) can look through the window of their suffering into a future world where all things are made new. Because of the gospel, our window of suffering provides us with the opportunity to get glimpses (with the eyes of faith) of a future world that “will be set free from its bondage to corruption,” a world that will “obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21).
Yes, we still suffer, but we do not suffer as those without hope (1 Thess. 4:13-14). Because of Jesus and the gift of the Spirit of adoption, God turns our suffering into a window that allows the eyes of faith to get glimpses of what will one day be.
Though there is no such thing as adoption without suffering, for the Christian there is also no such thing as adoption without glory and unspeakable joy. Right now we live in “the sufferings of this present time” (Rom. 8:18), but there is coming a day when all who have been adopted by God through the suffering of Jesus will “be glorified with him” (Rom. 8:17). We will one day share in the glory of the resurrected Jesus. This means that the day is coming when everything sad will come untrue (Yes, Sam, everything sad will come untrue). This is the good news of the gospel. This is the hope that moves us forward in “the sufferings of this present time.”
So, whatever kind of suffering you are being confronted with in the adoption of a child (whether the “you” is the birthmother, birthfather child, or adoptive parent), don’t lose sight of the gospel. Only the gospel can fill you with fresh hope, endurance, and, yes, even joy in the midst of your heartache now. Your adoption by God has profound relevance for the adoption of a child (and all the suffering involved in it).
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