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Join us for our upcoming October 4-5 national conference in Louisville as we give a real-life, gritty look at adoption and orphan care in the world through the lens of God’s redemptive-Story of Adoption in human historyLearn more about “The Story that Changes Everything for Us and the Fatherless.” — Watch the conference trailer. — Register now!

Part 1 of this series began with the following sentence, “romanticizing adoption is so very easy and tempting to do.” As writers have the authority to do, I decided to subtitle part 2 of this series with the words, “stories without suffering are bad stories.” That’s why, in my humble opening, the TV series Breaking Bad is an excellent story. Great stories embed themselves into our hearts and minds, and take us to a place of suffering—a destination we don’t expect or really hope to visit. But, fortunately (or unfortunately), suffering changes us, either for the better or for the worse. Regardless of which way suffering changes us, we’re forever changed, never to return to the way we were. This article by Joe Bunting about Robert McKee, the famous Story Doctor, nails it:

Robert McKee: The Story Doctor

Joe Bunting: “Some people write stories where nothing much happens. The main character sits around thinking of things that happened in the past. The hero doesn’t do anything heroic.

Robert Mckee Bio Pic

“The only thing that matters in your story is what the characters do. What they think, feel, or see is just the whipped cream, peanuts, and cherry on top. The ice cream, the core of your story is what they do.

“Sometimes people think that to write a realistic story, they can’t have spectacle, intrigue, suffering, or excitement. I like what Robert McKee’s character in the movie Adaptation says when a screenwriter tells him he’s writing a movie where nothing much happens, just like life in the real world. McKee says:

“Nothing happens in the world? Are you out of your ****ing mind? People are murdered every day. There’s genocide, war, corruption. Every ****ing day, somewhere in the world, somebody sacrifices his life to save someone else. Every ****ing day, someone, somewhere takes a conscious decision to destroy someone else. People find love, people lose it. For Christ’s sake, a child watches her mother beaten to death on the steps of a church. Someone goes hungry. Somebody else betrays his best friend for a woman. If you can’t find that stuff in life, then you, my friend, don’t know crap about life!”

For your story to be realistic, something has to happen. You don’t need to have explosions, murders, or dramatic love stories, but something has to happen.

What Makes a Good Story?

And my understanding on what makes a good story is suffering—a well-written and designed inciting incident.

To say that adoption always involves suffering, well, is to state the obvious. The very fact that a loving birthmother believes that the best option for her new born is believed because something was not supposed to happened. God’s original design and intention for the family was for a husband and wife together to “Be fruitful and multiply [together] and fill the earth” (Gen. 1:28).  When birth happens outside God’s design, it always involves various kinds of suffering. .

Adoption always involves horrific suffering when child-trafficking  is deceptively disguised as legal adoption. Child-trafficking disguised as adoption is a hellish sin against one of the most vulnerable of our society.

Who do I believe is the most vulnerable and sinned against of our society in our day? The unborn who are aborted without a chance  or ability to speak in their own defense. But the suffering is not limited to the unborn child. The often desperate birthmother suffers silently with a guilt the depth of which we cannot begin to comprehend. She suffers silently, especially when it occurs to her that she could have placed the child she loved into a loving Christian family.

My Personal Story of Suffering

No one adopts a child in a historical vacuum. There is always a backstory behind the decision to adopt.

At the center of our family’s backstory is the gracious work of God through the life and death of our son Daniel, who was born on October 12, 1999, and died three years later on November 19, 2002. Between his birth and death were three years of unrelenting suffering. Since there were only a handful of days when his body was not ravaged by 40-70 successive seizures a day, I can rarely think of him without some measure of pain. But it’s through the pain of those memories that God continues to take me deeper into the gospel. So, what I would like to do today and tomorrow is share two ways that God has used this pain to show me more of Jesus.

One evening during the last week of his life, I sat down next to his bed to read Isaiah 53 in hope of finding some refuge, some relief from my inner turmoil and fear.

As I sat there reading, light broke into my heart when I read the first half of Isaiah 53:4, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.”

For three years I had witnessed my sons unremitting suffering. His suffering was my suffering. Every time I helplessly watched a seizure wreak havoc on his body pain ripped through my heart. Day after day after day, for three straight years we watched him suffer like this.

It was within that context that the gospel-light of Isaiah 53:4 broken into my heart. Suddenly I saw more beauty in verse 4 than I had ever seen before. “Surely,” I thought, “Jesus has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.” Then it hit me: “Jesus bore our griefs. He bore our sorrows. It’s remarkable enough that Jesus bore my sorrows, as heavy as I now feel them to be. To think that Jesus would do that for me! But he did more that! Jesus bore the sorrows of all of his people.  If the sorrows I am bearing are on the verge of crushing me, imagine the weight that Jesus was under when he bore all of our sorrows. Oh how Jesus has loved us!”

In those moments of meditation I experienced more of the depth of Jesus’ love than I ever had before. Although Isaiah 53:4 did not take my sorrow away that night, it tenderly, yet powerfully, upheld me with a fresh appropriation of the deep, deep love of Jesus.

Isaiah 53:4 teaches us that when Jesus came so that we might receive adoption as sons (Galatians 4:4-5), he came to bear more sorrow than we can even begin to fathom. In God’s kindness our painful experience with Daniel continues to deepen our understanding of the gospel and of the greatness of God’s adoptive love for us.

I could go on and on with examples of stories of suffering in adoption. But I’ll call it quits today. Part 3 in this series will be the suffering the biological child feels in her family that has other children through adoption. It’s real and often very pain. So stay tuned for part 3 in this series: Romanticizing adoption? Don’t do it!

  • sasha

    This series has been very helpful. I am really looking forward to todays post… hope it comes soon. :)

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