What comes to mind when you think about foster care or adoption? Generally, thoughts of difficulty, mockery, and even feelings of anxiety arise. Being adopted has a history of ridicule and ostracism. Those who fall in the category of “fatherless” may feel lost or rejected, searching desperately to find identity. The word “adoption” is often met with sympathy, commonly receiving a negative connotation. Childhood jokes such as, “You’re not a part of this family, you’re adopted,” are in truth, the complete opposite of adoption’s definition.
By taking a biblical approach to orphan care, we can see adoption for what it truly is: the greatest thing that could ever happen to us—making us heirs of the kingdom of God.1 A biblical view of orphan care shows us where our identity is truly found, and the importance of choosing God’s intended Fatherhood.
Read Isaiah 43.
As God’s children, we are defined not by our guilt, but by the grace of the One who says, “I have called you by name, you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1). God gives his people assurance that they will be restored for his glory. The character of God desires to bring his children into his kingdom, and he will bring his people home to declare his glory. God is with his people in hardships and trials, in captivity and exile, and secures them by adoptive-salvation.
“‘You are my witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the LORD’” (Isaiah 43:10-11). Similarly, Jesus calls his apostles witnesses saying, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The identity of God’s people is defined by their loyalty to God and witness of him.
My family has been involved in county foster care and the foster-adoption process for the past few years, in which time I have witnessed much pain and suffering stemming from broken relationships.
Foster care, when following its proper design, rarely ends in earthly adoption. Fostering is, however, orphan care, an act of obedience, and a glimpse of the heart of the Father.
Foster care is the result of brokenness, yet it is a process with an opportunity for grace and glory to replace the brokenness and trials.
In the interim of the biological family being unable to provide care and safety, fostering is a chance for God’s people to act as his hands and feet, care for the orphans,2 and look after the fatherless—not only when it’s convenient and fits into our perfect family dynamic, but faithfully in love, as an extension of Christ. Foster care is an opportunity to joyously serve the Lord’s children, with or without earthly adoption as the end result.
Often, foster-related doubt overwhelms my mind. How is this affecting our biological children? Is their safety being compromised? How does it affect our bonding? Should I wait until the kids are older? Is the pain of loss too much to handle? Is this causing too much stress on our family? These, along with many other questions, arise on a regular basis.
I stop and think so many lives are affected in this messy process, and wonder if choosing to take this burden on is the correct path for our family. Although these questions are all valid concerns, it’s important to stop and reflect on that line again.
So many lives are affected in this messy process.
Positively or negatively, foster care affects little one’s lives. This may be the only glimpse of Jesus’ love these children ever see. Maybe it’s the only stability they’ll ever know. Perhaps a statement or gesture we give in passing will stick with them for their entire lives. Quite possibly, we will never know the answers or the future at all, but we serve a God who does, and in knowing that, we can trust that in his unchanging nature, doing what he’s called us to is right. In dealing with issues such as trauma, identity, family, separation, loss, rejection, sacrifice, belonging, and transformation, we can be changed to better understand our unchanging Father. I love my babies in my best flawed human way possible, and yearn for the ending to be us as a family, but one of filling the kingdom of heaven with another co-heir to our abundantly loving Savior—a family more meaningful than filling the rooms of my house could ever be. We suffer with him that we may also be glorified with him. Our stories are all marred by brokenness, hurt, and sin, but end in unity, in family: sons and daughters of the Almighty King. Our Hope. Our Father.
The world’s definition of adoption vastly contrasts God’s purpose in adoption. Adoption here on earth, is such loss and gain simultaneously; gaining a new family, yet holding the weight of all the fragmented circumstances leading up to that point. We are broken people, marred by sin, confronted by the reality of separation—until adoption.
There are many parallels of the earthly adoption process with the gospel message: how we can call ourselves fellow citizens and members of the household of God,3 exchanging our old self for a new self, being given a new name, and being created in the likeness of God.4
The grace of adoption is our comfort for all eternity. Through adoption-transformation our old life has been crucified with Christ and we are now children of promise. (Galatians 2:20, 3:29).
Jesus was sent to the wilderness to be tempted by Satan5 in order to accomplish his work to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that in his perfection, he might become the propitiation for the sins of the people. In the wilderness, Satan requested Jesus prove his Sonship and deity, trying to instill doubt and misunderstanding of God’s Word.
Isaiah 43 ends with a similar request by God to prove our unworthiness of his righteousness, making evident upon examination our transgressions our complete dependence upon his grace to blot out our sins. Jesus’ response to his Sonship was to quote Scripture and proclaim truth, a foreshadowing of his victory over sin and death on the cross. Our undeserved sonship is given through Christ’s perfect life, his death, and resurrection.
In adoption, we are united with Jesus through his Spirit, making us family, just as the Spirit of the Son is united with the Father. We have one God and Father of all (Ephesians 4:5-6). The significance of our adoption is found in Christ.
We have been adopted as children of God. Our identity is in Christ. Our family is eternal. We are renamed as co-heirs with Christ, welcomed into the kingdom of God when we acknowledge in repentance our inability to rid ourselves of sin, and in faith accept the gift of Jesus Christ’s perfect, sinless life, his sacrifice in our place, and proclaim his death and resurrection as our only hope of salvation, by God’s grace alone, for his glory.
Through foster care and adoption, let the focus not be on earthly provisions, but what our God has done—salvation and adoption for eternal worship for his glory. In adoption, we are serving our purpose as children of the Lord by being submissive followers of him wherever he leads—glorifying him by submitting to his intended Fatherhood. He has adopted us. We are family. Adoption is the greatest thing that could happen.
Application and Reflection
1. Take some time to consider where your identity is found. A secure identity is found in Christ alone.
Those who find their identity in Christ live differently outwardly due to the inward transformation of their hearts. “By this everyone will know you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35 NIV). All who are in Christ have found a home through the adopting power of God, by His grace (Romans 11:11-25). All of us, no matter our background, our identity is now found in the resurrected Messiah, where we are free of slavery and liberated from fear. (Romans 8:15).
2. Consider and journal about areas in your life you are refusing to surrender obedience to Christ.
When obedience becomes difficult, it is helpful to remember the heart of our Father is good. Earthly alleviation of suffering does not make God good, as he is already perfectly good, yet at times chooses to alleviate some earthly pain because he loves and cares for us. Following Jesus means entrusting him with your family, your money, your house, your relationships, and your life. Jesus’ obedience ultimately led him to the cross, showing his complete understanding of our earthly burdens. Having a Father who says he will not leave us as orphans is encouragement to commit to obedience, even when it’s challenging.
3. Read Matthew 19:13-15.
Reflect and journal about Jesus’ response to the little children—that the kingdom of heaven belongs to them. How does Jesus view the little ones? How do you value little ones? In what ways are you able to serve the little children in your life?
Pray, asking God to secure your identity in Christ. Give thanks to God that when burdens feel overwhelming, circumstances seem unjust, and suffering increases, that he is our good, loving, sustaining Father. Pray for your heart’s alignment to your Father’s, in obedience to him. Pray for the children so valued by God that his kingdom is for these little ones. Thank God for loving us with all of himself, sending his Son in love and obedience to the point of death, not so that we would be forced or obligated to love him, but that we could be loved by him and live forever in glory with him.
Consider the same posture when foster care and adoption become difficult. When the tether of pouring out our hearts in love for these children is met with defiance from the pain of anticipated loss and attachment, choose to love without restraint as Jesus who offered his life in our place without hesitation despite the pain inviting us to be in his family would cause him. Knowing well his sacrifice would cause him unspeakable pain, he pressed on in humble obedience because he loves us, because he loves the Father, and because our Father loves us, so that we could become family by adoption.
1 Romans 8:17
2 James 1:27
3 Ephesians 2:19
4 Ephesians 4:22-24
5 Matthew 4
Photo credit: Emilee Carpenter
Gabby is a wife and a mother, both biological and through foster-adoption. She has always loved working with children. After college, Gabby worked with children with special needs, focusing on biblical literacy for age- and comprehension-appropriate levels. Foster care has since become her focus, along with adoption advocacy. She and her husband have been foster parents for several years. Gabby enjoys sharing about biblical familial roles, reading books, hosting a book club, fellowshipping, and spending time out in the sunshine with her family and their chickens.