by Jeanette Dart
The girl curled up in a ball on the bed in the room where she slept. It was hard, and it hurt. This family seemed nicer than the last few. She hadn’t been hit yet, and the man hadn’t made any passes at her, but it still hurt. She could see the anger and the frustration in both the grown-ups and the other kids. She could see how they looked at her. It hurt.
Somehow, somewhere the thought—no longer a hope, not a confident expectation at all, but just a thought—lingered inside her that it should be different. It ought to be that there was some love for her, someone to hold her when things hurt, someone safe, someone who loved her just as she was and accepted her, some safety that wouldn’t go away or end. A safe relationship. That ought to be for all of us.
Working at peace
Many of you know the story that Jesus, God’s Son, came into the world and was born as a baby. He lived and then died on a cross for all of us. He died because we are sinful, not perfect. He suffered the punishments that we know we deserve for the things that we have done. After three days, God raised Jesus from the dead—demonstrating a new and eternal life. God loved us, and it was while we were still sinners that He sent Jesus to die for us so that we could be adopted into His family, adopted forever, because of the eternal life that Jesus won for us. Eternal—forever!
I know this story. I was raised in a Lutheran family. I was baptized—that wonderful ceremony where God marked me as His own, as one died for by Christ, purchased and won, promising to hold on to me forever and never let me go. That sounds a lot like the permanence of adoption, doesn’t it?
But I have often struggled and wondered if it didn’t take for me. I see and hear other people talk as if Jesus were their constant companion. They seem so at peace. Life may seem to fall apart around them, but they glow. They have joy.
But some of us struggle to find that joy. We have to work so hard at trying to be peaceful that it really gets to be exhausting. We work, and we give up. Instead of joy and peace, we experience fear and anger when we think of God, and that seems so backwards.
It is backwards.
Because the Lord says so
Why do some of us struggle so? God Himself knows the answer fully. He knows why we come to the next relationship, the next part of life, and also to our relationship with Christ as broken and injured.
We desperately want the peace, the joy, the unconditional love about which we have heard, but we are injured. We may not know how to see, let alone receive, the love God has for us. A little boy avoids any touch in his new adopted home because hard blows were the only touch he knew before. A wife, raped by another, shudders at her husband’s touch. A child, previously neglected, scarfs down food, not trusting that in this home there will be meals to eat. We are shaped, or misshaped, from how God meant us to be by the events of our lives.
Does this question come up in your head? Why did You let it happen, God? Why didn’t You step in and stop it? You could have, and You didn’t. Oh, sure, God, You kept it from being worse, but why didn’t You stop it completely?
Job, in the Bible, asked those questions and perhaps even got mad at God because of all his suffering. God finally answered Job. He didn’t tell Job why. He just said that He was God. It is a hard answer to receive, but God praised Job for talking to Him while getting mad. That is different than most of the situations where we hurt. Normally, talking about the hurt is frowned on in our society, even in our churches. But God doesn’t do that.
He holds us close.
He hurts with you
The family of the girl from the story? Their side of the story looks different than hers. The frustration she saw in the parents was their pain. They chose to adopt her, and they wanted to comfort and hold her, especially because of the pain in her past. The mother is frustrated each time she sees the girl hide her feelings or duck when she expects a blow. The father looks frustrated, but really he is just trying to contain his anger each time she fearfully slips by him. He wants to find and pound the previous “father” who did this to her. The other children are confused by her separating herself from them; they want to get to know their sister. They all hurt with her even though she is completely unaware of it.
God loves us like this. He weeps for those of us who want so desperately to know that He loves us. We might not feel it. We might not feel it ever. God took out His anger at those who harmed you when He poured out His anger on Jesus at the cross. He hurts with you and for you when you feel abandoned by Him or lash out in anger at Him. He draws you to Himself in Christ, even if you can’t tell.
Some people say time heals all wounds, but perhaps it is more that as time passes, the wound is not as big a part of your life. For my part, I wish God would simply take the pain away. I think He does for some people, but I trust that if He doesn’t remove it sooner, at least when I die or Christ returns, I will finally know and feel and sense it completely, that I am loved, fully, completely and unconditionally. Lord Jesus, come quickly!
But even as my lips and thoughts form the words, I remember. I remember the people I know who will be spending eternity in the lack of acceptance and love, the fear, the pain of being apart from God. And there are many more that I don’t know. Perhaps God can use pastors and laymen and those of you who also feel like foster children to talk to the other foster children in the world. We know something of their pain that joy-filled, peacefilled children of God can’t always understand.
God loves you. You are precious to Him. When you don’t feel it, and you weep and even cower inside yourself for fear and loneliness, He weeps with you. Our struggles do not mean that we are not saved. In the same way that the court declared the girl adopted—a part of the family— God marks you in Baptism as His own.
It is a wonderful thing to have that adoption certificate hanging on your wall to remind you whose you are, especially if you are like me—a baptized and adopted child of God who feels like a foster kid.
> “Evil and suffering are in the world because of sin” (Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation).
> “All human misery originates in sin, which itself is the biggest misery” (Löhe on Mercy).
> “Christ voluntarily humbled himself in order to ‘redeem me, a lost and condemned person,’” (Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation).
About the Author: Jeanette Dart is a member of Pilgrim Lutheran Church, Spokane, Wash.