A few days ago, I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed and saw a comment on a link for a ministry to traumatized children that broke my heart. An adoptive parent was asking where the ministry was for families who have been traumatized by bringing a traumatized child into their home. This is something I once thought was very rare in adoption, but not anymore. When my own family joined the ranks, I was overwhelmed to discover how many families there are just like ours. Fighting in the trenches. Hurting because of the hurt their adopted child brought into their home. And we do so desperately need to be ministered to.
It is a grief and heartache like no other to joyfully look forward to adopting a child, with visions of a bright future for them, only to get them home and to see the exact opposite unfold. To watch dreams of hope and healing for one traded for the reality of heartbreak and hurt for all. Those who have not experienced it cannot understand it. And because it is so hard to understand, many families who are going through it remain silent. Alone in their pain, with a fear of being judged. It is to these families that I write today. In my moments of crying out to God…in agony, frustration, anger, and hopelessness… on behalf of my traumatized family he has been faithful to minister to me with his word. And I want to pass on a bit of that ministry to my hurting counterparts.
1. You are precious to God. I remember so clearly the calling to adopt. Knowing that God had entrusted me to steward this life was so humbling, yet such an honor. My desire was to please him and steward this child well. I can also clearly recall the day I began to feel like an adoption failure. I was disgraced. Like Adam and Eve in the Garden, I tried to hide from God in my shame. But just like them, he found me. I never really understood the love of my heavenly Father until I was broken…by my accounts…beyond repair and he whispered to my heart:
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
–Romans 8:35, 37-39
Nothing. Nothing. NOTHING. will ever separate us from the love of Christ. Our worth in his eyes is not dependent upon our success. Our worth was determined at the cross, when the greatest act of love in history was displayed and a perfect savior gave his life up for ours. John 19:30 records that Jesus’s final words on the cross were “It is finished.” and my beloveds, it was. There is nothing we can do to make God love us more…or LESS…than the day his son uttered one final breath and gave up his spirit. We are precious to him because of the cross. And because of the cross, we can draw near to his throne of grace with confidence to find mercy and help in our time of need (Heb 4:16). Anything that keeps us from running to the arms of God when we are hurting is a TOOL OF SATAN to keep from having the abundance that Jesus came to give us (John 10:10). We have NOT been rejected by God because our adoptions are not fairytales. He literally thinks we are to die for and wants us to bring our pain to him.
2. Make sure you’re fighting the right enemy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard an adoptive parent say “this is killing us” or “this is destroying us” in reference to their battle in the adoption trenches. I’ve said it plenty of times myself. A traumatized family is certainly under fire and in a battle for survival. However our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph 6:12). The actions of the traumatized child in your home may be what are constantly driving you to your breaking point, but your battle is not against that child. That child did not enter your home with the intent to kill or destroy you and your family. However we do have an enemy that comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). That is the enemy for us to fight. I’m not saying that adoptive parents shouldn’t safeguard their home and put boundaries in place to protect their family. God has not called us to be foolish. But when our family has the flaming arrows of the evil one raining down on us, we need to put on the armor of God (Eph 6) and fight the true enemy. It is much more natural for our sin natures to battle in the flesh than it is to battle in the spirit, but this is a spiritual battle.
3. Remember the Sabbath. Or in other words, take the time to rest. The second chapter of Genesis contains God’s establishment of rest. The third chapter of Genesis contains the fall of man. Our need to take a break is not a result of our sinful state; it is a part of the created order. We as humans were not built to run non-stop. All of us need to make divinely appointed rest a priority in our lives in order to function at the capacity in which God intended, but this especially applies to families who are experiencing trauma. We cannot keep trudging on and pushing through. Respite in some form or another is necessary. It can take many forms, but you need to find one that works for your family and implement it. Date nights, romantic getaways, parent/child outings that nurture the other hurting kids in your home, camps, sleepovers with trusted friends…there are a myriad of options. They may require that you humble yourself and ask for help from others, but your family needs you to.
This list is by no means exhaustive. I have learned too many lessons through my wrestlings with God to share them all here. But the three truths above are the ones I would have to say have made the biggest difference for me. It is my sincerest hope that God uses them to make a difference in your life as well. Please know that I’m praying for each of your hurting families…from here in the trenches.