“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
In the Adoption & Foster Care movement within the church this verse is often our go-to verse for inspiring people to take action on behalf of orphans and at-risk children. I’ve used it myself in marketing, it’s inspired me personally as an adoptive mom and there is a lot to be said about this very clear mandate from the Lord.
However, somehow in our attempt to raise the banner of God’s view of caring for the orphan our message has been interpreted as, “Everything’s going to be alright because this is ‘pure and undefiled religion’ so God’s going to take care of it all!” In other words, “This is going to be easy because I’m doing God’s work….”
What happens on the other side of this misguided understanding is often heart break, devastation and confusion. As a parent and as a pastor, I often find myself trying to comfort families who are experiencing unimaginable challenges connecting and growing. The question I’ve been asked over and over again is this, “We know we’re doing what God wants us to do, we know what the Bible says about adoption, we know all of this but don’t understand why it’s so hard! We’re miserable and feel like giving up.”
For years as I’ve worked to help families, I’ve struggled with the clear call that I see in James 1:27 and the all too real stories of foster and adoptive families who are grasping at straws to keep things together in the midst of immense trial. Then recently when my husband and I were attending a training in TX for Empowered to Connect, Michael Monroe made a statement about not ignoring the first 26 verses of James 1.
When we got back home I decided to take a good look at James 1:1-26. Why hadn’t I made this connection before? Every good ending has a beginning that sets the stage for that final dramatic moment. James 1 is no different!
Over the next few posts, I’m going to examine just a few of the insights that I’ve gained from reading James 1:1-26 and then considering the call of James 1:27:
We will endure trial.
James is pretty clear on this right at the beginning in verse 2. As a matter of fact, he encourages us to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” Trials test our faith in the same way marathon training tests our endurance – you don’t start out running 26.2 miles, you start by enduring one mile. As you train, you build endurance until eventually one mile feels like nothing. As we experience trials in life they test us and build our character, patience and endurance. We are to “count it all joy” as we experience trials because we know that it’s producing in us the steadfastness that we’re going to require to do the work of the ministry within our families. For us the trial might be a child deceiving us, throwing a tantrum, shutting down, running away or many other things. As we walk through these experiences, we must remind ourselves in the midst of the trial that we’re learning, growing and becoming better parents and better families because of this experience.
Patience is produced through testing.
Oh how I wish this weren’t so! There are many days that I moan out loud, “Who prayed for patience today?!?” because I know that patience is produced through practice and the practice usually comes in human form living within the four walls of my house. Verse 4 so beautifully points out that we are to let patience have its perfect work so that we can be perfect and complete – lacking nothing. It’s the “letting” that gets hard. Because when you’re dealing with yet another argument it’s just easier to check out than it is to let the trial form patience within you. It is our goal as Christ-followers to become fully perfected in the image of Jesus; James is simply guiding us in an understanding that patience produced through trial is the pathway to perfection. As we move toward wholeness and maturity as believers we cannot overlook the transforming power of trials in our lives – for us, for our children and for our family.
To close today’s post, I’m encouraged to know that the “pure and undefiled religion” of foster care/adoption is created to make us better, stronger and more patient. It’s comforting to know that not only is God with me in the journey, He’s orchestrating our success as a family by making use of every sour moment to grow us closer to Him and to one another.
I’d love to hear how some of your sour moments have turned out to be some of the best experiences of your journey. Feel free to comment and share your story!
….continued with Part Two.