April 10, 2013

Dear Deanna: Can I Have Joy And Be Adopted?

I’ve received a lot of private letters from readers of this blog. Many of them are so thought provoking. Some issues I am admittedly not as well versed on, and  request insight from my friends in the adoptee community. I always respond and let people know I care even if it takes me a while to answer them all. I decided to start a new series here called “Dear Deanna.” From time to time I’m going to publish letters that come to me, with permission of the writers. Today's post is the first. All names and identifying info have been changed when requested. (The writer of today's letter preferred her real name be used.) Although the letters are addressed to me, I would very much like the community’s help in answering them. You may contribute your thoughts in the comments. I have invited the writers of the letters to also chime in on the comment stream anonymously or with their names -- however they feel comfortable.  Today's question is a spiritual one, from a fellow Christian-adoptee. Here we go...  

Photo Credit: LucastheExperience, Creative Commons

Dear Deanna,

I wanted ask you a personal spiritual question. I hope you don't mind. You seem like a fellow Christian adoptee who has the joy that comes only from God, in spite of also having deep struggles and pain that come with being adopted. If so, is it constant? Does it fluctuate in relation to when you're pained by adoption? I guess I'm wondering, how do you know when the joy you're experiencing is such that it comes from God and not of that of circumstances? I very much lack joy of any kind, and so I wonder how I'm even able to receive God's joy. It seems elusive to me. And if I don’t have joy how can I be of any example to others or fulfill any purpose for God?

- Jung Sun

Photo Credit: thequietscribe, Creative Commons

Jung Sun,

You bring up an excellent question. 

The first thing to realize is that having joy as the Bible speaks of (a fruit of the spirit, Galatians 5:22-23) is different from joy as the world knows it. 

Joy in earthly terms is synonymous with happiness and is emotion based. This type of joy is largely dependent upon circumstances. 

Joy that the Bible speaks of is not based on what happens or doesn't happen.  It is important to note that this type of joy does not mean denial of pain or struggle. Joy does not mean living in a fantasy world or saying you don’t have any problems, when clearly we all do -- whether adopted or not. Simply put, having the fruit of the spirit does not include checking your brain at the door or putting your head in the sand. 

You are correct that I have struggle and pain at times, some adoption related, some not. This is because all human beings face pain of various kinds, and no one is exempt. The Bible says the rain falls on the just and the unjust.

Joy as the Christian knows it exists outside of what happens to us. It cannot be given to us by circumstance or people, nor taken away by such. Joy is the fruit of the spirit, meaning produced by the Holy Spirit, and is cultivated despite our life situations. 
Did Jesus possess this type of joy? Yes. Yet He wept over Jerusalem and He anguished in the garden of Gethsemane to the point of sweating drops of blood. 

What does this indicate? Joy in a biblical sense is not a feeling. It’s a knowing. Jesus’ understanding of joy came from understanding and knowing truth, seeing the work of the Father, meditating on what God promised, and living a life of faith, hope and obedience.

Jesus went through trials and expressed pain and loss. Yet, He had joy.

You have asked if my joy is constant or fluctuates depending on pain. Well, consider that the fruit of the spirit type of joy is not simply keeping a fake smile on one’s face or finding something to smile about. I can have joy yet not be pleased with everything I experience or see around me. Joy is not gone simply because I lack a circumstantial high.

My goal is to be more like Jesus. Reading about how Jesus lived, I feel certain I can go through trials, feel and express pain and loss, yet have joy. I have this joy in understanding truth, seeing the work of the Father, meditating on His promises and striving to live a life of faith, hope and obedience.

You’ve said this type of joy eludes you. To receive the kind of joy the Bible speaks of, one thing that has been key for me is removing my imprint of anyone else in this life from my God-view. Any time I over-lay a person in this life (for example: looking at my earthly father(s) as an example of God the Father) I get all messed up. 

He is God, alone. He’s so easy to love like that. Because He’s perfect. He’s never disappointed me, left me, and He has my best interest in mind 100% of the time. It’s been easy for me to take joy in Him when I keep my relationship with Him an exclusive one.

You speak of being an example for others and fulfilling a purpose for God. Keep in mind the Apostle Paul was repeatedly beaten, imprisoned, shipwrecked, robbed, went without sleep or food and much worse and wrote an entire book about JOY. (Philippians

Did Paul have joy? Absolutely. 
Was Paul an example? Absolutely. 
Did Paul fulfill a purpose for God? Absolutely.
An intimate life with God is essential to have joy the Bible speaks of. 

Get to know Him. Not just what people have told you of Him, or the example they have lived of Him. 

Get to know Him for Him. That is what helps me receive and maintain joy amidst the struggles of life, including but not limited to, adoption.

Much love,