November 27, 2013

When Adoptees Are Chastised to "Just Be Grateful"

Adoptees are often chastised that we just need to be thankful or grateful, particularly when we share our feelings or speak out for reform in adoption.

A reader posted this at the Adoptee Restoration Facebook page this week:

In answering Elizabeth’s question, I want to share with you one of the most important truths I know.
I don't have to stop being grateful because some people, (sadly even fellow adoptees at times), have chosen to pervert the subjects of thanks and gratitude, utilizing them for something other than their God-given purpose.

It’s essential to know this truth and many people -- even some Christians do not fully understand this.

This is at the core of what I believe and why I am able to trust God with my life.

I know this may come as a shock to you, but...

John 10:11 Jesus says…

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.

James 1:17
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

He is good and perfect. And He gives good and perfect things. He does not change.

Misinformed and hurtful statements are shared that often reveal to us that some people do not understand the goodness of God.

“You’re adopted? Well, give thanks! We’re all adopted, anyway, in Christ. Just be grateful you weren’t aborted..."

“Your husband cheated and left you for another woman? Well, be thankful it happened now and not later on in your life.  You still have time to find someone else. Everything happens for a reason.”

“You’re sick? Just thank God it isn’t worse. So many people face worse things than you are facing.”

Dismissive statements such as these serve no purpose but to magnify pain.

Photo Credit: A. Futlilini, Flickr
Who Creates the Trauma?

God gets blamed for so much he never orchestrated! Sometimes it’s stupidity and sometimes it’s the devil.

“People ruin their lives by their own stupidity, so why does God always get blamed?”   Proverbs 19:3

The Bible says in John 10:10 that Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy but Jesus comes to give us life and life to the full.

God doesn't cause trauma.  

Everywhere scripture talks of a mother and child separation, God refers to it as a tragedy. God never planned for anyone to leave their child, and considers it a tragedy when they do. If he didn’t think it was tragic, it wouldn’t always be accompanied by the promise of comfort. 

He loves us and He is good. So much of our resting in His love depends on us grasping this truth. How can you rest in the love of a Savior who you believe responsible for creating the trauma in your life?

Well the fact is, He didn’t. Allowing something is different than causing it. He was never a part of creating the separation from your birth parents, but some people think He plans this trauma from the very beginning. And I’m here to tell you, God is for you. He loves you. He didn’t cause the trauma in your life. But He is here to help you through it.

So first of all, relax in His love.
Know that He is for you. And He is with you.
And when you go through trials, He cries with you.
Because God hates it when you hurt.

To learn more about the difference between allowing and causing, and free will and how it affects our lives, I encourage you to read this post I shared a while back. It concerns how I came to terms with God’s involvement, or lack thereof, in my adoption.  

Photo Credit: luidude, Flickr
Words Are Important...Even Little Ones!

Now, to the most important word we’re going to talk about all day. Only a two letter word but it packs a powerful punch.

“In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
I Thessalonians 5:18

I love words.
Words are so powerful.

There’s a difference between in and for.

Let’s say I’m in a car wreck and I lose family members. What a tragedy.

I can continue giving thanks to God as I’m in the midst of that circumstance. But God does not require me to give thanks for it.

I have literally been in services where the preacher said, “Did you just wreck your car? Throw up your hands and praise the Lord!”


Seriously, preachers like that need therapy or to go back to seminary.

I am not thankful for a car wreck.
I am not thankful for pain.
I am not thankful that someone I  love has cancer.
I am not thankful that significant loss comes.
I am not thankful for complicated grief or complex trauma.

But I can praise God in the midst of my pain.

I can bless the Lord at all times, not for the bad times, but in the bad times. 

Here's that powerful little word again...

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28

Notice that Romans 8:28 does say that all things are good.

God does not expect us to say:

This car wreck is good.
This death is good.
This rejection is good.
This divorce is good.
This relinquishment is good.
This abuse is good.
This abandonment is good.
This plan B is good.

He doesn’t promise that all things we face in life will be good.

He did, however, promise that He will be with us whether things are good or bad.

John 16:33 

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

He simply says that all things (whether good or bad) will be worked together for good.

How do we know God will use our sufferings, to shape us and to make it possible for us to change the world?

He promises it. Again and again.

Romans 5:3-4
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. 

There’s that “in” again.

IN is a huge word! It’s one of the biggest words in the world!

Photo Credit: Dru Bloomfield - At Home in Scottsdale, Flickr
We’re not rejoicing for our sufferings, but in them.  

Our faith is not a stupid faith. It’s not a “no-nothing’s-wrong- everything’s-peachy-trauma-doesn't-exist” kind of faith.

Faith in God is a faith that works.

It’s okay to admit you had a bad day.
Or a bad week.
Or a bad year.

God doesn’t expect us to check our brain at the door and say everything’s just lovely when we have faced significant loss.

When Things Are Difficult...

One of my favorite passages is Habakkuk 3.

I love it because it’s a prayer, one that is actually sung by Habakkuk. And he is talking about hard times, but remembering God’s goodness in those hard times. The entire chapter is so valuable, but I’m going to highlight verses 17-19:

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
    and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
    and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
    and the cattle barns are empty,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
    I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength!

Habakkuk 3:17-19

The prophet is in reality. He is not in the fog. There’s nothing blooming, the crops are dead, the animals have died…he basically says, “Right now in spite of all I've lost, I will praise the Lord!”

 And so what do I want to encourage you with today?

Photo Credit: Laurent_Imagery
Stand on these truths...

The truth that God is good.
The truth that He didn’t orchestrate sickness or trauma in your life or family.
The truth that He never has plans to harm you.
The truth that sometimes bad things happen.
The truth that these bad things are real.
The truth that God walks alongside you in your bad things. He cries, He comforts, he helps bring victory.
The truth that God does not expect you to ever praise God FOR those things.
The truth that He gives you power to go on in the midst of challenges!
The truth is that you can praise God IN the midst of those things.
The truth is that praising Him often changes the situation, because praising God changes you.

The truth is that IN everything, we can give thanks!

An informed choice says that I am not required to give thanks for the trauma-related things in my life.

I stand on the fact that God is good and I can thank Him for the GOOD things He has done, and praise Him that in the bad things, he helps me through.

I can choose.

I will choose to give thanks for what I know is GOOD.

And those who try to pressure me to be thankful for something traumatic do not have to be voices I listen to nor act upon. God's voice is louder than their voice, in my life.

I’m thankful I can choose.