Love: It Hurts Sometimes


This is the first of a three part series on the different aspects of love we often see in adoption. 


Dear Adoptive Parent,

There it is again. That twinge. That uncomfortable feeling of “other,” of not being understood. That temptation to hide and cover the hard, because this is what you chose, right? That pressure to present an always-beautiful picture of adoption to the world so they’ll choose it, too. The guilt of feeling like a terrible parent because you sometimes want to run away, as if that feeling negates all the other beautiful moments.


A + B should always equal C— calling plus obedience should equal constant joy and fruitfulness—at least, that’s what you tell yourself. But it doesn’t always add up that way, so you feel like a failure. You feel like you can’t tell the truth.


I get it. I do. As someone who has felt these very things, I want to share a few things with you.


Be honest about your suffering

Dan Allender, one of my favorite authors, once said this: “Your life is a sum of all your stories, and it is to reveal the story of Jesus at work in you. Our story is meant to reveal the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. If we refuse to suffer, and grieve the depths of our suffering, then we lose the power to reveal his death and resurrection.”


Do you own your suffering? Have you named it?


You may feel like you aren’t allowed to name it, because you’re afraid you’ll be seen as lacking faith. Maybe you feel like you have to be God’s PR rep, and you don’t want to make Him look bad. Maybe you’re afraid people will think you regret your decision to adopt. But believe me, you do no one any favors, including yourself, when you don’t allow yourself to name and grieve your suffering.


Naming your pain—confessing the things that are hard—does not negate the beautiful, redemptive aspects of adoption. It’s both/and. There is freedom in saying so.


Allow me to give you permission to say, “Sometimes adoption is really, really hard.” You can say it, and you will still be loved.


Get curious

When you begin to feel overwhelmed, burdened, sad, and maybe even angry about the struggles in your adoption journey, get curious.


So often, when we feel these emotions, we bury them in shame. We think, “I shouldn’t feel this way.” But feelings are very powerful indicators, and when we allow ourselves to be curious about them, we can learn important things the Father is trying to show us. We open ourselves up to heart surgery: “God, show me. Change me. What’s in my heart? What things am I clinging to other than You? What am I putting my hope in other than You? Show me.”


Moses talked about this kind of heart surgery. When he spoke to the Israelites before they entered the Promised Land, he said this:


Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. (Deuteronomy 8:2-3)


What wilderness are you in? What aspect of your adoption journey has you feeling like you’re stumbling around, with no clear way forward? Ask the Lord, “Show me. Show me what’s in my heart. Cause me to long for You and You alone. Help me to see your provision, even though it may look different than what I thought it would be. Show me.”


Remember His promises

Have you ever noticed how often scripture calls us to remember? It’s because we’re so prone to forget! When adoption gets hard, remember His promises:


He is with us always and will never leave us alone. (Matthew 28:20)

He has given us everything we need for life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3)

He will fight for us. (Exodus 14:14)

He is El Roi, the God who sees. (Genesis 16:13)


Do you know who was the first to call God by this name? Hagar, Sarah’s servant. The one Sarah decided should bear Abraham’s child, because God was taking too long to fulfill His promise. Hagar, who had no choice in the matter and was then abused by Sarah and had to run away.


God met her at a well. A well. At the height of her suffering, the fount of living water met Hagar at a well, and she felt seen by Him. And because she felt seen, she could then see Him. She said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”


I know there are many of you who are struggling. You answered this beautiful call to adopt, and it is just plain hard. Are there beautiful days and moments? Absolutely. But there’s a lot of pain, too.


Here’s hope: God sees you, and He sees your child. He is El Roi, the God who sees. Just like He met Hagar at the well to remind her of that truth, He can meet you in your suffering and remind you, too. And because He sees you, you’re free to see Him, in all His goodness, faithfulness, provision, and grace.


Love hurts sometimes. Even with your best intentions to bring healing and restoration to your child, the pathway towards that healing can be painful. Worth it? Oh, yes. But painful, too. Be honest about your pain. Be curious about what the Lord is saying to you through your pain. And lean on His promises that will never, ever fail.