An Unexpected Legacy

Written by Sarah Keeling
Published on March 25, 2022

Can someone you’ve never met leave you a legacy? I think so. 

My brother’s birth mother made decisions that changed my life. My brother was adopted at birth. We don’t know much about his birth parents other than they were young college students at a Christian school. 

Compassion for the suffering

My brother suffers from many intellectual and physical disabilities, including epilepsy and an Autism Spectrum Disorder. He is missing the part of his brain that connects both sides, called the corpus callosum. 

My heart broke over and over during my childhood, watching my brother suffer through seizures and struggle to learn to read. It broke my heart further when he suffered permanent brain damage in his early twenties as a side effect from his seizure medicines. 

I had to grieve my funny, quirky brother and accept the reality that he would never be the same in this life. However, maybe a broken heart can be a good thing? 

God used my heartbreak to create in me empathy and compassion for those who are suffering. He has made my heart tender for the broken and hurting people around the world, and I can more easily imagine what they are experiencing based on what I’ve been through with my brother. 

A courageous choice

He developed godly character in me when I had to cling to him during those many difficult times. I’ve learned how to take my brokenness to God and pour out my heart to him in prayer. 

Because we know little about his parents, I’ve imagined them courageously choosing to place their baby for adoption so that he could have a better life than the one they could offer. I wonder if it broke his birth mother’s heart to make that choice. 

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 NASB). 

This verse sometimes makes me cringe, because it often is used out of context. I’ve heard people say this verse with what I believe are well-meaning intentions, but an incorrect message. 

Does this verse mean that everything will be OK in our circumstances and that we will not endure suffering? I don’t believe so. 

A good heartbreak 

I have not seen God miraculously heal my brother. That would be good, right? However, I have seen God use my brother’s disabilities to bring eternal good in my life and the lives of others who know him well. 

Eternal good could increase empathy and compassion, godly character, and dependence on him. Those things are truly priceless, even though they often come as a result of suffering. 

God has a purpose in everything, and we can trust his plans in the midst of heartache. 

Maybe a legacy of a broken heart truly is a gift? I wish I could tell my brother’s birth mother thank you for letting me be a part of his life. I would tell her that knowing him made me a better person, and I wouldn’t trade my broken heart for anything. 

If you are experiencing heartbreak too, remember that even though it feels horrible right now, God is working in your pain for your eternal good. Often his work is unseen, and you might not see the results of that work anytime soon. 

But this is his promise that we can cling to during difficult times. 

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Sarah Keeling

Sarah helps busy families connect deeply with God. She loves Jesus and her family, especially her husband and two boys.

Sarah has a background in counseling, loves teaching children the Bible, and is passionate about helping people around the world know Jesus. 

She is the author of Psalm Prayers for Kids and Psalm Prayers for the Nations, and she hosts a family-friendly prayer podcast called Hearts at Rest with Sarah Keeling.

Learn more about Sarah on her website, Facebook, and Instagram.


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