Trusting in God’s promises

Published on November 25, 2022

Once upon a time, we had a failed adoption. Actually, we’ve had more than one, but this particular story is about ‘our’ little boy. 

We’d been with birth mama since the beginning of her pregnancy—the doctor appointments, the anxiety-filled 3 a.m. phone calls, the sharp pains, and redemptive joys that come with all things adoption. 

A painful surrender

Adoptive paperwork was signed with a three-day waiting period. We drove that sweet baby boy home in our minivan, my hands pressed over my mouth to temper my excitement. The next day, I found myself balled up in the same minivan, hands pressed over my mouth, trying to hold back my ugly sobs. The social worker wrestled with unlatching the car seat to take back custody of the baby. His birth mama had changed her mind, choosing to give her son to another family out of state. I couldn’t watch. I couldn’t help. My spirit was wrestling with unlatching him from my heart. He was screaming, I was shaking, and the social worker was timidly whispering apologies before she drove away with our ‘Maybe Baby.’

No words could reach this uncharted space now exposed in my heart. This was a new kind of sorrow—a wound inflicted I felt no one could understand if they hadn’t experienced this exact situation. I was confident that no one on the planet, the universe, the cosmos could ever get it. I laid face down on the surrender spot next to my bed and wailed.

I thought of the baby onesies with no pudgy legs to fill them. I thought of my three other kiddos, and of my daughter who cried tears of joy the moment she’d met him. How would I be able to pick them up from school without him in the car?

This was not the first time I’d have to explain to them how an adoption just “didn’t work out.” Nor the first time I’d say, “God has other plans.” But a seed of bitterness took root that day. It was the moment I realized God was asking me to die to self, to surrender to him this desire of my heart.

In my opinion, his way wasn’t working. I completely understood why after years of waiting to have a child, Sarah tried to help Abraham find another way to fulfill God’s plan (Genesis 16:2). Sure, she loved and trusted God, but she finally gave up believing God would make a way. We’re only human after all, right?

Our desires may be holy and epic! For me, wanting to adopt is the desire I felt I’d been watching die a gruesome death. It was out of my hands. All I could do was stand aside and feel like a fool for believing.

When hope seems dead

Remember Mary Magdalene, the shamed woman whose heart was seen by Jesus? In him, she was cherished for the first time. He’d promised her forgiveness, freedom, love, salvation—then she witnessed him, the desire of her heart, mocked, beaten, and mercilessly nailed to a piece of wood. She’d finally found hope, and now it hung lifeless for the whole world to see.

As she knelt outside the tomb, where her unmet expectations lay buried and dead, I wonder if she thought, “How can he ever make a way now?”

We’re so much like Mary. If we’ve watched a desire of our heart be abused and buried, we visit the grave expecting it to stay that way forever. We forget God’s promise, and expect to encounter a powerless Savior lying in a cave, courtroom, hospital wing, or workplace. We ‘know’ he’s there, but we approach the situation as if hope is dead.

We somehow forget that we worship a God of resurrection! We forget that our God is the one who makes “a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters…a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:16, 19b, NIV).

Faith to believe 

Jesus told his disciples several times he would be raised again on the third day (Matthew 16:21). They believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken regarding his resurrection (John 2:18-22), but their actions surely didn’t demonstrate it.

Mary was terrified and confused to find Jesus’ tomb hollow. She pled with the angels, asking where they’d taken him (John 20:11-18). It’s not that she wanted Jesus to be dead, but it’s what she expected. We know this because she came to the tomb with spices to anoint the body of Jesus, as is proper with Jewish burial (Mark 16:1).

But why didn’t she expect him to fulfill his promise to rise on the third day, as he had told her he would?

Similarly, why had I stopped believing God would allow us to adopt, although I knew I felt his whispered promise in my heart eight years ago?

Sometimes, we’re so busy focusing on the hollowness of a situation that we miss the hallelujah! Mary missed the resurrected Jesus, standing right next to her, because she was laser-focused on her unmet expectations. She mistook him for the gardener! 

Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus.  Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’

Jesus said to her, ‘Mary’” (John 20:14-16).

All of Jerusalem watched him die, and instead of appearing to the entire city at once, Jesus visits a crying woman first.

“Mary,” he says.

In reading this story, I see myself. The crying woman, alone, frightened, confused by hollow circumstances. Mourning our failed adoptions, surveying the emptiness.

“Jenna,” he says.

How long had he waited for Mary to notice him? How long does he wait for me to notice him working in my life, despite my disappointment?

His promises are alive

The story continues, “She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ (which means “Teacher”)” (John 20:16b, NIV).

Mary calls him teacher in this moment. Truly, he is teaching her a most important truth: even when circumstances are saturated in death and despair, our God is a way maker.

The world whispers, “What’s the point? What you hoped for is still dead.”

But Jesus whispers back, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25). “Behold, I am making all things new” (Revelation 21:5).

As Mary gazed upon Jesus in his glorified body, I imagine he took her breath away. This was not what she’d expected to find.

God, through the past eight years of loss and frustration, has been tirelessly crafting our crumbling dreams into something completely different than what we expected to see.

He asked us to become foster parents, and it was our equivalent of Mary mistaking Jesus for the gardener. We initially flipped out, “Where have you taken our dead dream?!” It was the last thing we’d imagined ourselves saying ‘yes’ to. In fact, it was the first thing we’d said ‘no’ to when we entered into our adoption journey.

At first, I just wanted to remain face down, crying in confusion like Mary. I didn’t want to look up and see something different.

But we had to ask ourselves, What if standing right in front of us is God’s glorified, holy, resurrected will for our lives?

We had a decision to make. After many prayers, we chose to believe that God’s promises were alive and that he would restore all that was lost. 

It is with tears that I type these words—after the most challenging and most beautiful three years of our lives, we finalized the adoption of our foster daughter in February 2022.

Once upon a time, a woman stood outside a graveyard and believed resurrection would come.

And it did. 

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Jenna Marie Masters

Jenna is a speaker and writer who lives in Southern California with her hubs, their three bio kids, and their newly adopted foster daughter! She’s the “Parenting Toddlers & Tweens” writer for The Joyful Life Magazine. She also contributes to Christian Parenting, Home Front Magazine, and Truly Co and is on the writing team for The Devoted Collective.

Jenna holds a Master’s/Seminary Degree in Christian Ministry and Pastoral Counseling but is only interested in using it to lead other mamas into intimacy with Christ.

Things that matter most: Jesus. Family. Fellowship. Words. Cappuccinos. Crockpots. Paper plates. Summer. Live music. Eating outside. “The Cookie” from Bristol Farms. Bluey.

Read more about Jenna Marie

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