There are times when you see God working in your life, your marriage, and your family … but you don’t necessarily want to follow His leading.
That’s what happened a few years ago to Christian singer Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife, Mary Beth. They had three children at the time—Emily, Caleb, and Will—and were happy with the size of their family. That began to change when their daughter Emily, then age 11, developed an intense interest in having a baby sister.
Mary Beth took Emily on a mission trip to Haiti, and that experience added to the girl’s interest in other children. She began writing notes to her parents like, “There is a place at our table, Mom and Dad, for another infant, a baby. We can do this. There’s no reason why we can’t.”
Steven and Mary Beth had supported different families in their efforts to adopt children, but had never really considered adoption themselves. Mary Beth feared she wasn’t capable of loving a child that wasn’t biologically her own. But Emily persisted. She wanted them to adopt a child from another country. She even bought a book at Christmas on how to adopt internationally. “That’s not where 12-year-olds usually spend their money,” Mary Beth says.
The Chapmans were beginning to see a glimpse of God’s heart for the orphan.
“Pure and undefiled religion”
Scores of passages throughout the Bible reveal that God has a special place in His heart for the helpless in our society. Psalm 146:9, for example, tells us, “The Lord protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow.”
Throughout the Old Testament God commands His people to provide help, protection, justice and support for the helpless, and promises His blessing when this occurs. God’s concern for the orphan, the widow, and the alien is so central to His plan for us here on earth that He gives us a startling and profound statement in James 1:27: “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
Why would God tell us that caring for orphans is “pure and undefiled religion”?
Perhaps because caring for an orphan teaches you about loving a person who may be slow to love you back. Perhaps because you receive just a glimpse of how God may feel when we fail to return His love for us when we rebel against Him. Perhaps because the world sees God’s heart when He works through His people to help the helpless.
And perhaps it’s because caring for orphans is such a perfect picture of our relationship with God. In our inability to please God in our own efforts, in our utter helplessness to initiate a relationship with Him, we are more like orphans and strangers than we like to admit. That’s why the Scriptures compare our salvation to the act of adoption. Ephesians 1:4-5 says God “chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself…”
“I get it, I get it …”
So if caring for orphans is so close to God’s heart, as married couples we have to ask ourselves, “How should we be involved? Are we open to God working in our hearts?”
That’s what the Chapmans did as they responded to the persistent persuasion of their daughter, Emily. Through a series of events in which they clearly saw God leading them, they found themselves in a hotel in Beijing, China, to receive a new daughter. And as she took Shaohannah into her arms, Mary Beth experienced one of those moments that she knew could only come from God.
“I was holding this little person and at that moment I would have died for her,” Mary Beth recalls. “I just remember it was so emotional, and I think Steven probably enjoyed watching the process with me, because it was really the first time, other than committing my life to the Lord, that I just looked up and went, ‘Okay, I get it, I get it. I know what You did for me. I get it, I understand it, thank You.’
“It wasn't about me going to get Shaoey, it was about what God had done for me all along.”
Copyright © 2006 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
FamilyLife is a donor-supported ministry offering practical and biblical resources and events to help you build a godly marriage and family.