3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.
2 Corinthians 1:3-5
Something amazing happened to me the other day. Be patient. This will take a few words to unpack properly.
I am a foster and adoptive parent. I am 52 years old and my house is still filled with kids. Currently, we have six kids in our home. Our last foster placement came about six weeks ago. Honestly, it has been the most difficult placement in our seven years of fostering. The difficulties have come due to two factors. First, the amount of kids and their ages in our home. Though we already had four kids in our home we felt that God was leading us to open our home to more kids in need. So we did. I was really hoping for some older kids, but that is not how things worked out. We added a 1 year old and 4 year old to our twin 2 year olds and a 5 year old. Yes, we now have five kids five and under. The State even has rules prohibiting that many young kids in a foster home, but they were willing to break the rules. The second factor making this placement difficult is the behavior of the new kids. All kids in the foster system come from broken places which significantly impact their behavior. But in seven years, this has been the hardest to adjust to.
For the first month it felt as if my wife and I were drowning. It was difficult to find our new normal. We questioned ourselves if we had somehow moved ahead of God and done something that he really wasn’t leading us to do. Maybe these kids were supposed to find another home and we got in the way. These were our honest questions. In the midst of our doubt God showed us something amazing!
Two months prior to welcoming these two kids into our home I accepted an invitation to teach a class to foster parents for their continued education as a requirement for keeping their foster licenses. I enjoy opportunities to give back into the community that has helped us navigate so many difficulties in fostering kids. I was asked to teach the class several months before it took place to give me time to write the curriculum. When it was time to teach the class I was no longer feeling energized and excited to teach, but rather barely making it with our new placements. On top of that, the class was more than 50 miles away. Keeping my commitment, I headed across town to teach the class. Walking into the class I saw a young man that I had not seen since he was in high school and I was a pastor at his church. It was nice to see a familiar face and I was encouraged that he and his young family were entering foster/adoptive ministry.
Throughout the three hour class I used a few personal examples from my own life using my foster kids first names. After the class my friend came to me. He asked me about two of the names I had used. He asked if they came into my home about a month ago. He went on to tell me that he was the officer called to help DCS safely remove the children from the home they were in. He could describe my kids perfectly.
Driving home I was overwhelmed by several thoughts. First, driving to the class I was filled with questions and doubts as to whether we should continue this placement. But I could not dismiss as a coincidence the fact that months ago I planned to teach a class that I had never taught before on the other side of town and bump into an old friend who happened to be the cop who helped save my kids. I believe that God was showing us both something very special. He was showing my friend that the kids he had pulled from a dangerous place had landed in a safe home. God was showing me that he had planned for these kids to come to our home long before the police were called. I was no longer wondering if we had stepped out of God’s will.
Experiencing confirmation that we were in God’s will, though, did not make our journey any easier. We still had a heavy load filled with difficult behavior from traumatized children. But just because something is hard does not mean we should not do it. God wants us to step into difficult places to accomplish his will. As Christians, we are called to share in the suffering of Jesus so that we may also share in his comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3-5). Christians are called to difficult things. To simply seek to preserve our own comfort and protect our pleasure is to miss out on what life really is (Mark 8:34-35).
Another thought consuming my mind was how God uses broken systems to do his will. Anyone who has fostered kids knows that the “system” is broken. DCS, the Department for Child Safety, is not the end all for the children of the State of Arizona. It is flawed. But so is every other human institution and system. Even my family is broken. It is flawed and it has a flawed leader. But in the midst of broken systems, using DCS, the Phoenix Police Department and my family….God rescued two children.
God uses broken things to accomplish his will and do beautiful things. God used Moses, who had a speech problem, to speak to the leader of Egypt to negotiate the release of God’s people (Exodus 4:10-11). God used David, the smallest of all his brothers, to lead a nation (1 Samuel 16:1-11). God uses local governments (Romans 13:1-7). And God can use you.