Making room in your home, and in your heart, for a child who is not biologically yours is an amazing reflection of God’s grace and adoption of sinners, but it is not without its hardships and struggles.
Adopting a child with special needs can increase the tension in an already difficult process, and so many of these precious children end up without families because of what their care would entail.
When God adopted us into His kingdom, however, he didn’t hesitate for our flaws and imperfections, and the adoptive family who mirrors this finds such an immense reward.
In a heartwarming piece for Relevant Magazine, author Scarlet Hiltibidal shares her amazing experience with adopting a little girl from China with special needs and the lessons God taught her through it all.
Ya Zhu was almost four, but she couldn’t walk and wasn’t potty trained. There were concerns about her cognitive development.
Many doctors and specialists said we ought to proceed with ‘great hesitation.’ One told us not to move forward at all. They all agreed there must be something else very wrong with Ya Zhu because her delays were so significant.
But my husband and I managed to stay mostly peaceful. We didn’t know if Ya Zhu would heal and recover. We didn’t know how hard things would be. We didn’t know if she’d be a joyful child, but we decided to rename her ‘Joy.’ We hoped and prayed adopting her would give her hope and a future.
While embarking on the journey of adoption and knowing full well you are in for a challenge can surely cause a healthy degree of apprehension, Hiltibidal says she and her husband, by God’s grace, were able to proceed without an ounce of fear in their hearts.
God was leading us to Joy, and He was with us. He had come through in so many ways: checks from strangers to cover adoption fees at exactly the right time, comforting words from the Bible, people who moved our anxious hearts toward rest, doors opening and closing and freelance jobs falling out of the sky exactly as our adoption agency was asking for another payment. God was with us. He kept proving He was in the process and supporting it and leading it. We weren’t afraid.
In a moment of raw, authentic honesty, Hiltibidal reveals that it wasn’t until she actually met her new daughter that fear crept in.
We were convinced Joy would never walk, never learn, never leave diapers. I wondered if our family would ever laugh again. If we’d ever have an easy Saturday at the park. I wondered how much wheelchairs cost and what my other children would miss out on because of this decision we’d made.
But right there, in the middle of the scariest moment of the entire process, God reached down and touched Hiltibidal’s heart to remind her of one of His deepest truths.
He reminded me that I was, and so often still am, a child with special needs who doesn’t know how to rest in the love of her adoptive Parent. He reminded me that I am the little girl with broken ears and broken eyes and my hands clenched around everything I can grab, and yet He walked into this broken world so He could adopt me into His family.
Hiltibidal draws us back to Romans 8:15, which says, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’”
Emboldened to follow the clear path God had set before her, no matter the challenges, Hiltibidal began to see His faithfulness and power in their new lives with Joy.
Joy is five now. She’s more than doubled in size since her adoption, is fluent in sign language and actually advanced in communication according to an evaluation from her school. With a hearing aid, she can hear and understand English, and after a year of physical therapy, her therapist suggested we discontinue her services because Joy no longer needs the extra help.
Life with Joy has become such an amazing blessing for her family. Not only does she enrich their lives with all the love, hugs, and learning experiences a child comes with, her special needs point the Hiltibidals to the Gospel on a daily basis.
In my life, God has used the world of special needs to make me stop depending on my life plans and my strength. Instead, He’s offered me His plan and His strength. When Joy’s special needs caused her to depend on me, I had no choice but to take my weakness to God.
I’m not strong. I’m not powerful. I’m not ‘normal.’ I’m as dependent as my special needs daughter. We are all dependent on the power of God for our next breath. Resting in that reality is what can give you and me the ability to look around and reach out and meet the needs of others, the way God reached down from Heaven to meet ours.
God has this wonderful way of structuring our lives such that we endure challenges designed specifically to draw us closer to Him and to teach us to be like Him. When those challenges involve our children, what a wonderful insight we gain into the heart of our Father in Heaven.
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