The Agony and Joy of Waiting for Matthew

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Two years ago last month, my wife and I looked each other in the eye, took a deep breath, and said yes to this crazy adoption journey. Two years of social workers, adoption classes, books, fundraisers, penny-pinching, delays, frustrations, and heartache — lots and lots of heartache — these were the most gut-wrenching two years of our lives. Every day we longed and ached to bring our son home.

And now that he is finally with us, I can look back on those two years of heartache and say that I wouldn’t trade it for anything. God was teaching and growing us through the waiting.

In the impoverished West African country of Guinea, newborns sometimes are abandoned at birth, either left somewhere inconspicuous to die quietly, or somewhere visible to be found and cared for by a Good Samaritan. Our hearts broke as we learned about these abandoned infants and those working to rescue them. We wept over the reality that, out of poverty and dire situations, many mothers are simply unable to care for their own children.

Overwhelmed with gratitude for the resources around us, we couldn’t shake the notion that we were called to do something, to open our home and hearts to a child. With three children already, we could offer a joy-filled, Christ-centered family to a child who had no family at all. After nineteen months of paperwork and agonizing delays, we were matched with a lonely two-year-old boy with huge brown eyes. We had a son in West Africa!

Knowing that our son was waiting for us, however, only made the delays more difficult. Yet God was at work for our good, even when the journey felt far too long.

So what did we learn while waiting for Matthew?

Prayer and Risk-Taking Obedience

By saying yes to adoption, we were starting an adventure that was too big for us. We were stepping into a world where the illusion of control was stripped away. We would have to trust — there was no other way. This would be a journey of daily, prayerful dependence on our sovereign God.

We didn’t have the money that we knew we needed. But we knew God was calling. And we knew that lack of money was a terrible reason not to answer God’s call — the one who owns the cattle on a thousand hills would make a way. So we walked by faith into this wild world of desperation and prayer. We took the risk of obedience and trusted that God would provide.

And he has. With every expense and bill, we have had just enough. We could tell story after story of God calling his people to support our adoption at just the right time and in just the right way. When unfavorable exchange rates meant that our final adoption bill was more than expected, God prompted some faithful servants to unknowingly provide us with the final $400 that we needed, just as we were praying that he would do so. When the bill was paid, we were left with seventy-five cents in our adoption account. Seventy-five cents!

In the end, our adoption costed us almost double what we anticipated, giving God double the opportunity to glorify his name by providing all that we have needed.

The Longing of the Father for His Children

While waiting for Matthew, I have been privileged to glimpse a bit more of what the Bible teaches us about the Father’s heart for his children. I can be a bit of a detached problem-solver. Initially I viewed our adoption process in the same way — a series of tasks to complete and problems to solve. What I did not anticipate was the heartache and longing. I had no idea that it was possible to love someone I had never met, to ache for someone I didn’t know.

In this heartache, God was giving me a taste of his love for his lost children. Now I can begin to understand the heart of the father staring at the horizon, watching for his Prodigal Son to come home. He waits and longs and loves. “In love he predestined us for adoption” (Ephesians 1:4–5). The joys and pains of this journey open a window into the very heart of God.

In his classic book Knowing God, J.I. Packer writes,

In adoption, God takes us into his family and fellowship — he establishes us as his children and heirs. Closeness, affection, and generosity are at the heart of the relationship. To be right with God the Judge [justification] is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father [adoption] is greater. (207)

The Joy of Trusting

The journey has been long. There were days I thought it would never end. The journey was full of overwhelming need, anxiety, ache, longing, and helplessness.

But more than all of that, it was a journey of joy. Not the fleeting happiness of an amusement park, but the deep joy of walking on God’s path. It is the joy of obedience — the joy of knowing that this hard path is a good path. It is the joy of not just believing in our head, but knowing in our heart, that God is good and is for us, and he is working all this for his eternal glory and our everlasting joy.

The journey to adoption may be a difficult road, full of twists and delays and heartache. But it is a joyful path as we live out the truths of God’s sovereignty, love, and goodness. These were good days, even while we were waiting for Matthew.

(@stevekroeker) is lead pastor of Tsawwassen Alliance Church in the suburbs of Vancouver, British Columbia. He and his wife, Melissa, have four children.