Adopting a younger child brings about its own sets of challenges, but adopting an older child does too. So this provokes the question, what can heal a child’s past?
Older orphans have often been through some serious pain and trauma through no fault of their own. It is tragic, but while we can sense pain, there is a point that we can’t grasp what we haven’t personally experienced. How do we reconcile a child who feels abandoned? Unloved? Unwanted? How do we fix the wounds of hunger and death? What can we do to heal the scars of physical abuse?
The real answer–nothing. You can tell a child you love them. You can provide for all their needs. You can care for them deeply and tenderly but the past has already spoken, proven to them the facts of life, as bitter and ugly as they are, and so, our love is imperfect to them at best. To try to restore something already taken from them is likely hopeless; unless, we can show them someone who was completely abandoned by all and unwanted (Romans 3:23), who’s suffered abuse (John 19:1-3, John 15:20), who’s felt hunger and conquered death (Matthew 4:1-2, John 19:28, John 19:30, Luke 24) and so, understands where they’ve been–but not only does He understand, He loves them perfectly (John 15:13, Romans 5:8) . When a child meets their Savior, then true healing can begin.
I know critics out there might argue–“If God loved this child perfectly, why then the suffering to begin with?” …And here is my answer to you: God does love perfectly, and an all-loving, an all-good God has to allow people freedom. Freedom is a good thing, right? …Yes, of course! But in our freedom, each and every single person has chosen to not follow His laws (Romans 3:23). As a perfectly good God (Psalm 18:30, Psalm 16:2, Matthew 5:48, Isaiah 55:8-9) He can set those standards, and we all break them (Romans 5:12). So we now live in a sinful world. God hates sin! And sin brings about awful things like hunger, hatred towards others, abuse and death (Genesis 3:17-18, Romans 8:22). When God first created the world, none of this was present–it was perfect! God sees and knows about pain in the world (Psalm 56:8-9, 1 Peter 5:7, Proverbs 15:3, Matthew 25:40, Luke 7:11-16, Psalm 145:8, Exodus 22:22-23, Psalm 68:5-6). After all, He sent His son who endured pain out of His love for us. When we break God’s laws, we rightfully should be punished, but Jesus took on our punishment when He died in our place. So not only does God know, but He understands suffering. If we ask Him, He is faithful and willing to forgive us and give us a new life in Him (Romans 3:23, Romans 10:9). It doesn’t mean there isn’t pain, but it means we live with someone who has conquered it and will be by our side through it all (Romans 8:38-39). He cares about those that suffer, and He orders those that claim to have a relationship with Him to do the same (Ephesians 2:1-10, James 1:27, Romans 12:15, 1 John 3:17, Micah 6:8).
The other question then arises–“Well since God is loving, He must not be all-powerful because He allows pain in the world, right?” Again, God didn’t create the world with all the pain and suffering we see today. We chose this world when we failed to follow His good-standards (Romans 3:9-12). He sees the pain, and He cares deeply. Could He rectify it? He already is! When God sent His son to die for us, He made a way for us to receive forgiveness through Him. Those that choose to follow Him will live forever without suffering or pain when they die. Someday, Jesus will return and establish the world as it was meant to be. He will reign as King, and there will be no more tears for those that accepted His gift (1 Thessalonians 5:10, Revelation 21:4). The world will be as it should’ve been, but until then, it is enough to know that He is our Creator and knows everything about us. He is all-powerful (Matthew 10:29-31, Psalm 136:12, Matthew 19:26, Jeremiah 10:12). He has been here and experienced immense suffering and pain, and He understands, cares, and loves for those in the midst and in the aftermath of such struggles (Hebrews 4:15-16).
Therefore yes, God is an all-powerful and good being, and because He is this, I believe He can restore us even if we carry deep wounds. I have witnessed children in two orphanages, in two countries–one was filled with laughter and joy, the other with sadness and grief. What was the difference? It certainly wasn’t cultural, and it wasn’t for lack of life experiences; but rather, one group had the peace of knowing the all-loving, sovereign God and the other did not. No one can convince me that any other circumstances made this difference, for nothing can change overwhelming hurt and grief like my merciful, all-knowing, and yes, understanding God.