when you don’t get to know why

She stood in the kitchen, expressionless, as I piled her belongings beside her. Our friends greeted her cheerfully, but she did not respond. She was confused–tired, maybe–but mostly just wearing the same blank stare we had seen so many times before, her curly hair hanging in her face as she looked at the floor. It was crushing. After ten months, we had hoped for more progress. And surely there was some. We saw light in her eyes for stretches at a time. We experienced separation anxiety that was nothing short of miraculous in a child that was so unattached. But disruptive visits, foster sibling rivalry, and the growing exhaustion in our home had worn us all down. Were we back to where we started?

I kissed her goodbye and walked out the door. We had left her like this before, for a weekend or a few days respite, but this time was different. We would see her again, yes, but she would never come home with us again. There was no more hope that she would one day be ours.

Choosing to close our foster care license was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made. Despite knowing the time had come, I continued to fight it, desperately clinging to the ideals which had caused us to pursue licensure to begin with. But as the rivalry built between our two almost-three-year-olds, and the onset of my mother-in-law’s unexpected illness and the certainty of more difficult days ahead, I finally had to accept what we had known for quite some time: it was time for our foster daughter to go.

Though the decision was bitter, it was not without the sweet–close friends of ours had recently become a licensed foster home. They knew our foster daughter well, had provided respite care for us, and were eager to welcome her into their family. As painful as it was to let her go, the relief of releasing her to a family who loved her and loved Jesus at least helped. As difficult as it was to see her growing into a new family, it also offered sweet assurance as we heard of continued progress and saw her beginning to thrive.

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Asking Why

Over the past eight months since our foster daughter moved to this new home, I have found comfort in the God who works all things for good. I imagined how we’d tell the story–how it was necessary for her to come to our home first because our friends weren’t licensed yet…how helping us prompted our friends to pursue licensure for themselves…how it all worked out so that little A would have a family of her own, and we would be close enough to watch it all work out in the end. See, God was working, I would say. He arranged everything according to his timing, working all things for A to have the family she was meant to have.

A few weeks ago, our friends learned that A would be sent to live with biological family. This is the goal of foster care, yes, but in this case, a devastating turn of events. After abandoning her as an infant and remaining absent during her 18 months in foster care, this biological family continues to show little interest in her beyond claiming what is “theirs.” Why, God? This was not how it was supposed to go!

And here is where my heart is exposed–where my faith is shown to be that shallow belief that trusts when I think I know where He is going–when I think I know best the “good” that will result from all that is broken and painful and confusing.

In J.I. Packer’s Knowing God, he writes of God’s wisdom–of the ways in which He sovereignly ordains all things for the good of His people and the accomplishment of His purposes for His glory. And then he follows with a chapter on the wisdom we receive from God. In it, he writes of our misperception that receiving wisdom from God consists of “a deepened insight into the providential meaning and purpose of events going on around us, an ability to see why God has done what he has done in a particular case, and what he is going to do next” (102).

“The truth is,” he goes on, “that God in his wisdom, to make and keep us humble and to teach us to walk by faith, has hidden from us almost everything that we should like to know about the providential purposes which he is working out in the churches and in our own lives.” (106)

How can we be sure?

I am in the midst of studying Romans 8, home of that oft-quoted platitude, Romans 8:28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

With Paul’s declaration of 8:28, we are left with questions: How can we be sure? When we look at all the brokenness and pain and confusion of this fallen world, how can we really know God is working all things for good?

And what I’ve found as I’ve studied is that verse 28 must not be removed from 29-30:

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

He answers our doubts not with examples of circumstances fully explained, but with reassurance that God is trustworthy–that He “has always been doing good for [us], starting before creation (the distant past), continuing in [our] conversion (the recent past), and then on to the day of Christ’s return (the future)” (ESV Study Bible notes).

Packer reiterates:

“What underlies and sustains [wisdom]? Why, the conviction that the inscrutable God of providence is the wise and gracious God of creation and redemption. We can be sure that the God who made this marvelously complex world order, and who compassed the great redemption from Egypt, and who later compassed the even greater redemption from sin and Satan, knows what he is doing, and ‘doeth all things well,’ even if for the moment he hides his hand. We can trust him and rejoice in him, even when we cannot discern his path.” (107)

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Walk by faith

We often cannot discern his path. And more often we kill ourselves trying to figure it out. Will we walk by faith nonetheless? Will we trust him even when we don’t understand? Will we believe He is good when what we see before us only seems bad?

His ways are higher than our ways.

I don’t know what the future holds for sweet little A. My heart breaks as I think of her standing confused in another kitchen, surrounded by her belongings. I am angry at a broken system that would allow this ending to her story. But even as the indignation burns, I am humbled before the one who is truly her Advocate. He is not a victim of the system. He is not surprised by this turn of events. He goes before her and He brings comfort and peace to those of us left in the wake.

We do not know what her future holds, but we do know that the future is certain. And the one who wrote the ending? He can be trusted.

“For what is this wisdom that he gives?…It is not a sharing in all his knowledge, but a disposition to confess that he is wise, and to cleave to him and live for him in the light of his Word through thick and thin.” (108)

One Response

  1. Thank you for your words, Kendra, and for sharing them in person at Redeemer last week!