I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. ~John 14:18
It’s a promise Jesus makes before he ascends to heaven. We will never be orphaned. He is coming to us. We will never be alone.
To many, orphaned is a foreign word. We may hear it often but we don’t really know what it means. Maybe the only experience we’ve had with the word is one from the big screen – that spunky little girl with curly red hair. You know – the one who wins the love of Daddy Warbucks? That’s right … little orphan Annie!
Or maybe when we hear the word we think of far away places … Ethiopia, Nigeria, China, the Philippines. But the truth is, orphans are all around us. In Atlanta, Sacramento, New York City, Fargo, Philadelphia, Sarasota, and right in your own backyard.
Kids with no parents. Or maybe they have parents, but the parents are working so hard just to make ends meet that the kids are left to take care of themselves. And there are the kids from single-parent homes, where the parent is so stressed out and unhappy that even if they are home, their kids get no real undivided attention. Children of drug addicts, alcoholics, over-worked CEOs, they are all – in some way – orphans.
So just what does Jesus’s promise mean in a world full of orphans? At first glance, it seems as though it’s meant to be a comfort to those feeling alone. It’s another instance of Jesus telling us not to worry. He is with us always. No matter what our circumstances, Jesus promises that we have a heavenly father. We have an identity beyond our earthly existence.
But let’s be honest – all too often verses such as this one are used as an easy way to encourage someone when we don’t know what else to say. I’m sorry your life sucks, but Jesus promises to come to you. You aren’t really orphaned.
Lately, I’ve been wondering if this verse isn’t less of a promise and more of a call to action. Sure, Jesus promises to not leave us orphaned … but what if he is coming to us in the form of human beings? What if Jesus’s promise to not leave us orphaned is a promise to provide us with an earthly father and mother? And what if … each one of us is called to be that earthly father or mother to one of the orphaned?
For some of us, that means adoption. Literally becoming earthly parents to a child who has none. UNICEF estimates that there are 13 million orphans worldwide who have lost both parents. 13 million orphans who need a loving and supportive family. That number can seem daunting, but did you know there are approximately 159 million Christians in the United States? So if just under 10% of U.S. Christians adopt a child, we have given all of these orphans a loving home!
But adoption isn’t the only way to help. Through child sponsorship programs such as World Vision and Compassion, mentoring programs for children in your local community, raising awareness through fundraising and conversation, providing a safe place for your neighbor children who are home alone, and much much more, each one of us can be involved in making a difference in a child’s life.
What if we are called to be Jesus’s promise?
There are no orphans in Jesus’ eyes. We need to make those who are “orphans” know that though they are wanting in earthly love, their Heavenly Father loves them like no one else and thinks they are worthy of getting love in return.
Nikole – you are so right. The real trick is helping those who are orphans really experience the love of Christ. I know many times when I’m struggling to understand God’s love for me, faithful people in my life help me truly experience God’s love. Sometimes heavenly love comes in the form of earthly love … particularly for those who cannot fathom just how great God’s love for them truly is.
Thanks for your thoughts!
I’ve been thinking about adoption a lot lately, and been gathering some thoughts for a blog post as well. Tim Keller said, “If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how he much he makes of the thought of being God’s child, and having God as his Father.” The idea of adoption may not seem that important, but wait till you meet an orphan. In Christ I am a “former” orphan. The depth of adoption doesn’t make sense until I believe in my rescue from being an orphan. Great post Crystal, thank you.
Thanks Ryan! Blessings to you as you discern adoption in your own life. It’s such an important topic for us to be talking about … and I love the image you have portrayed here!
Great post! There are so many kids out there who do not know what true love is. When we call God our heavenly father, who knows what kind of earthly father they have an image of?!?! All we can do is to reach out to them, and show them the same love, grace and compassion Jesus shows us.
“All we can do is reach out to them, and show them the same love, grace and compassion Jesus shows us.” So very true…
As someone who grew up with a mostly absent father, I had a hard time comprehending a “heavenly father” who was good. So much of what we know about God comes from our experiences here on earth … even the way we interpret Scripture is influenced by the context we live in.
It wasn’t until I met other people in my life who showed me the love, grace and compassion of Christ that I really began to understand how God’s love for me truly was different than what I had experienced from my own father.
Thanks for your thoughts, Joe!
Great post, Crystal! Although adoption IS a great way to help, even though it’s not the only way. There are over 1/2 million kids up for adoption right here in the United States. 🙂
Isn’t that an incredible statistic? My husband and I have said that we would really love to adopt one or two children in our future, so we are beginning the discernment process even now. I think it’s SO IMPORTANT for people to consider.
I think we chatted about this on Google Talk. I am really excited that you and the mister are such strong supporters of adoption and consider it a future option for your family. 🙂 I’m so proud to know you.
We are not left alone. He binds us. He gathers us. He hold us. We are His. He is ours. Great reminder
What beautiful words … thank you!
Child sponsorship through Compassion has been a greater blessing to us than we ever imagined. It’s humbling to play even a small role in seeing that a child, halfway around the globe, gets a decent education and is cared for by others who love Christ. By American standards, we are by no means rich, but measured against the rest of the world, we have an embarrassing amount of disposable income. I’d recommend it as a great place to start!
Daniel – I totally agree. We sponsor two children through Compassion and it is amazing how it has changed our perspective on all kinds of things. When we started doing the math and realized that night out would pay for an entire monthly sponsorship, we started trying to be more aware of what we spend and how we spend it.
Thanks for your thoughts!