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Some acquaintances of ours headed to Africa last week to bring home their second adopted child. Due to circumstances beyond their control, there is a high probability they will not be actually bringing him home with them just yet. Horrendous, dismal, depressing situation that kind of sits in the back of your mind all the time.

Also last week, Brian and I helped lead a marriage conference at our church. It was the first time attending, much less leading, a marriage conference and it was definitely a highlight of 2017. And of course, a reoccurring theme throughout was that marriage is work and if you want it to work, you must be willing to put the effort in!

These two events seem to have absolutely nothing in common at first sight, yet they struck a chord with me. God uses analogies all throughout His Word to help us understand Himself, and marriage and adoption are common topics. The light came on as I realized, maybe God has permitted these two circumstances to be so difficult because He wants us to understand more about Who He is.

God talks about us being adopted into His Kingdom and being given the right to be called “children of God” (John 1:12). Adoption is simultaneously beautiful and gut-wrenching. So many mitigating factors – the biological parents, the age of the child, government regulations, abuse, neglect, language, culture… Nothing about adoption is usually simple or easy.

Adoption into God’s family isn’t easy, either. We are constantly pulled by our former lives. The language and culture of being in God’s family is sometimes diametrically opposed to what we’ve always known, making assimilation extremely difficult. There’s always the culture, life, and “family” we’re leaving behind, too. While drawn by the love of your Father, it doesn’t mean every moment is bliss as you learn the ropes of a new family and new way of life. Even getting to the point of adoption is strenuous, taxing, and often hampered by outside circumstances.

Marriage has always meant to be a beautiful, harmonious thing. God created marriage right away during the week of creation. God created marriage to be a picture of Christ and the church. A husband is exhorted to present his bride spotless before Christ – to care for her, lead her, guide her, and bring her before Jesus blameless. A husband is to be willing to die for his wife – like Christ died for us. It’s an absolutely glorious picture!

But, it’s been horribly distorted. We have traded the truth for a lie (Romans 1:25) and “marriage” in the traditional sense is in jeopardy. As a matter of fact, marriages in general are in jeopardy. The understanding that marriage is not all about me and what I want has been lost. Marriage is work. Marriage is sacrifice. Marriage is selfless. Marriage is caring for another more than yourself. Marriage is… the perfect picture of how Christ treats us.

These word pictures would have been even more beautiful in a perfect world, of course. Imagine a world where adoptions always go perfectly. The child is assimilated into their new home with no issues, problems, fights, or government restrictions. Marriage was meant to be this harmonious, beautiful season of life, full of love, joy, excitement, and adventure. Again, these are apt analogies of our relationship with God.

But, this isn’t a perfect world. God in His sovereignty, though, factored the fall into these analogies and they are still apt descriptions of our relationship with God! We will have struggles – with our past, ourselves, and those around us. We will not “assimilate” seamlessly into the Kingdom of God because so much will pull us back. Having a relationship with Christ puts the focus off of you; you become a servant of others, even when they don’t necessarily deserve it. Even governments and laws can be against us.

Where’s the hope then? Here: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

We don’t give up living for Jesus just because it’s hard. We press on. “I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” (Phil. 3:13b-14)

God uses pictures to help us see Him more clearly. Let Him paint a glorious picture with your life story. Fight for it. It’ll be worth it – and don’t let this world tell you otherwise with its lies.