Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Finding Encouragement from Moses While Raising Foster Children

Raising three foster children can be a challenge.  In my case, I find this to be especially true.  All three of my foster children are in diapers.  The oldest is a nearly three year old boy who has a ton of energy, is strong willed and defiant, will not obey, refuses to nap, and has major screaming fits when he does not get his way.  The second is a recently turned two year old girl.  She came to us when she was nine months old, weighing  only 14 pounds because she was not fed properly.  While she appears to have recovered well, she still has baggage from not being fed properly; she has little desire to eat and it is a constant battle to get her to eat.  Because of her small size, she is under medical supervision by doctors who continually want to test her to see if something is wrong, even though, to date, they have found nothing wrong with her.  In recent months, she has been demonstrating some of her brother's strong willed and defiant traits.  The third child is a baby boy born in July.  Unlike his sister, he wants to eat continually and wants to be held all of the time, even though that does not always make him happy.  The worst part is that he refuses to sleep through the night.  Every night he is up once or twice wanting a bottle.  Often, he will not return to sleep, requiring my wife or I to stay up throughout the night to keep him quiet so that he will not wake his brother or sister, who are little terrors if they do not sleep all night.  The kids are high maintenance and require constant supervision.

I realize that I am complaining a lot.  But, you need to know these facts in order to understand my reaction to reading Numbers 11.  In this chapter, the Israelites are complaining again, this time about the lack of meat to eat.  Moses was displeased (verse 10) and beginning in verse 11, he says to God, "Why have you dealt ill with your servant?  And why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me?  Did I conceive all these people?  Did I give them birth, . . . I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me."

I know my circumstances are nothing like what Moses faced.  But, sometimes I feel like Moses.  Like the Israelites, the foster kids are high maintenance.  Even though their behavior has improved during the 17 months they have lived with us, they still require constant supervision and we still have the previously described struggles.  While they may not complain like the Israelites, their behavior makes it difficult to be around them and it feels like their behavior is complaining.

Some days are particularly difficult and, like Moses, I ask "Why God have you but this burden on me.  The lack of sleep and lack of time with my wife is killing me.  I cannot handle it.  I know you want me to help needy children, but why did you have to give me such difficult children. These are not even my children.  Sandy and I did not even give birth to them.  I did not bring them into this world, so why am I paying the price of raising them?  How am I supposed to get the strength and patience to raise them?  I cannot do it. This burden is too heavy for me."

In the passage, God responded by providing helpers for Moses, by providing for their physical needs with quail, and by punishing them with too much quail and a plague.  For me, the punishment does not apply because the foster kids are children and are not responsible, in the same way, as the adult Israelites. 

However, I do see other similarities.  God has provided people to help us.  My wife is a great help to me.  In fact, she does more of the raising of the children than I do.  In reality, I am merely the helper for her.  My children are also a great help.  I know God would provide, but I do not think we could raise them without the help of my children.  Others help occasionally, like our parents.  Another help is actual encouragement from other people.

Similar to God's help in Numbers 11, God also provides physically for us.  Even though Sandy and I get little sleep, somehow I am responding better than I ever thought I would with such little sleep.  He is providing supernatural strength to survive my lack of sleep.  God also provides opportunities for Sandy and I to get away and spend some time together.  We enjoy weekly dates to the bookstore, which are made possible by my older children who babysit.

While at times, it seems like the foster children are a burden, I know that God has given us a privilege to raise them.  He does not give us more than we can handle.  If they are such a challenge, then God knows we are capable of handling this challenge.  And, He has given us a lot of help in facing the challenge, including physical help from our children and supernatural help to survive little sleep.  Ultimately, if these children accept Christ as their Saviour and spend eternity in heaven with God, then whatever price I pay is worth it.  My price is very little compared to the price that Jesus paid to provide salvation for me.  These children also provide multiple opportunities for me to learn lessons from God.  I have gained a much greater understanding of what it means to be adopted into God's family and made a child of God.  I have learned that I need to be dependent upon God and not really upon my strength.  These lessons are continuing.

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