Wednesday, 4 May 2016

God's compassion for the weary

Goodness me, I feel tired. Over the last few days, I've asked myself, and asked my husband, 'Why am I so tired?' I mean, I am going to bed at a sensible time, am not working towards any particular deadline (compared to a couple of months back when I was working in the early morning hours most days), I am not ill, and nothing particular accounts for the tiredness.

That's when we almost need to remind ourselves: We just had a baby! I think this is something that friends and family of those who adopt really need to be aware of - that adopting a baby is just as much of a life event as having a biological child.

It's not so much the new addition to the family, although of course that is part of it. For me, the exhaustion relates more to several months of building adrenaline, including several overseas trips made in knowledge that it might be a while before I can easily travel again, all the interviews and assessments, the uncertainties coming up to panel (particularly the potential questions about home education, which in fact never came), then the drama of the final few weeks when it really came home to us that we actually were about to have a new baby.

I feel very little. It's a very strange time of year for us, as there are many anniversaries. There is a grief which will never go away, but regarding which the feelings and emotions can strike more at random now. There is the anniversary of our middle son coming to join us, which is just a few days after the day that our daughter came home. I would have expected some kind of emotional rollercoaster, but instead I just feel numb. Slightly distant, as though I am watching my life from the outside, perhaps a little like watching a film. Being aware of things as though they happened to somebody else far away. There are days when I want to cry, and I don't know why because I feel we should be so happy as we celebrate the new arrival. Sometimes I just feel lonely and distant. But more than anything there is just a numb heaviness, maybe like a cloak which just wraps around me and drags me down.

I didn't expect to feel this way, but on reflection, I suppose it is hardly surprising. I think it's quite common to feel this way after any really amazing life event - maybe after completing exams, or celebrating the results, to then feel that life is just going on, and there is just as much uncertainty as before. Or having had an amazing holiday or an extremely encouraging time at a conference, to step back into the day to day.

What I have found immensely helpful is looking to the Lord, my source of strength. What I love about the Bible is that it really is 'living and active' (Hebrews Chapter 4). One of the most encouraging stories when you feel like I do now, is found in 1 Kings Chapters 18 and 19.

If you are not familiar with this passage, read the link! 1 Kings 18 describes one of the greatest spiritual victories to be found anywhere in the Bible. Elijah stood alone against 450 prophets of Baal. With a calm and simple prayer, fire from heaven burnt up the sacrifice which had been drenched with water, proving to all, without any shadow of a doubt that the God he worshipped was the one true God. Would you not think that after such an experience, you would never doubt or fear anything in this world ever again? Yet in the very next chapter, Elijah gets overwhelmed by a death threat from Jezebel and runs off in despair. He feels so despondent that he would rather die.

There are many things that are encouraging here:

1) God is the true God, and has absolute power and authority. We must never forget that

2) God does not change like a man does. We might feel up one day, and down the next, but God is entirely consistent

3) Elijah was a human, a frail human, just like us. But God used him greatly

4) God did not berate Elijah and 'kick him when he was down'

5) God knew it was exhaustion above all things. So He provided rest and food until Elijah had recovered a little, and then provided further encouragement afterwards

I recognise here that I am suffering a bit with exhaustion - and that there isn't some deep spiritual problem or depression, but rather that I am just worn out. What I need is rest, and probably one good night of sleep is not quite enough. I need to take care to eat reasonably whilst looking after the family. And I need to make time with God a priority, as much as I can do with the slightly hectic pattern of day to day life.

You know, how I feel now is not dissimilar to how I felt 1-2 weeks after biological children. Slightly blue, slightly weepy. At the time I thought that was purely hormonal, but I can now also reflect that there is a similar long build up, a dramatic event to celebrate and then back to the grind of life - maybe some of the 'baby blues' reflects simple adjustment following a life event. (I'm not going to get into a detailed description of the hormonal changes in the postpartum period or perinatal mental health, but rather just make this personal, anecdotal observation).

Tonight, I am thankful that God knows all things, and knows what encouragement I need right now. And I am thankful for the many stories recorded in the Bible, so that we can continue to be encouraged when we need it most. (1 Cor 10:11)


  1. Your posts about adoption have been really informative. After the last post, I realised that I know so few people who have adopted that I wouldn't really know how to support a family with a new adopted baby. It was useful to read your post and realise that it is much the same as any other family having a baby.
    I love the narrative about Elijah and it was a particularly great comfort in the year or so after having my babies. Hope that you are able to get some rest and to enjoy this special time with your new little one.

  2. Thanks Sarah. I often try to write in a way that informs people of what a situation can be like from the inside, so that they can encourage people they meet. I think with adoption, sometimes people don't quite know what to do or to say, or even know what to ask. I don't know if it is exactly taboo, or whether it is just something people are less familiar with!