When Love Is NOT Enough!

This is a perspective God gave me several years ago when praying for and sharing with frustrated, frazzled and burned-out adoptive and fostering families and He reminds me of it often.  I am sure He has given this insight to others, as well. 

The myth that love IS enough when it comes to adoption and foster care is staggering!

“My love for him will make up for all the pain and suffering he has endured in the orphanage and from being abandoned!”

“She just needs someone to truly love her!”
“If I could have loved him more, things would have turned out differently!”
Fostering and/or adopting a child brings with it many expectations, some realistic and some not so realistic.  False assumptions and unrealistic expectations are often cause for much collateral damage in families who are fostering and/or adopting children. 

Assuming you will instantly “fall-in-love-with” the child you are fostering or adopting may or may not come to pass, ever.  The reverse is often true. Just because someone bears the name “daddy” or “mommy” or “son” or “daughter” does not automatically ensure connection and attachment will reflect these titles, naturally.

So often we falsely believe that love is just an emotion and that a mother’s love or a father’s love for a child that is fostered or adopted, just comes naturally.  Sometimes even loving our biological child can be challenging.

Love is so much more than just a feeling or emotion!  Most often, it is an act of the will.  We choose to love or choose not to love.  How do you and I truly love someone, unconditionally, especially when they are not easy to love and even reject the love we give them?  This can be our love for a spouse, a mother or father, or even a biological child.  And it can easily be the child you are fostering or have adopted.  

The first fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22 is…love. 

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness and self-control.”

Before I go any farther, let’s unpack the English word…LOVE…in the Greek language. 

In the Greek language, there are at least 4 types of love with 4 different words to define each, however they are all translated into English by our one word…love. As you can imagine this is cause for great misunderstandings as we read and study the scriptures if we are unaware of this limitation in translation.

The 4 types of love in Greek are:

1)  Agape – God’s perfect unconditional love for me and for you, even when we were His enemies, not dependent on our loving Him in return, ever.

2)  Phileo – To strongly like something or someone.  To feel an attachment to.  When you and I say we “love” chocolate or coffee or the sunset, phileo is the appropriate Greek word.  When you and I have a strong bond with another Christian brother or sister, phileo is the appropriate Greek word for this kind of love. 

3)  Storge – This is the love that is often experienced within a family, for each other.  While this Greek word for love, storge, is not found in the scriptures it is found in conjunction with phileo, philostorgos, in Romans 12:10:

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 

This combination of these two loves, phileo and storge, represents the Spiritual bond we have with each other, as believer’s in Christ, brothers and sisters, God’s sons and daughters, which can often supersede the bond we have with a biological relative, especially if they are not a follower of Christ.

4)  Eros – This is the kind of love which is most closely related to our emotions and represents physical, self-seeking, self-satisfying actsThis is where our English word erotic originates.  Eros is not found in the scriptures, however it does represent the Greek culture of the Corinthians which was focused on many gods with the most infamous being their god of love…Aphrodite. The ultimate love, agape love, God’s love for you and for me which is unconditional and does not depend on our returning love to Him, is the only kind of love that will endure and bear all things.  1 Corinthians 13 describes in detail what agape love is and what it is not. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”~1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

If this is NOT a description of the love you and I have for others, we should repent and ask God to fill us to overflowing with His Spirit’s agape love for others, even those we have a hard time loving. And we should ask Him to fill us with agape love so we can love Him equally and unconditionally in return.
In reality, even if a parent chooses to love a child with agape love, the God kind of love, the love that endures all things, the end result may or may not be evidenced by their love returned.  
Really?  How can that be?

Imagine with me for a moment a home environment that is perfect in every way.  It is a beautiful home with just the right amount of everything needed to provide an environment conducive for all family members to love each other and to thrive together.  A father who loves his children perfectly and unconditionally, always.   And a home where the father only gives one “no” among an innumerable number of “yes-es”.  

Suddenly this peaceful and contented home becomes a place of turmoil as the children decide to disobey the one command and they are expelled from their perfect home.

The biblical example God gave me for this realization comes from Genesis, God’s own story of His perfect family, in the garden of Eden with Adam and Eve.

God the Father loved His children, Adam and Eve, perfectly with agape-love and yet they chose to turn their backs on that perfect love and disobey their Father when tempted by the Evil One.  Even God’s love, as perfect as it is, does not force another to love Him in return.  Agape-love is always a choice. 


Then you have those of us who are also loved unconditionally by this same perfect love, agape love, by our perfect Father in Heaven and we just cannot seem to accept it fully on face value.  We somehow cannot truly believe it is a free gift.  Some how, some way we have to do something to earn it. 


When my own thoughts and actions are not instantly lovingly obedient all the time, as God’s own beloved daughter, how does that make my adoptive Father in Heaven feel? 

When I forget to thank Him for the vast number of blessings He has given me, freely and undeserved, how does that make Him feel?  When I refuse to accept His best and settle for something else, how does that make Him feel? When I tell Him “no” knowing full well it is His plan, which is always in my best interest, how does that make Him feel?  When I choose to ignore or doubt the promises He has made to me, even when I do not see them fleshed out, how does that make Him feel?  How about when I misquote His words and twist them into something He never said, how does that make Him feel?  When I go days or even just a few hours without thinking once about Him, or speaking with Him, how does that make Him feel?  When He tells me “NO” and I do it anyway, how does that make Him feel?  What about when He wants me to do something a certain way and I just want to do it My way, how does that make Him feel?  The list goes on and on.

The way I treat my heavenly Father who has adopted me into His only truly forever family is how God helps me better identify both with those being adopted into earthly families and families obeying God’s call to adopt children here on this earth.  This correlation between how adoptive children treat their adoptive parents and the way I treat my own adoptive daddy, God, is constantly on my mind.  In addition, I cannot help but stop to think about how my selfish, self-centered, attitude causes my Father in heaven grief and disappointment.  No, He is not surprised by it because He knows all about my baggage and my sinful nature, but I do believe He is still wounded by my disobedience, compromise, pride and lack of faith…just to name a few.

Does He ever say, “I do not like you right now, but I still LOVE you?”  NO!  His love or like for you and for me is never based on our behavior, right or wrong, it is always and only based on His character and His unconditional love, His agape love, for us…ALWAYS!

If fact it was while you and I were still sinners that Jesus died for us.  We were enemies of God.  And yet, in all our mess and chaos He died to save us from our sin.

I suspect He often feels much the same as parents of children, adopted and some biological, who act the same as I mentioned above.  This is the perspective He is constantly bringing to my mind. 

When I hear and read the stories of adopted children doing this or that and the collateral damage it causes within families, He quickly shows me the things I am doing which causes collateral damage within His and my own heavenly family. 

So when the agape-love you show others is trampled on, you now know you are in good company as you and I are constantly trampling on His agape-love for you and for me, as are those who reject Him fully.

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
~Romans 5:6-8

“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.  And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 13:12-13

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