Life Lessons from Adoption: Love Is Costly

Guest post from pastor, adoptive dad, and Lifesong matching grant recipient Brad Raby

My wife and I had the unique experience, joy, and challenge of entering the world of international adoption. At the time of writing this, we have been home for a month with two of our three adopted boys. If life is a perpetual school, it feels like we have been in four weeks of Ph.D. dissertation proposals.


Here’s a lesson the boys, life, and our Savior are teaching us:

Love is costly.


This is the refrain that has most often crossed my mind over the last two months. Maybe the image that comes to your mind when you read love is costly is fine jewelry, bouquets of flowers, or fancy restaurants. Those are accurate images because love often is wrapped in a gift.

But it is so much more. Love is costly because real love—self-sacrificing-for-the-good-of-another love—will always cost you something. It may even cost you more than you budgeted.

Adoption is costly.

I don’t just mean financially. I mean that it costs you physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually.

Adoption is unnatural. Forget all those rosy photos and videos you see online, including those posted by me. They are the 30-second highlights that we hope bring you great joy, but they are not the whole story. The whole story is inappropriate for public consumption. If you know an adoptive family, whether they have fostered or adopted, they have most likely on more than one occasion asked out loud, “What the heck have we done?

We certainly have.


Use your imagination for a moment.

Imagine a child who is abandoned twice and bounces around a few impoverished homes, ultimately landing in institutional care—care that is loving, but divided by 30 other children. All of this before the child turns 5 years old. It’s actually impossible to imagine all the ramifications this has on a child, be it here in the foster care system, or abroad in an orphanage.

Now, imagine you adopt that child. All of their struggles, pain, insecurities, dysfunctions, and challenges become yours. All of them. Everything you thought you knew about love and parenting is challenged. Oh, by the way. The methods you have used in parenting your biological children over the last eight years—throw them out the door. You have to learn and adapt to new methods.

These few sentences can’t begin to explain what this reality costs you. There are 1,000 different variations of this story in other adoptive or foster families.

Did I mention your biological children? They, with limited ability to emotionally process, inherit all of these new challenges in your home. There are sweet moments of love, joy, and play that warm your heart. There are also consecutive nights of weeping because the old normal—the one that they (and you) loved and gave them security and predictability—it is gone.

Your marriage, bank account, relationships with your friends. Everything changes. And despite their genuine best efforts, most people cannot understand this.

Why is this? Because love is costly. It costs us something significant.


If there was no cost in love, it would categorically not be love.

It is the cost that makes it love.

“Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28)

“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ.” (1 Peter 1:18-19)

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  (Mark 10:45)

The greatest expression of love in human history is when a man—innocent of all crimes, pride, lust, or greed—willingly gave His life for the guilty. It cost Him everything.

This is love! This is how we are loved!

For those who follow Jesus, this is precisely what we are called to do.  To share in the fellowship of His suffering by loving as Jesus loves. To love lavishly. Forgive irrationally. Give sacrificially. To stop asking, “What will this cost me to love like this?” and begin asking “What will it cost them if I don’t love like this?”

Love is costly. Worth it? Absolutely.


Brad and Julie adopted their three sons with help from a Lifesong matching grant. Brad wrote to us—

“Financially speaking, it wasn’t possible for us to fund the adoption we felt called to on our own. Yet the calling was there and the need was extraordinary. We took a step of faith and God met every need we had all along the way. Lifesong was a major part of that provision. The matching grant we received allowed us to adopt Drew, Kato, and Simon out of a life destined for poverty and into a loving family.”