A Heart for Orphans

A child hugging a woman around the neck from behind

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been a complete sucker for movies about lonely orphan kids finally stumbling into a family – finally belonging somewhere; finally finding parents who will never abandon them or love them only when they behave perfectly; finally finding “home.”

Adulthood hasn’t changed me one bit. I can still almost feel my chest hurting when I think about Anne in Anne of Green Gables before she goes to live with Matthew and Marilla; or Big Mike in The Blind Side before Leigh Anne welcomes him into their family; or those little orphan girls in Despicable Me before they melt the heart of the formerly evil Gru.

And I can still exhale in relief when the “almost, sorta, might-we-be-your-parents” characters in so many made-for-TV movies finally realize that of course they will take in those lonely orphan kids who need them, and yes, of course they can all really be a family.

I remember one such TV movie, wherein a young, attractive, no-troubles-in-the-world childless couple agrees to temporarily take in a group of orphaned siblings. Throughout the scripted awkwardness, mishaps and learning to live under one roof, they all grow attached to one another. But of course the moment of the kids’ scheduled departure to an orphanage was rapidly approaching – like a horrible storm on the horizon set to destroy everyone and everything in its path (all in the final 10 minutes before the credits rolled).

I remember feeling actual anguish at the horror and stupidity of the idea that these people wouldn’t just stick together and become a forever family! How was this even an option?  How could the adults even think about letting them go? After all, these kids were all alone!

It was so upsetting to me then (and now) because the answer was so obvious: They were meant to be together … forever.  Thankfully, as TV movies usually do, this one had a happy ending. The kids stayed; tragedy and crisis were averted in favor of happily ever after.

I sure do love happily ever after. …

So I guess it’s no surprise that the God who welcomes us home forever through Jesus Christ put this whole heap of orphan emotion into my heart long before my heart was ever at home with Him. And it shouldn’t have been a surprise to me that the Scripture that reveals God’s heart for orphans seemed written in neon to me when I first read it:

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27, NIV).

Are you familiar with what else Scripture says about God’s heart for orphans?

In a time of identity and relational crisis, God tells us who He is: “A father to the fatherless [who] sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:5-6, NIV).

Scripture commands us to seek justice, defend the oppressed and take up the cause of orphans (Isaiah 1:17).

The truth is that God seems pretty concerned about orphans in His Word. The Bible references those without parents more than 40 times. God’s Word has plenty to say about orphans, from instructions about sharing food from the harvest with them (Deuteronomy 24:19) to the warning that He will defend them and take up their cause (Proverbs 23:10-11).

The message is quite clear: Don’t mess with orphans, or God himself will intervene on their behalf. Gives me chills.

It’s also very clear from Scripture that God expects believers to act on behalf of orphans. But how do we do that today?

There are countless ways to minister to orphans. From providing the basic necessities of food and water to dramatic life changes like foster care or adoption, each of us can live out God’s command to care for orphans. 

But maybe you’re still wondering exactly how big this issue really is. According to the latest numbers, there are nearly 430,000 children in the U.S. foster care system, along with more than 110,000 kids waiting for permanent adoptive families. The situation seems overwhelming, which is why we’ve created a list of things you can do to make a difference.

On a personal note, that young girl who got pangs in her heart while watching “orphan finds family” movies ended up as a mom of four kids with special needs, all of them adopted from foster care. My husband and I were like those make-believe couples who decided to share the blessing of a home and family with orphaned kids who had neither.

We’re nearly 18 years into a journey that began when our hearts were broken for the plight of orphans. I won’t lie; it hasn’t always been easy, and it certainly wasn’t what I expected – definitely not like in the movies. There have been plenty of downs to go along with the ups. My happily-ever-after heart has ached more times than I can count as we’ve done our best to parent kids dealing with the effects of early trauma, in-utero drug and alcohol exposure and genetic mental illness.

But this I know: When my life on this earth comes to an end, I will never, ever regret following Christ into the fields of the fatherless. In those fields, through His love for orphans, He has revealed so much about His never-ending, never-changing, most-merciful love for every single one of us – a love that, through faith, calls us sons and daughters of the Most High God (Galatians 3:26).

In Christ’s love, there are no orphans.


Kelly Rosati is vice president of Advocacy for Children at Focus on the Family


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