From Fear to Father: How Understanding Our Adoption Frees Parents from Anxiety

I am a fearful person. As a child I was afraid of the dark, and as a teen, I feared flying. By simply turning on the light or learning about planes, I could dispel some of the fear and enjoy life. 

When I became a parent, my fears grew exponentially. I frequently imagine worse case scenarios. The older I get, the more I realize I have very little power over my biggest fears. Even my most trusted mentors lack the wisdom or power to rescue me from my fears. I am a slave to fear, and my slaveholder is a cruel master who robs me of joy.

By revealing the truth of our adoption in Christ, Romans 8:14-17 is good news for parents and teens who are afraid:

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Spirit of Adoption

My husband and I are the proud parents of two adopted children. To adopt our children, we had to go through multiple iterations of background checks, training, and interviews. We completed hundreds of pages of paperwork that involved everyone from our veterinarian to family members, pastors, employers, medical providers, and friends. We had to pay agency and legal fees. Like a mother who spends almost two years of her life carrying and nursing a child or a couple who endures years of infertility treatments before becoming parents, parents who adopt go through a demanding, emotional, and intentional process.

These verses from Romans remind us that the opposite of adoption is not biological birth, but slavery. Biological birth and adoption have the same result: family. In fact, Jesus was biologically born into a human family, so that we could all be adopted into God’s family. If we are born again into life in the Spirit through Jesus, then we have been blessed by both the birth of Jesus and our own adoption as sons and daughters. Through Jesus, God went through a demanding, emotional, and intentional process to make us his adopted children.

Slavery, on the other hand, is the opposite of adoption. The legalities of slavery say to a child, you are property. The legalities of adoption say to a child, you are my son or daughter. In slavery, enslaved people were often separated from their loved ones and referred to the slaveholder as “Master.” In adoption, people are welcomed into families who love them and refer to their parents as “Mother” and “Father.”

When I ruminate and worry about my children, I become enslaved to my fear. I forfeit the rights and privileges I have as a daughter of the King. Alternatively, when I pray and cry “Abba! Father!” amid my fears, the Spirit reminds me that I am a child of God (vs. 15-16).  

Heirs of God, Heirs with Christ

If we are children of God, then we are his heirs, which, according to the remainder of Romans 8, includes a glorious and never-ending future (vs. 18-30) and an everlasting love (vs. 31-39). My brother and I became heirs to our parents’ estate when they died. We, and our children, have continued to experience their love and a bright future because of our inheritance. Even still, it is an inheritance that will end one day. My brother and I must work to pass along an inheritance to future generations of our family. As heirs of God, we have a “never-stopping, never giving up, unbreaking, always and forever” inheritance.2

Because we are heirs with Christ, we will suffer with Christ (v.17). Suffering with someone is far different than suffering at the hands of someone. Enslaved people often experienced suffering at the hands of their slaveowner. My slavery to fear leaves me alone with my fears and distant from the abiding, sheltering, and shepherding care of the Spirit of adoption (John 15, Ps. 91, Ps. 23; John 10). Alternatively, suffering with Christ means that he will be the vine and my refuge, my shield, and my good Shepherd. Even if my worst fears become a reality, I can endure them because I have a Savior who suffered for me, suffers with me, and secures my future and hope.

From Fear to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

With both of our adoptions, there were periods of time when our children were living in our house and we were caring for them as if they were our children, but we did not know when or if the adoption would be finalized. Depending on state laws and biological family factors, there are often various lengths of waiting and hoping without certainty. For judges and lawyers who are often settling matters of abuse, neglect, or delinquency, adoption days are joyful occasions. However, no one is more joyous than the child who has spent years in foster care and is being adopted into her forever family.

Our fears can make us feel like we are in foster care – with love, care, and guidance that is fleeting. What we long for is a family. If we find ourselves fearful that God’s family is temporary and conditional like foster care, that worry can fill us with doubt in God’s love for us, feelings of loneliness, or a striving independence. Romans 8, along with all of Scripture, reminds us that despite feeling like we are in foster care, our reality is that we are in a forever family. The Spirit bears witness in Scripture and in God’s church that we are a community of adopted sons and daughters.  

When we routinely study the Bible and allow God’s Word to parent us out of our fear and frenzy, we will be better equipped to parent our children out of their own fears and anxieties. The Spirit of adoption exchanges our enslavement to fear and worry for a glorious inheritance with a Heavenly Father.    

Parents, Join us for Rooted 2024 in Dallas, Texas, October 24-26!


  1. Lloyd-Jones, S. (2012). Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name. Zonderkidz.

Dr. Melissa Powell is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and Assistant Professor in the Department of Health and Human Performance (HHP) at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga (UTC). She is married to Chris Powell, Executive Pastor at North Shore Fellowship, and the mother of two children. An old dog, a good book, a big salad, and a long walk are a few of her favorite things.

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