From Cisterns to Glory {DWITW 365}


I walked into the Chinese hotel lobby for the second time in my life and the familiar smell of powder, chlorine, and a faint hint of smoke flooded my mind with so many memories. The humidity hung in the air we breathed, even in the midst of winter, and the fluent Chinese conversations between our travel guide and the hotel attendant brought me profoundly back to our first adoption three-and-a-half years prior.

I looked down at my jet lagged yet inquisitive little girl, and I said to her, “This is where we first met.” We slept hard through the night, and woke up in the morning to enjoy fried eggs, dumplings, and yogurt drinks for breakfast. I told my daughter, “This is where we shared our first meal together.” We relaxed in the hotel room, and I prepared the crib with a handmade quilt, taggie blanket, and a little ladybug plush animal. I told my daughter, “This is what we did while waiting for you too.” We waited in anticipation, knowing that our family would grow by one in the next few hours.

I sit here now in this very hotel room gathering my thoughts and lifting up prayers of hope as we wait. When I learned that my first blog post as a contributor to the Dayton Women in the Word blog team was due on Monday, January 8, I figured that God had a special plan to include our family’s adoption story as a part of this week’s reflection. My husband and I have been entrusted by God with two biological children, and two children by adoption -- one of whom we are about to meet.

He needed to be rescued, to be pulled out of the darkness of this world. . .

What we have learned through adoption is that we all come from trauma of some kind, whether it be profound or seemingly minimal. Jesus’ family is full of flawed human beings with long track records of rejection, injury, and brokenness. Joseph was no stranger to such history, as his own biological family disowned and abandoned him in the ultimate way by throwing him into a cistern to be left for dead (Genesis 37:18-24). I am confident that Joseph felt a sense of hopelessness, lack, and longing for connection that most of us cannot fathom. God’s story written for this man, who was in the family of Christ, included a deep sense of being separated and hurt by the very family that was supposed to care deeply and unconditionally for him. He was cast into a pit so deep that he never would have been able to be brought out by any means of his own. He needed to be rescued, to be pulled out of the darkness of this world, and provided a life that only another could offer him.

This is our story - every one of us. Our daughter, yet to meet us today, is not the only orphan in a fatherless state. We are all fatherless and in need of rescue and adoption by our heavenly Father. We all find ourselves in cisterns, without hope, and without what our souls need to be free and whole. Little did we know at the time what God had promised Joseph to be true is what He also promises us: that what the enemy intends for evil, God intends for good (Genesis 45:4-8).

God redeemed Joseph from the cistern, and He gave him a hope and a future. He took him from the lowest place in earth where he found himself lonely and afraid, and He brought him into a life of honor, abundance, and glory. Christ offers each of us this life through His sacrificial death on the cross for our brokenness and sin -- and for the needs in each of our hearts to be loved, connected, and never left.

And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.
— ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭45:5

Our precious daughter is coming to us today from a history of trauma. Her cistern has been very deep and her need for connection is profound. We are humbled and blessed to be a part of God’s mighty rescue of her heart. As David Platt says, “We adopt not because we are the rescuers, but because we have been rescued.” God redeemed Joseph from the pit, He has redeemed those who have come into the fold in Christ through saving faith, and He is continuing to rescue us in His sanctifying love that will never leave us while bringing others out of their pits.

Our hope in meeting our daughter today is that this one of many steps we are taking brings her closer to her apprehension of the Gospel. She does not yet know that we are preparing this space for her out of love. She cannot yet apprehend the home that also awaits her in Ohio, and the many family and friends who will take her in as a part of our family. She is being pulled from her earthly cistern into a life that will reveal her heart's’ true desire for connection and unconditional love. As our older daughter has experienced, what is very painful and scary at the time, as she leaves everything she has ever known will one day become home to her heart. She will hear the name of Jesus, she will experience the love of Jesus, and she will prayerfully call upon the name of Jesus. As her life moves from the cistern towards the glory of God and the fulfillment of His promise to adopt us in His love by grace through faith, we expectantly await redemption.


Julie Swain is a follower of Jesus, wife, stay-at-home mom of four beautiful children, and fellow sister in Christ. She is passionate about ministering to the hearts of other moms, especially those who have been called to parent children from hard places through adoption and foster care. No story is too broken for God’s redemption, and she believes that He will use even the darkest of circumstances to shine His glory.  She believes that while God always give us more than we can handle, He does so because He wants us to see our need for Him in every moment of life.