“God won’t give you more than you can handle!”
Christians and non-Christians alike tend to cling to statements like these. It sounds good, it looks good in a frame, on a bookmark or coffee cup, and most importantly, it makes us feel good. It gives us confidence that we have the ability to overcome no matter the back-breaking, tear-filled, exhausting situations we experience. Undoubtedly, the intention behind these words is good, and I’m almost sure I’ve even uttered them before to someone. But there’s a pretty significant problem with this statement.
It isn’t true. It isn’t in the Bible. It’s a statement focused on man instead of God. And that is always dangerous.
Let me introduce some friends to you. This family knows how false that statement is. They know because God gave them more than they could handle.
Shane and Kasi Pruitt married in September of 2004, gave birth to their first daughter in May of 2006, and their second daughter in July of 2011. In April of 2013, the Pruitts became a family of 5 when they brought home Benjamin Praise Kakande from Uganda as their son.
At the beginning of 2012, they decided to move forward in the process to adopt internationally. Although the Pruitts always felt like they would adopt at some point, their decision to begin the process came earlier than expected. After spending a weekend with a couple who adopted a little boy from Ethiopia, Shane and Kasi began examining their reasons for waiting to adopt.
“Anything we came up with was pretty worldly,” Shane remembered. “Finances, busyness, whatever it was. It was all just pretty worldly.”
Shane witnessed his own parents providing foster care to nine different children. After his parents were separated from and unable to adopt a foster child they had for over four years, Shane identified a common reason that often prevents people from considering adoption or foster care: fear of getting hurt. Despite this possibility, the Pruitts decided to begin the adoption process.
“Initially we just thought it was a good thing, but as we matured in our faith in Jesus, we realized that we were orphans and our father adopted us,” Shane said, pointing to Galatians 4. “We were redeemed by Christ. We are adopted. We are sons. We are able to cry out ‘Abba, Father.’ It’s been huge for me in realizing who I was outside of Christ – an orphan – and who I am in Christ – a part of a family.”
Kasi likewise shared the change in her understanding of adoption.
“You start looking into adoption and reading books about it and you realize that it’s so much more than just saving a child,” Kasi said. “In America, we have this savior complex of ‘I can do so much for this child.’ But reading God’s word, it’s not about us at all.”
While waiting to be matched with a child, their son, whom they wouldn’t learn about for a few more months, was born. Benjamin Praise Kakande came into the world on November 10, 2012 outside of Jinja in Uganda, Africa. His biological mother died during childbirth, and his father was unemployed and unable to care for him. Since the mother was not around to breastfeed, and the father not able to afford formula to feed him on a regular basis, Praise became very sick, malnourished, and weak. At six-weeks old, he was taken to a small remote clinic by an aunt, where they tried to place an IV in his head to begin nourishing him. He was too small and weak to have the IV placed elsewhere. The IV was left in one spot for too long and caused a bad infection on his head. After developing the infection, Praise was transferred to a hospital where they nursed him to a state where he could survive some pretty intense surgeries to remove the infection. At three months old, the hospital did two emergency surgeries, removing about 40% of the skin from his skull. After another month of healing, doctors performed a skin graft by taking skin from his thigh, and fusing it directly to his skull. In his first several months of life, he spent 3 months in hospitals and clinics, having three major surgeries.
As Praise lay in a hospital in between surgeries, the Pruitts received their first knowledge of him via email from a couple they’d never met before who were also adopting from Uganda. This couple heard of Praise and his situation, and felt compelled to contact Shane and Kasi about him. After a few days of him being nothing more than a prayer request in the Pruitts’ home, Kasi sent a private message to the director of the baby home to check on Praise’s condition.
“Through multiple online conversations between Kasi and the director of the baby home, a very sobering question arose in our minds and hearts,” Shane remembers. “Is it possible that God intends for Praise to be our son? Is it possible that this child is our son that currently lies halfway around the world in a clinic, with an infection taking up a third of his head, fighting for his life? Our only son? God, what are you doing?”
The first picture of Praise that the Pruitts saw truly captivated their hearts for the boy. He was lying on a small thin mattress. His arms and legs were bone thin, his stomach was bloated from malnutrition, his face had an anguished look, and a thin towel covered the infection on his head.
“In that picture, his physical state was gut wrenching,” Shane said. “And yet just like the first time we saw our two daughters, he was the most beautiful thing we had ever seen!”
Although the adoption process already seemed differently than what the Pruitts anticipated, a few distinct instances happened over the next several weeks and months that truly proved overwhelming for each of them.
A few weeks after hearing of Praise, the Pruitts received another picture of him, this time revealing a great deal more of the wound on his head. Shane remembers being at the office when Kasi called, struggling with words to convey how bad it really was before forwarding the email to Shane.
“My breath was taken away,” Shane said. “My emotions and thoughts ran a full gamut. Regrettably, my immediate thoughts were, ‘We can’t do this. We can’t handle this. This is way over our heads. This is a lot bigger than us. This isn’t the perfect little African baby that we had in our mind.’”
Despite the Pruitts’ immediate sense of bewilderment and incapability, God began to speak to them precisely concerning the details that overwhelmed them so.
“After about 15 minutes of my face just buried in my hands, it was like God started speaking,” Shane said. “’This is your son. This hasn’t changed a thing. Even though it was a shock to you, it wasn’t a shock to me.’ I knew that this was what God had called us to and that he would see us through it. Even if we bring him home to die, he’s going to die knowing that a family loves him, and he would go from our arms into the Father’s arms.”
Kasi similarly described some of the darkest moments in the adoption process for her specifically. The Pruitts led a team from their church to Uganda in March of 2013, which was when they met Praise for the first time. A few weeks later, in April, the two of them returned to finalize the adoption process and bring him home. Upon landing in Uganda, Kasi checked her email to discover that Praise was hospitalized with pneumonia.
“It was a shot to the gut, and we couldn’t get a hold of anybody that night,” Kasi said. “The message just said to please be praying for Praise and another baby that was in the hospital, and that it didn’t look good. I remember crying that night and saying to Shane, ‘Did we come here just for him to die, and we’re going to go home alone?'”
The director of the baby home informed the Pruitts the next morning that although she had not expected him to survive the night, Praise still lived. Shane and Kasi eventually were able to visit Praise in the hospital, an open shed with a concreted floor. When they left him that day he lay resting under a mango tree hooked up to his IV. After a few more weeks of paperwork and procedures, and after Praise’s condition improved, the Pruitts brought him home to join their family.
Although grateful to introduce Praise to his two sisters, as well as several other friends and family, the Pruitts took him immediately to an appointment with specialists where he had his first set of examinations and diagnoses in America. More bad news accompanied the reports. Scans of Praise’s head revealed proof of physical abuse.
“They came in, closed the door behind them and turned off the TV. I knew they were about to tell us bad news,” Kasi said. “At that moment we felt like, ‘What are we doing? This is way more than we expected or can handle.'”
Like Kasi expressed, all that they’ve experienced with Praise has been way more than they expected and way more than they can handle. But precisely through those exact circumstances, God continues revealing deeper truths about himself.
When asked about the idyllic adoption experience the Pruitts anticipated before ever learning of Praise, both expressed embarrassment immediately over the fantastical and unrealistic aspects of what they expected. In essence, they imagined a perfectly healthy African baby boy who would be running around without any problems, a sports lover and athlete like Shane, and a kid who got along perfectly with his two older sisters.
The reality is that Titus comes with a lot of questions, a lot of unknown details. Doctors and therapists say that they won’t know until he gets older if he will have any disabilities or not. More operations are scheduled for the future. Kasi takes him to at least one doctor appointment a week, and he undergoes therapy twice a week. Although it is quite possible that he may lead a normal life, it’s equally possible that he may not. It’s possible that Shane and Kasi may never be empty nesters.
And yet despite all of these challenges, difficulties, and unexpected events, the Pruitts recognize God’s sovereignty in each of the details, and they’re grateful for it.
“I think, for us, had we brought home a perfectly healthy child, I wouldn’t have learned the lessons that God has taught me,” Kasi said. “I’ve experienced some of the lowest points of my life, but also some of the most growing and sanctifying times of my life. God knew what we needed, and that was Titus.”
God knew what they needed. And what they needed involves continual overwhelming circumstances that prevent them from depending on themselves, but that constantly point them to look to God for guidance, wisdom and strength.
“In some ways it’s such a blessing that we are so overwhelmed because we are constantly reminded that we are not capable,” Kasi said. “Before having Titus home, I would think about Christ returning and I would think, ‘Oh, I just want to see my daughters get married first.’ But now through Titus, and through this whole situation, I long for Christ to come back. I was so content in my happy little American lifestyle before that I was missing the big picture. There hasn’t been a moment when we rely on ourselves because there’s been so much that we haven’t been able to.”
Benjamin Praise Kakande officially became Titus Praise Pruitt on June 26, 2013. He now carries his father’s name. He continues to grow and astonish his parents at his improvement. Titus means honorable, and God daily shows his miraculous strength through him. This once malnourished little baby now weighs over 22 pounds. When the Pruitts first met TItus, the list of things he could not do seemed endless. Having 8-10 seizures a day, Titus was unable to move his head from side to side and his hands remained clenched into fists. His eyes followed nothing and no one and he never smiled. Now, this almost one year old baby boy recently weaned completely off his seizure medication. He holds his head up, plays with toys, army crawls occasionally, and smiles all the time. He is a son, a brother, a grandchild, a great-grandchild, a nephew, and a cousin. Shane and Kasi admit how easy it can be to forget everything God has already done through Titus, and they express their desire to continue telling his story in order to remember themselves what God is doing.
“I don’t want to paint the picture that we don’t still struggle in moments with what Titus goes through,” Kasi said. “It’s never a question of if we’ve made a bad decision bringing him home or not. I long for him to be healthy. I never want him to experience another seizure again, but if he does, I find peace in knowing that this is only for a moment when it compares to eternity.”
As you read the Pruitts’ story, I’m confident that their desire is not that you marvel at them and their decision to adopt. They tell their story to point to God and his glory. Their insufficiencies place the beauty of God’s strength on display. Marvel at that. Take comfort in that. Rest in that.
Did God give them more than they could handle? Yes.
Do they still feel overwhelmed? Consistently.
And like they expressed, and as they know to be true from scripture, that’s exactly where God wants them. He knew what they needed.
And so it is with all of us.
It can be easy to feel like failures, to question God concerning our circumstances, and to forget what he has already done, to forget the truth of the gospel. The truth that we must remember is that, apart from God, we are malnourished, wounded orphans. Apart from God, we are incapable and overwhelmed.
But we can be overwhelmed and exhausted and weak because our God is not. He’s sovereign and working in all of the details, despite whether or not we recognize him, question him or praise him in the midst of it all. It’s his faithfulness we can trust. It is on his promises that we place our dependence.
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:18
Praise God for such amazing truth.
- When God Has a Different Plan (never2manyflowers.wordpress.com)
- National Adoption Month: Alone No Longer (seekingthegreatness.wordpress.com)
- I know why you THINK you can’t adopt or be involved in foster care…. (projecthopeful.wordpress.com)