Today’s guest Blogger is Stephanie Van Gorden. I met Stephanie when she asked me to speak at her women’s retreat a few years ago.  She has been a child of God for 29 years, a wife for 11 years, and a mom for 2 years to two children she and her husband are hoping to adopt from the foster system. I know you will be richly blessed by her addition to the blog. You can read more about her below. 

The Lord God
is a sun and shield; the Lord gives grace and glory;
no
good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.
Psalm
84:11
This has been my
mainstay, my comfort, my go-to when I question why life has turned out the way
it has.
My husband and I
can’t have biological children—we’ve known that for years. We didn’t know why,
or what, if anything, could be done about it. Turns out that the direct cause
is complicated by an underlying chronic disease that is complicated by yet
another chronic condition. This we learned over 18 months as eight different
doctors diagnosed five distinct causes for fatigue, pain, weight gain, mental
fog, and infertility.
All of these have
the potential to derail my contentment: the fatigue and pain have drastically
changed my schedule. The weight gain…well, ladies, do I really need to
explain that one? The mental fog has been one of the biggest problem—one of my
greatest loves in life is the written word. I love to read, to write, to
digest, to discuss. But when the fog is at its worst, I can’t concentrate, my
eyes go blurry, my vocabulary regresses to about first grade, and I can read an
entire page and not be able to tell you a single thing I read.
But the battle for
contentment in those things seems easy when compared to infertility. Although
God has now graciously given us two wonderful children through fostering (we’re
still in process to adopt them), we felt our childlessness keenly; our home was
too large for us, and the silence could be deafening. We serve in a ministry to
hurting and broken people, but we were rarely “allowed” to offer help
to parents because we weren’t parents ourselves. We have endured endless
questions by well-meaning people who think they have a right to understand my
reproductive system. We grieved privately and without help or support partly
because the world complains about its children, denies our grief, and tries to
tell us that we’re better off; and partly because people just forget.
{Just as a side
note, let me let you in on an adoptive mom’s secret: for some women, the drive
to give birth to a child is so strong that even with the joy and fulfillment
that comes through adoption, our arms still ache. It can still be difficult to
hear of a friend’s pregnancy. Baby showers can still be hard. So even though we
have children now, this particular lesson in this particular arena still
applies to my heart. I love my children. I praise God for them. But there is
still a part that grieves the inability to conceive, and so I still need to
preach this truth to my heart regularly.}
As we see children
“raised” by parents who see them as a burden—at best, leaving them to
fend for themselves unprotected, or, worse, neglecting them entirely—we asked
God over and over again why He would allow this. We wondered why a good God
would do this. Why…
§  …would medical
technology not work for us that has worked for so many others?
§  …would our
infertility be complicated by other diseases that make resolving it virtually
impossible?
§  …are some given
children only to damage them, when we, who serve Him, endured empty arms?
These questions
kept me up at night, kept me down during the day, plagued my mind, exhausted
me. More so because I absolutely and without question believe that God is good,
wise, loving, sovereign, and righteous. He doesn’t ever make a mistake. He
doesn’t ever need to apologize. He doesn’t allow suffering “beyond what we
can bear” (1 Corinthians 10:13). As I have tried to wrap my mind around
the juxtaposition of a good God allowing so much pain, as I have battled for
contentment in the face of these questions, I’ve come to some conclusions about
why contentment is so hard to find.
I think it’s
because we misdefine the problem, and so we misdefine the cure. Most of us
would say that contentment is being satisfied with what we have, but I’m not
sure that’s entirely correct. It’s part of it, but not the whole of it.
We all know Hebrews
13:5, right? Some of you immediately went to, “He has said, ‘I will never
leave you nor forsake you.'” And some thought, “Keep your life free
from the love of money and be content with what you have.” When we try to
define contentment, we go right to the put off/put on—putting off the love of
money or material possessions, we put on just “being okay” with where
we are and what we have now. For instance, I want a new cabinet for our TV, but
what we have works, so I’ll be content. I’d love to be pain-free, but that’s
not likely to happen. I can complain, or I can choose to be grateful that it’s
not worse. These aren’t wrong attitudes, but I don’t think they go far enough.
These focus horizontally, on myself, comparing what I have with what I could
have. But if I base contentment on the fact that it could be worse, what
happens to my mental and spiritual stability if it does get worse?
We need to put the
two halves of the verse together: “…Be content with what you have, for He has said, ‘I will never
leave you…'” What you
have
 isn’t about material
things, or current status in life. It’s talking about the God of the universe. Contentment
isn’t a question of attitude so much as perspective. My husband calls it
wearing the binoculars of Heaven (Colossians 3:1-4). Contentment comes not from
being okay with life as-is, but from understanding that a perfectly wise,
faithfully loving, unfailingly good God has a purpose in what He allows, and
whatever that purpose is, no matter how painful it is to accomplish, He is
right there with us, every step of the way.
I have to ease into
my day, but I have the presence of God (Psalm 90:14; Psalm 121). I have to plan
even a shower based on if I’ll have time to rest afterwards, but the God of the
universe knows my name and how many hairs are on my head—both before and after
I wash my hair (Matthew 10:29-30)! I can’t do normal household tasks without
paying a steep price anymore, but my heavenly Father paid a steep price through
the gift of His Son to cleanse my heart and make me whole (Psalm 51:7-12;
Ephesians 2:8-9). I once had a big empty house and no little voices to break
the silence or little feet to pound up and down the stairs, but the Lord of all
has ordained even this quiet day for my good and His glory (Psalm 90:12;
Ephesians 2:10).
This God is a sun and
shield. This God gives grace and glory. His ways
may be inexplicable to my human mind, but my God doesn’t withhold any good
thing if I am walking uprightly. If I am without, the lack is somehow better
for me in God’s economy than gaining my desire. And there, I am content.
About Stephanie: I used to be a counselor and Bible teacher, and I used to write a blog. These days, I counsel little hearts, teach my babies to love and memorize the Word of God, and my writing consists of modeling the ABC’s for a preschooler who’s dying to write. Lots of things have grown my faith over the years, but not much has shaken it like infertility, other chronic health issues, and motherhood, and I’m thankful that God has proven Himself faithful and merciful over and over again. I do all this from a tiny corner in Colorado where my family serves with Village Missions, a missions organization whose purpose is to strengthen and establish healthy Biblical churches in North America, primarily in rural areas.

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