The God Who Gives and Takes
For every life, there are moments that define us. The good, the bad and the ugly parts of life all direct us into becoming something else. If we’re honest, we usually give God credit for the good and full blame for the bad.
For every life, there are moments that define us. The good, the bad and the ugly parts of life all direct us into becoming something else. If we’re honest, we usually give God credit for the good and full blame for the bad. He is, as the book of Job says, the God who gives and takes away, but I find I’m not always singing, “Blessed be Your name.” Especially, when He is taking.
In August of 2013, we were on a much needed vacation. My wife and I took our 3 children; ages 9, 5, and 2, to a Florida home to stay with friends. It is a favorite destination of ours and we had been there numerous times. But this year would be different.
While we relaxed inside, our two year old, Lincoln, decided to sneak out of the house. And I do mean sneak. In a room full of adults, not one of us heard the door open. One of the perks of vacationing there was the backyard pool. If you know anything about a two year old, you know most of them can’t swim. Ours was no different.
This would be one of those moments.
Our friend was washing dishes in the kitchen. Casually she asks, “Why is the door open?” Instantly, my mind raced to the only possible solution, “Where is Lincoln?” Her husband and I jumped up and ran to the pool. In that moment, I saw what no parent should ever be forced to see. My son, whom I was supposed to protect, was floating lifeless in the pool. The world does pause in those moments and clarity is lost.
He is the God who gives and takes away.
My friend was the closest to the pool and reached in to grab lifeless Lincoln. He immediately performed CPR. Face blue, Lincoln was unresponsive. Within that moment, the God who takes away graciously decided to give Lincoln back. As Lincoln took his first breath, so did I.
I cannot describe for you the joy of seeing someone come back to life, but relief is, perhaps, the best word for that moment. Then anger. Then weeping. Then back to relief. Then ultimately joy. This was a miracle by anyone’s standards. Even if you don’t believe in God. The paramedic confirmed miracle status when he tested Lincoln’s oxygen levels and found them to be higher than most adults. He confirmed it when he said, “We never get to drowning victims in time.” The doctor in the ER confirmed it was a miracle when he said, “You had seconds between life and death. Literally, seconds.”
If our friend doesn’t see the door open, Lincoln is gone. If her husband doesn’t perform CPR right away, Lincoln is gone. I believe that all of these moments were God given to shape us into believing in Ephesians 3:20 which states that “God is able to do immeasurably more than we could ever hope for or imagine.” He proved it to us. Boldly. And He did it in such a way that we could celebrate Him to everyone. The receptionist. The grocery clerk. Strangers on the street. It didn’t matter; everyone needed to hear this story because, in a world of pain and heartache, we all need to know that He is the God who gives. He gives life, grace and salvation. It was easy to live out the command in Philippians 4:4 to “Rejoice in the Lord always.” It was easy until March of 2014.
He is, after all, the God who gives and takes away.
March began a full year of trials and pain; starting with losing our 4th child to miscarriage. God had physically saved one child but, this time, He took another. That pain would play a part in my stepping down from my position as a church planter and changing life as we knew it. Exactly one year after losing our 4th child, we were blessed to learn that we were pregnant again. Nine weeks into pregnancy; we lost our 5th child.
We were mad. At God and at ourselves. We kept thinking that maybe there was a limit to how many miracles one family was allowed to have. We had hoped for and imagined an outcome so much better than what we had received. Ephesians 3:20 did not seem so true for us anymore.
However, God did not remain silent.
After the miscarriage, God spoke through a sermon on the rest of Philippians 4, including these verses:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
We know that God is using each and every one of these moments to draw us near to Him. He gives us these moments to somehow fulfill the promise that we can have peace. He is for us not against us (Romans 8:31). God alone has the right to give and take away. I wish I could say that in every moment, my heart screamed, “Blessed be Your name!” It didn’t, but I know this. He is daily moving me toward peace. One that passes all understanding. And I am grateful. Through it all, I can hold on to this verse from Philippians 1:16,”Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
My prayer is that God uses my moments to grow this confidence in others. Pain is not our destiny. The good work that He began, although it is painful at times, will be brought to completion and, in that moment with certainty, we can say, “Blessed be Your name”.
Author: Devin DelGrosso