Before our Son Caleb was born, I had a different understanding of these verses. Now, you might think that Caleb is the "good gift" that I'm thinking of when I quote these verses and indeed he is a very good gift for which I am thankful. When he was born as many of you know, he had problems, his lungs were not quite ready to breath air. As a result, he had to spend two weeks in the Infant ICU at Carolina's Medical Center in Charlotte.
The following is a testimony of what happened. I believe God would have me share this testimony because some of you may have never gone through a time like this. I certainly never had, and was not prepared for the thoughts that flooded our minds. Lauren and I found ourselves in her hospital room pondering the situation and becoming angry! We started feeling very low and the whole thing looked black. Why would God bring Lauren safely through nine months of pregnancy just to take away our first son? What an ugly joke! I could go on explaining how our faith was suddenly shaken and our God seemed very far away and helpless.
Then a verse popped into my mind - Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”
I started to excuse this thought from my mind because of my anger, but the Holy Spirit wouldn't let it go away! I finally said loudly to Lauren – “NO! NO! NO! We have to stop our complaining. If we have believed in God through all the sunshine years only to turn our back on Him in a dark hour, what good has our faith done us? Don't we often pray - Lord, show yourself real to us! Use us for your service! and We want men to see your glory through us?" Now, God was giving us an opportunity to see Him in a way that we never had before; to trust Him, and to see what He would do. All of the sudden it became very clear - we had to tell God that if taking Caleb back from us was what He had planned, then we were willing not only to accept it, but to give Him praise and to trust that He truly is good. At this point, we bowed our heads together and prayed confessing our anger to the LORD, and asking Him to strengthen us for whatever lay ahead. We then asked Him to use us as a testimony to others regardless of the outcome. When we lifted our heads, things seemed much brighter - the world was not spinning out of control, it lay perfectly in control of our Father's hand. We washed up and headed back for the NICU with a new strength.
After this event, our attitudes changed! We wanted to tell everyone what God had done in our hearts. We were confident, not that Caleb would live, but confident that we could face the trial and go through it together with our God and that the outcome, whatever it was, would strengthen our faith and make us more useful in His service. I could spend a couple of hours at this point telling all of the doors of witness that God opened up for us while we were there, so I'll just have to summarize.
We began by telling the Nurses and the Doctors one by one as they would come to Caleb's bedside that hundreds of people were praying for them, we told them not to be afraid to make the decisions that were necessary for taking care of Caleb because we knew that the outcome was not in their control. This drew a few strange looks, but also several of them thanked us and we began to find that some were believers as well. I was able to give the gospel to several nurses who attended Caleb. One whose name was Rhonda thanked me deeply for caring for her and accepted a gospel tract promising to read it when her shift ended. She had Never heard before that we could be certain of eternal life. We were also able to witness to several families in the NICU waiting rooms. We found how tender their hearts were as they were going through these same trials, many without any hope or understanding.
We also found some other believers there! We found that some friends of ours, Lee and Dorthea Robinson had a baby girl there in the bed adjacent to Caleb’s, and often we were able to meet and pray together with them encouraging each other in the Lord and in our witness for Christ. Their baby Cherith was able to go home two days before Caleb!
We also met a family who were new believers in Christ - only that morning they had been reading the story of Stephen from Acts for the first time. When they came into the NICU waiting room and met me, they thought that it was a sign from God that my name was Stephen. I saw the burden of care on their faces and asked them about their baby - his name is Gray. He had been in Charlotte NICU 16 days after being transferred from Rock Hill where he had been for several days prior. Gray's airway was 90% blocked and they couldn't understand the reason for the swelling. I didn't know that they were facing a decision to give him a tracheotomy that day. I began to tell them what God had done in our hearts and how we had trusted God for the outcome of our son and had realized our responsibility as believers to look to God for the strength that we needed. I also told them how that we had been praying for the doctors and nurses. Later in the week I saw them in the waiting room again. Gray’s mother (Heather) had a smile on her face. She said - you won't believe the difference your testimony has made for us! Me and my husband have begun praying with our doctors and nurses. The other day when you spoke to us, you didn't know that we were facing a decision for our son to have a tracheotomy that day. Just after you left, we met with the doctors and the surgeon. They highly recommended to do this immediately. Just before they went into surgery, my husband (Kevin) asked all of the Doctors and the Surgeon to stay in the room a moment longer while he prayed with them. He trusted the outcome to the Lord and asked that God would be glorified in whatever the outcome. The surgeon returned from the surgery room after only a few minutes exclaiming - you're prayers have been answered! The airway swelling has gone back to 50% and a tracheotomy will not be necessary today! Heather and Kevin would end up taking their son Gray home the same day that Caleb came home; he never did have to have the tracheotomy!
God also gave me an opportunity to witness to one of the house keeping ladies in the waiting room. Her name was Angela! After a few minutes of conversation with her, I was able find out that she did not know the Lord as her Savior. She was working and I knew that I could not hold her up for a lengthy period of time, so I gave her a gospel tract and told her that if she would read it, it would tell her how to be 100% sure she was on her way to Heaven. The next day as I was washing up in the waiting room, Angela poked her head in the door and said "Guess What! I just want you to know that I read that piece of paper you gave me and it made sense! Now I know that I'm going to Heaven too!" I was able then to share some resources with her to help her find a good church and some people in her area who could encourage her in her new faith. Pray for our new sister that she will grow in the Lord.
Many other things God did for us that would take all day to exclaim! A passage that we constantly kept reminding ourselves of was Matthew 7:9-11 “Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in Heaven give good things to them that ask him?
If you will recall that passage we read from James at the beginning? "Every good gift, and every perfect gift is from above... “ My testimony today is that the trial we went through was the good gift! The soul that was won was the good gift! The growth in our lives was the good gift! Although Caleb did come home safely from the hospital, and many people indeed ministered to our physical needs which were also good gifts, the God of all comfort was able to remove the blindness from our eyes so that we could see the eternal gifts, and actually we found ourselves more enamored with them so that the physical gifts fell by the wayside in comparison.
I would encourage everyone who reads this, don’t stop praying for one another or bearing one another's burdens! God has indeed answered your prayers in our lives above all that we could ask or think. We pray that He will use our testimony in your life when you face a dark hour. Know that we all must face these things in our lives because we live in a world cursed by man’s sin. Our Heavenly Father truly loves and cares for us. He does want to work all things for your good. He has told us that if we seek Him with all of our hearts that we will find Him. Don’t seek for your own will, nor try to understand every circumstance. Rest in knowing that none of these things take our God by surprise, and rest in knowing that He loves you enough to carry you through the circumstances. What a privilege it is to be called His children and to be counted worthy to suffer so that others may come to know Him through our lives.