So, tonight, after about a month of ignoring him, I took Al (my guitar) out, tuned him up and gave him a strum, or two, or five… it was, umm, bittersweet… Usually, I skip over the songs I don’t like very much, but this time, I actually stopped at “Days of Elijah”. Played through the chords for the chorus and, almost instinctively, looked to my right, and nearly smiled... Of course, there was nothing there except for my dresser and closet.

Still playing the chords for “There’s no God like Jehovah”, I closed my eyes, and somehow, I could see and hear and feel it all again. Georgy was playing beautifully as usual and Sarvesh was drumming it to near perfection and Wilson and Rohaib were in their spots on that stage and the crowd was a blur. And, almost instinctively, I looked to my right and smiled back at Simi who was singing with a grin on her face and Mia following her lead with brilliant harmony… and I knew it wasn’t real but I didn’t want it to end.

I moved on to “King of All” and “For Who You Are” and a couple others, and it was the same thing again! Maybe I’m going crazy, or maybe I’ve been crazy all along.

When I got to “Blessed Be Your Name”, my imagination shut off and I was left with reality. We sing that song most of the time without thinking too much about the words. The chorus borrowed from Job reminds us of a sometimes difficult but necessary truth. God gives. God takes away. And regardless, we must make the decision to say, blessed be the name of the Lord!

Usually, when I sing the bridge, I think about my Dad. God gave him to me for twenty years of my life and then God decided to take him to Heaven. As painful as that was, and still is, by the grace of God, I’m still here singing blessed be the name of the Lord. Then there’s everything else, the stuff of life—friends, health, finances, jobs, opportunities… and with everything, God gives and takes away according to His perfect will and my reaction must always be to bless His name.

Usually, we get so focused on the stuff that God is giving us, but sulk our way through the taking-away process. Yes, I’m guilty. You see, the last couple years, God gave me something so incredibly precious. He gave me the opportunity to play in a band called Integrated and fill a need and make a difference. It was something I’d never imagined myself ever doing. There are so many people who are blessed with far more talent, and yet, God allowed me to be a part of it.

And recently, things changed and God took Integrated out of my life. And in my mind, it makes no sense, we were just getting started and improving and everything was looking great and then, just like that, it ends for me. I hope and pray that Integrated goes on to great things, but for me, at least for now, it’s the end of the road. And as painful as that is, I have to choose to push past how I feel, and submit to the workings of God and with faith proclaim, “The Lord gives. And the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of Lord!”

I write as if I’ve mastered the concept gloriously, but the truth is that I’m still struggling. There are a lot of things that God’s taken out of my life recently along with Integrated… friends, work, ministry, freedom, security, etc. And, at the moment, He hasn’t replaced it with anything new. It feels as though I’m stumbling along in the dark and waiting for God to turn on the lights. Dealing is tough, but it’s a work in progress, a lesson in trust, a testing of my faith.

If I fall apart now, how will I ever survive when I’m actually out on the mission field and absolute dependence on God is crucial? It’s time to grab a hold of the promises of God in faith and hang on tight for sanity’s sake. And if I haven’t wholeheartedly stated it yet, let me end by stating it now, “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord!”

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