|Marcie's note: I want to make
sure you're all aware that the "Marcia" in this story is
NOT me, although that is my name, and what first brought
the story to my attention. It is a true story, and
is very uplifting to read.
By Mayo Mathers
“You need to visit Marcia,” said the woman I’d just met
after learning we shared a mutual friend, “She’s not
Marcia had moved to a neighboring town a few years
earlier, so I no longer saw her as often as I once did.
When I finally went to her home, Marcia’s skeletal
appearance shocked me. A once-gregarious bundle of
energy, Marcia came to the door in a slow, excruciating
“I’ve been diagnosed with systemic Scleroderma,” she
said, blinking back tears. “It’s a fatal disease where
your skin and internal organs harden.”
On that first visit we mostly cried. On following
visits we talked more, stopping frequently to pray.
Marcia wanted to respond to her disease in a way that
honored God, but forming effective prayers seemed
“Do I ask God to help me accept my diagnosis, or do I
ask for healing?” Marcia wondered aloud one afternoon.
I wondered the same thing. One prayer seemed to
indicate a lack of faith the other a lack of trust.
As I read the Bible to Marcia, familiar verses, when
held against her bleak future, often brought more
questions than comfort. One in particular raised harsh
questions: “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s
will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thessalonians 5:18,
NASB). Could it
truly be God’s will for us to give thanks even for
Marcia’s terminal disease?
Regardless of how illogical the command seemed, Marcia
decided to do it, although she added one condition:
“God, I’ve never lied to you before and I’m not going to
start now. There’s no way I can thank you for
this life-robbing, painful disease or for the fact I’m
not going to see my grandchildren grow up. But I will
thank you for the things for which I’m truly grateful.
With that brutally honest prayer, Marcia began
experiencing an intimacy with God she’d never known
before. And as I spent time meditating on that verse, I
realized Marcia’s conditional obedience to God’s command
wasn’t presumptuous at all. The verse says in
everything give thanks, not for everything.
There’s a big difference in those two little words. God
would never expect our gratitude toward things he finds
repugnant or evil. However, as our Creator, he knows an
overall attitude of thankfulness frees us from the grip
of fear, worry or hopelessness.
FROM DOUBT AND FEAR
Hebrews 13:15 says “let us continually offer up a
sacrifice of praise to God” (NASB).
Setting aside our deepest emotions and speaking words of
praise and trust – especially when we have doubts about
what God allows in our life – are sacrificial.
My son has chosen to walk counter to God’s call on his
life. Despite this excruciating heartbreak, I
anticipate the day when he recommits himself fully to
God. However, I occasionally succumb to dark times of
disillusionment and doubt. The only way I can dispel
them is by sacrificing my urge to mourn what isn’t and
embrace what is: My son is not serving God; God
is trustworthy in all things. Speaking words of
trust takes an act of sheer will. But the reason God
wants me to praise him is because he knows the pattern
this forms in me. If I’m praising, I’m not doubting… if
I’m not doubting, I’m trusting… when I’m trusting, I’m
praising… when I’m praising, I’m not doubting – and so
on. A continual attitude of praise protects me against
Recently my husband, Steve, made a huge career decision
that affects us both without discussing it with me
beforehand. My immediate desire was to lash out at him,
but I managed, barely, to hold my tongue. Yet inwardly
I burned with resentment and anger.
“Lord,” I pleaded one morning, “take these feelings
away. I don’t want to wound Steve with my words, but I
need relief from these emotions.” In the mist of my
prayer, God reminded me to “give thanks in everything.”
The very thought of being thankful at that moment was
galling. It was the last thing I wanted to do.
But as I begrudgingly thanked my way around the
circumstances of Steve’s decision, my resentment slowly
receded, and I became overwhelmed by a renewed
confidence in God. The devastating comments I longed to
hurl at Steve dissipated to the point where I actually
could view his decision objectively.
Until this incident, I’d thought any time I held my
tongue I deserved big pats on the back from God. Now I
realized holding my tongue wasn’t enough. Destructive
emotions still swirled inside me, affecting my
attitude. Only by forcing myself to speak words of
thankfulness did I find relief from the deep wound
Steve’s decision had inflicted. Thankfulness changed my
perspective so I could discuss our situation rationally
ENJOYING THE RESULTS
The last part of Hebrews 13:15 talks about “the fruit of
lips that give thanks to [God’s] name.” God knows
precisely the extent of the sacrifice involved in
setting aside our natural inclinations, and he’s quick
to make it worth our while.
Marcia is incredible evidence of this. She began
pursuing an attitude of thankfulness while I was out of
town for several weeks. When I visited her on my
return, I couldn’t believe the difference. Physically
Marcia hadn’t changed – still emaciated, the hardened
skin on her hands stretched so tightly it pulled her
fingers in toward her palms. She was on heavy doses of
pain medication and rarely got out of bed. Emotionally,
however, she was a woman transformed.
“What’s happened?” I asked, scarcely believing the
sparkle in her eyes.
Marcia smiled. “I’ve been thanking God!” She
explained. First, she said she’d begun with little
things; the blue sky outside her window, the roof over
her head, her wonderful husband. Every day she
persevered in this task regardless of how much pain she
“It’s the most astonishing thing,” she said. “The more
I praise God, the more aware of his presence I become.
In fact,” she continued, “one morning as I was thinking
of things I was thankful for, without even realizing it
I heard myself say, ‘God, thank you for this disease
that’s brought me so much closer to you.’”
I could only stare in astonishment at her determination
to be thankful, regardless of how illogical it seemed.
Marcia had loosened the chokehold of terror in which the
disease had held her. Marcia had switched her focus
from her helplessness to God’s holiness. No wonder God
tells us to cultivate thankfulness in our lives! It’s
an attitude that empowers rather than debilitates.
I saw it in the sparkle of Marcia’s eyes. I felt in
when my son called recently and made plans to meet us at
church. Such tasty fruit has made me an avid believer
in this illogical command that wields such power. And I
will continue, in every thing, to give thanks.
Note: This article is used with permission, and
first appeared in the Nov/Dec 2006 issue of Today's
Christian Woman magazine.
Mayo Mathers, a TCW Regular Contributor, lives