The world was bright, shiny, and bursting with unlimited possibility. For everyone, it seemed, but me. A new year was beginning, and with it came fresh new goals, dreams, and resolutions. But in my world, the new calendar year meant a new reality – one that was too excruciating to even imagine, much less accept. The doctor was sympathetic, but confident in her diagnosis.
My baby was going to die.
My husband and I were informed two days before Christmas. We painstakingly plodded through the holidays, and survived – but far from unscathed. We both knew it could be our son’s first and last Christmas. Every joyful carol was a reminder of our family’s fate, and twinkling lights only illuminated the awareness of our sickening new normal.
Ordinary, everyday tasks became almost unbearable for me: taking a shower, cooking, cleaning, unsuccessfully nurturing a heartbroken marriage, and taking care of a baby who would soon, we were told, no longer be.
On a dreary winter morning, I stood in front of my bathroom mirror, attempting to ready myself for yet another dreadful day. In desperation I called out to God, tears washing away what little makeup I’d somehow managed to apply. “God, please help me!” I cried, physically dropping to my knees, a position that had become like second nature.
At that moment, I very clearly heard the words “Philippians 4.” I was familiar with the passage but went quickly to find my Bible, desperate for any tangible encouragement I could find. I wanted to see the words, read them, hear them, feel them.
I was starving for any small morsel of God’s presence in my dire situation.
As I carefully read verses I had read a hundred times, that day I noticed something I’d never noticed before. Philippians 4:6 says, “ . . . by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
With thanksgiving? I focused on the words cynically.
I definitely wasn’t feeling one bit thankful for anything. But as I thought and prayed more about it, the concept began to make sense. Perfect sense. When we ask God for something, the request should always be prefaced with thanksgiving. Because only then are we in a position to receive the precious, invaluable peace He promises.
The Lord is near.
Do not be anxious about anything,
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.
So I began to thank God for everything I could think of – extended family, a warm home, my husband’s job. When I did, even in that seemingly hopeless situation, I was able to experience the peace of God.
There is much more to this story, but the bottom line is this: My husband and I were told by a very well-respected physician that our six-month-old baby boy would die before his second birthday – and that any future children would likely be stricken with the same fate.
But God, in His sovereignty, had different plans. That precious baby boy is healthy and thriving. He just finished his first semester of college and has a beautiful seventeen-year-old sister.
We all know that every story doesn’t have a happy ending. All these years later, it’s “easy” for me to testify to God’s goodness –now, when things are better and my children are alive and well. But back then, I didn’t know the outcome. I only knew that God allowed me moments of peace amidst immense turmoil.
There will inevitably be pain and heartache in this life. But I have learned that when I take the time to express thanksgiving to God as a part of my prayers, it makes a monumental difference in my state of mind.
Perfect peace is not just for hopeless, desperate, wretched days . . . but for every day.
As a new year begins, no matter what mountain you’re facing — sickness, anxiety, depression, anger, fear, loneliness – if you are in a place that leaves you feeling constantly weak, frustrated, and utterly helpless, look around for blessings you may have temporarily forgotten. A grateful heart is vital because it is the gateway to peace – a peace that is beyond human comprehension.
When we exercise thanksgiving as a part of our prayer lives, we take the first step in discovering the miraculous peace of God. A peace that can lead to a future that is truly bright and bursting with unlimited possibility.