What Happened when I Didn’t Feel Thankful

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Struggles and afflictions in life produce an assortment of emotions…thankfulness is not usually one of them. In 1990 when I found out my cells had gone awry and allowed cancer to grow inside me, gratefulness was about the last thing I felt.

But I kept thinking about the Bible verse to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). I knew it didn’t mean I had to praise God for ­every­ awful thing, but instead, that I could have a thankful heart even in the midst of awful things.

So a few weeks after my diagnosis, I looked for something for which to be thankful.

Summer 1989

Let’s see . . . I have cancer at the age of 36 after taking good care of myself. No…can’t think of anything worthy of thanks there.

My three little girls may have to grow up without a mother. Nope, that ­doesn’t work either.

My husband already has buried one wife and now I have a  60-percent chance of dying soon. Naw, that isn’t inspiring any words of praise.

­I’m going to have to take toxic chemotherapy, when I ­don’t even like to take an aspirin. Not much there to feel grateful about.

Finally, it came to me.

Dr.  Marc Hirsh! I have a Messianic ­Jewish oncologist—who knows, maybe the world’s ­only Messianic ­Jewish oncologist—who last year began practicing medicine just seven miles from my home.

For the first time since hearing the words “you have cancer,” I thanked God in the midst of my devastation.

Father, you know I ­don’t feel any thankfulness, but I want to thank You for leading Dr. Marc Hirsh here to be my doctor.

I can ­only imagine God smiling and saying, “Now you’re getting it. Just wait and see how ­really thankful you’re going to be when I use this doctor to bless and change your life.”

©Kevin Glibert, “Physician” Magazine

The short story of what happened with our “doctor-patient relationship” is that our families became close friends and in 1996, Marc and his wife offered me a position as a patient advocate providing emotional and spiritual care to his cancer patients and their caregivers.

I ­can’t imagine what my life would have been like without being a patient advocate for nearly 20 years. It’s incredible to me what one small prayer of thankfulness set in motion.

Dear friend, I don’t know what trial or heartache you’re facing, but I’m wondering if you have found anything for which to be thankful in the midst of your circumstances?

The Old Testament prophet Habakkuk penned a wonderful example of thankfulness even when everything around him was going wrong:

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
And though there are no grapes on the vines;
Even though the olive crop fails,
And the fields lie empty and barren;
Even though the flocks die in the fields,
And the cattle barns are empty,

Yet I will rejoice in the LORD!

I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! Habakkuk 3:17,18

Go ahead, be thankful in all things—even when the chemo hair follicles have no “blossoms,” even though your strength “fails”” and even though your dreams “lie empty and barren.” Go ahead and rejoice in the Lord because a prayer of thanksgiving can unleash the power of God in truly amazing ways.
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    • Katherine Perry on July 26, 2023 at 8:34 AM
    • Reply

    Lynn you are an inspiration to so many. Even though I know your story, it was so great to read it new today with the emphasis on young Dr Marc. Blessings.

    1. Hi Kathy,
      You are so kind. I sure miss partnering with you in encouraging hurting people. I hope you are enjoying this new chapter in your life and finding new ways to use your wonderful gifts for Him.

  1. Lynn, your inspiration is ongoing, and your role as a patient advocate lives on in the people you have encouraged through your books and speaking engagements. You’ve made my own cancer experience lighter. God bless you!

    1. Hi Bonnie,
      I still am amazed at the incredible ministry God created for me at Marc’s office. I sure would have loved a patient advocate when I was diagnosed! It was such a privilege to be able to offer others what I didn’t have. It’s so nice to connect with you again here. Thanks for taking time to write.

    • Denise Durbin on July 26, 2023 at 12:31 PM
    • Reply

    This timely message has blessed me tremendously. Thank you!!!

    1. Hi Denise,
      I’m so glad! I always ask the Lord to get my message to someone who really needs that encouragement and He never fails. Many blessings of healing HOPE on you!

    • Dawn W on July 26, 2023 at 8:23 PM
    • Reply

    You have both been such a blessing and an inspiration , helping my mother Mary Frazer fight her 7 1/2 year battle, after a terribly grim diagnosis. There is a reason for you to to be here and be an advocate to others. Angels on earth. Thank you and God bless you ♥️

    1. Hi Dawn,
      Thank you so much for these kind words. Your mom was a treasure to know and I still share her story with many people as an encouragement that God is in control–not statistics! I’m so glad I was able to write about her in “Peace in the Face of Cancer” so that tens of thousands can get to know her too!–Lynn

    • Maggie Rowe on July 27, 2023 at 12:20 PM
    • Reply

    Lynn, I am reading your post even as one of my very closest friends is preparing to undergo surgery for breast cancer. Your words always encourage and strengthen my heart, especially in light of recent events. Not sure if you know that our mutual friend Sharon L from Tyndale had a mastectomy on Tuesday. I mailed her a prayer that you wrote. Grateful for your writing and ministry.

    1. Hi Maggie,
      Thank you so much for our long friendship and for you sharing my ministry with people you know. I wish NO one ever needed my books, but that probably is not going to ever happen this side of Heaven. I did know about our mutual friend and have been in contact with her–thanks for making sure I did know. I’m amazed when I see all the traveling and speaking I see you’re doing–we are the same age, but I’m slowing down, while you’re speeding up! Many blessings on all that you are doing in Jesus’ Name!

    • Colleen Shapiro on July 29, 2023 at 10:18 AM
    • Reply

    Thank you for this message I am today not feeling grateful and didn’t know what to feel grateful for. I had my mammogram and sonogram done yesterday it will be five years come November and I’m waiting for the results it’s always very stressful for me when I go through this. I am also waiting for results of a stress test for my heart as one of the Chemo’s that they used on me affects the heart muscle. I go yearly for the test and the numbers have been wonderful but not so much this year. I had Covid in January. So having this yearly test my numbers went down this year and the doctor is very concerned and I’m on medication now and he doesn’t know if it’s from Covid or the chemo so I’m dealing with that at the moment. After reading your blog I just feel so uplifted because I too have a Jewish surgeon and he has been a godsend to me and just a blessing but I was forgetting that. So thank you for reminding me to be thankful for all things. I appreciate your blog have a wonderful day and thank you again

    1. Dear Colleen,
      Thank you so much for taking time to write and I apologize for being so slow in responding–I was on vacation with my family and am just catching up now on all my correspondence.

      It sounds like you have really had a tough year and you are so right that it can be difficult to be grateful when so much is going wrong (or might be going wrong). I’m really thankful that the Lord used these words to encourage you and bring to mind a blessing in your otherwise stress-filled life. I’m wondering how things turned out for you with these tests? Feel free to email me at cancerhope4u@gmail.com and let me know if you would like. I am heading out of town again soon so you might not get a quick answer.

      Many blessings of healing HOPE and God’s supernatural PEACE,

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