Patrice’s fresh face shone. Blonde head held high, resplendent in her flowered dress, the bubbly eight-year-old accepted the prize from the district Sunday School Commissioner.
“The children are encouraged to choose a ‘life verse’”, the kindly gentleman explained. “Patrice?” Patrice spoke clearly with just a hint of nerves.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians four verse six” (NIV).
Fifteen years passed. Dressed in white, Patrice walked to the front of a magnificent old stone church in the city. Her best friend, Steve, waited there, a tear in his eye. Many of the guests thought it strange that Philippians 4:6 was given such a prominent place in the service. Surely the famous ‘love passage’ would be more suitable? Yet the happy couple felt that there wasn’t a better way to start their life together.
There was much for which to be thankful. They had good jobs and soon bought a lovely house in a leafy suburb. Several years later, Steve and Patrice again found themselves again at the front of a church. This church met in a school hall. Wearing a loose dress, Patrice stood by Steve, each holding a baby!
“Do you promise to bring these children up in the knowledge and love of the Lord?”, the minister asked. “We do”, the proud parents promised. The minister placed his hands upon the two little heads. “May this family never be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present their requests to you, their God.” (Phil. 4:6 paraphrased). Some commented that it was an odd way to pray, but the new parents had requested this as their reference point for the years ahead.
Patrice couldn’t quite identify when the change began, but their world came crashing around them one horrible winter. Steve and Patrice again stood at the front of the church. The minister and elders gathered around. They anointed Steve with oil and prayed for his healing. He had been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour.
The awful disease progressed mercilessly. To make ends meet, Patrice returned to work. Steve’s behaviour became increasingly erratic. Home alone one day, he attacked the postman. Reluctantly, they moved him into hospice care.
Steve quickly settled into the routine of the hospice. Each day, he became more withdrawn, and soon didn’t even know his own family. Patrice didn’t feel anything. She was functioning on automatic, doing what had to be done.
The doctor gave her medicine which took the edge off her blackness. It was reasonable, he said, to feel this way. She was handling it well, the social worker said. The church people were wonderful. Patrice herself didn’t get to church much these days, but made sure the kids didn’t miss a Sunday.
One morning, Patrice found herself again sitting in church, this time in the new multipurpose complex. She was wearing a drab pair of jeans and old T-shirt, her drawn face devoid of make-up. The twins stood up the front with their friends, heads held high. The drums began, the rhythm clear and crisp, and the chorus of the up-beat song rang out. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Phil. 4:6 NIV)
Although distant, the music finally broke through Patrice’s exhaustion. A ray of sun was penetrating the block of ice that her whole being had become.
She gazed at the two gorgeous little faces there amongst the children. “Be thankful”, her mind said. She looked around her caring community. “Be thankful”, the voice whispered. Encountering a caring nurse as she arrived at the hospice later that day, she thanked both God and the lady. Walking into Steve’s room, she looked at what remained of her husband. The warm salty tears that flowed were like the melting of that block of ice. Patrice poured out her worries to her Lord.
Several weeks later, Patrice was again at the front of the church, this time dressed in black. She stood by the handsome rosewood coffin. The minister’s voice carried clearly as he expounded Philippians 4:6. Many mourners thought it strange that he didn’t focus on the beautiful ‘hope’ passages of the Bible. Although the funeral was heart-wrenching, Patrice knew God’s peace.
Thankfulness can be difficult. God’s command, however, is to offer our prayers with thanksgiving. Like Patrice, may God grant each of us peace as we obey.
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
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