Finding Gratitude in Hard Times

(Feature photo by Selma Komisky and Blessings in a Box photos courtesy of McKenzi Matsick)

Finding Gratitude in Hard Times

By McKenzi Matsick

It was June 2014 when I started having a lot of medical issues. I had surgery after surgery and symptom after symptom with no answers for what ended up being two years. To say life was a rollercoaster would be an understatement, and overall, I was on a very dark, scary, and painful ride.

In 2016, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, and within the past six years, I have had 14 surgeries total due to this illness that nobody seems to have a cure for.

As a young teenager, I was more than terrified, even though I knew I was safe in God’s hands, and I felt like I was in a horror movie that would never lead to a happy ending.

Though I had so much terror filling my heart, I was aware that if I stayed depressed and scared all the time, I would never allow myself to be in a better mindset than what I was in at the time – which would continue to contribute to the harsh symptoms I was having. I began noticing how much my surgery team truly cared for me and my complicated situation, and they never gave up on trying to find answers. So, I decided I wanted to give back to them in such a way that would also bring light and joy to the other surgery patients who were experiencing illnesses similar or even far different than myself. That’s when my ministry, Blessings In A Box, was created.


As mid-2015 came around, I donated a full-size toy box that I hand-painted and decorated with the help of my family. This box was consistently filled with toys for the patients in the General Surgery clinic at Nemours Children’s Specialty Care in Jacksonville, FL, and all of the toys were bought with donated money that I received each month from family, friends, and others who heard about my ministry. After each visit, a patient was able to pick a toy out as a prize, whether it be a Barbie doll, football, coloring book with crayons, or something else that was fun and exciting.

Not only did I donate a box to the General Surgery department, but by 2016, I was eager to donate another hand-painted and decorated toy-box to another department I was a regular patient in at Nemours. And in 2017, a Girl Scouts troop heard about my story and ministry and wanted to partner with me to donate a third box (they painted the box themselves!) for my ministry to the Allergy department.

Now, I’m not sharing this story to boast about my ideas and accomplishments, or to even get sympathy for the medical issues I’ve experienced. But I am rather writing this article as a way to hopefully encourage others to find gratitude when facing tough situations.

Without God being the ever-present light in my life, I would have never been able to face my situation head-on and overcome anxiety, depression, and so much more. God showed me that there were so many others going through even worse things than myself, and He allowed me to see what I was capable of in Him to give back to the community.

Giving back was my way of expressing gratitude for all that God had done, as well as for all that my medical teams had done in helping me get to where I am today. My ministry has not only left a mark on my previous nurses, doctors, and surgeons, but it has been a way for patients and their families to leave what seems like a scary clinic over and over again with a smile on their face and gratitude in their hearts for the care that is given to them.

Maybe you are experiencing some tough medical issues right now. My challenge to you is look for ways to find gratitude and to express it to those around you. It might not be easy at first, but it will leave you much more joyful even in the darkest of times and will allow you to find light through the tunnel that will lead you to the other side.

The “theme” verse that I chose for Blessings In A Box is this – “I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35, KJV).

God is our strength when we are weak. So, let His strength rest upon you in your weakness so you can have the power to support others who are weak as well. We’re all in this together.

Find out more about McKenzi by visiting