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Gratitude is a lifesaver

From the October 2014 issue of The Christian Science Journal

Gratitude is a powerful healing quality—and it’s a lifesaver. I know, because it saved my life years ago. 

It’s also a lifesaver in the Bible story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. When Jesus went to Lazarus, the Bible tells us: “Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go” (John 11:41–44).

Before calling forth Lazarus from the grave, Jesus gave God thanks! This gratitude affirmed God’s presence and broke through the mesmeric miasma of desolation, despondency, and even death. Gratitude is the recognition of God’s ever-presence and power.

When I was a young mother with a nine-month-old baby, I became extremely ill with a throat problem for about ten days. The condition was never diagnosed, but I had some sort of obstruction, as well as swelling and inflammation. I couldn’t swallow, eating was impossible, drinking liquids extremely difficult, and I couldn’t talk. Although I had prayerful treatment from my Christian Science teacher, I became weaker by the day. 

Taking care of our young son was tremendously challenging, so the two of us got on a plane and went to my mother’s house, where we both could have the care we needed. But the picture was grim and my health continued to deteriorate.   

My mother read to me the weekly Christian Science Bible Lesson, consisting of passages from the Bible and Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy, along with articles and testimonies from the Christian Science periodicals. Because I had become so weak, she was the one who usually talked with my Christian Science teacher several times during the day and sometimes at night.  

Nine days later, unable to talk, I wrote on a pad of paper asking my mother to please call my teacher once again because I was afraid I was passing on. When my mother came back into the room, she said that my teacher wished to speak with me.

I was incredulous. I could barely walk, couldn’t speak a word, was in considerable discomfort, thinking of passing on—and I was being asked to go to the phone to talk with my teacher! They had to be kidding. But, alas, my mother quietly repeated the request. The third time she used my full name—a sure sign your mother means business, even if you’re an adult. I threw back the covers on the bed, and I thought, “Well, I have more energy than I thought I did!”

My mother helped me to the phone, and I tapped on it to let my teacher know I was there. What she said next is to me just as powerful now as it was then: “Be grateful. Just be grateful.” And then she hung up.  

That was it. With my mother helping me, I made it back to bed. With tears streaming down my cheeks, I thought, “All right, I can be obedient. Obedience is probably my best quality. I can be obedient by being grateful. But what can I be grateful for?” 

At first all I could think about was how I was deathly ill, unable to take care of or enjoy my nine-month-old baby, whom I had wanted so much. However, I was determined to be obedient and do what my teacher had asked of me.

I could smell the chicken fried steak that was being cooked in the kitchen, and suddenly I was grateful that everyone else in the home could eat the chicken fried steak. Then I thought of the rancher’s wife who had taught me how to cook chicken fried steak, and how the rancher had taught me to ride horses, work cattle, and fix water gaps and fences. I was grateful for my horses and having been raised on a ranch. Quickly, the list kept growing.  

I wrote on the pad asking my mother for some of the crumbs from the chicken fried steak. I would just let them melt in my mouth. And when I did, they tasted so good. Then I heard my baby boy crawling down the hall. He had gotten away from his grandfather and was headed to check on his mommy. He stood beside the bed, patted the covers, and “talked” with me. I was so grateful for my son.

I was also grateful for the prayerful treatment from my Christian Science teacher as well as the prayers and support of my mother. I wasn’t fully aware at that point of the healing power of gratitude, but gratitude was certainly having a healing effect. Since gratitude changes and uplifts our thought to recognize God’s goodness, the throat obstruction began to break loose and break down as this gratitude continued. By three in the morning I was able to tell my mother to go to bed because I was fine. I could talk again; I could eat and drink; my strength and stamina were normal. I hadn’t eaten anything in three weeks, but there was no recuperative period at all. I was simply normal. Gratitude had literally saved my life and brought me complete freedom.

The healing power of gratitude comes from the fact that gratitude is the conscious recognition of present good. As we recognize and appreciate the good that is present in our lives, the more good we see to recognize. Seeing good—understanding its true, spiritual nature—is really seeing God, the source of all good, and that heals. 

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