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GRATITUDE IS AS A SHINING PATH

From the June 1936 issue of The Christian Science Journal


Gratitude to God is a joyous recognition and acknowledgment of good, and of good received. It is a winsome and necessary Christian virtue that oils the wheels of daily living. The grateful person is a welcome guest, a delightful companion, an inspiring friend, an encouraging employer, a pleasant employee, a comfortable relative.

Gratitude is as a shining path that leads quickly and directly into the kingdom of heaven. The Psalmist says, "Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise." We come into a realization of our unity with our heavenly Father, God, through gratitude for good. Jesus proved the power of gratitude in his healing work, and it is the privilege of each one of us to prove it in our own lives.

An old hymn says:

"Count your many blessings,
Name them one by one."

As an individual dwells on his blessings, one by one, the darkness of discouragement, discontent, self-pity, and despair flees in due course, and the bright effulgence of gratitude fills his consciousness. Perhaps some person may think he is in such a sorry plight that he has not a single blessing to record. But this is not true. There is at least one thing, speaking even from a human standpoint, for which every individual can be grateful. And if the discouraged one will honestly and earnestly strive to acknowledge this blessing, whatever it may be, he will before long be rewarded by seeing its light twinkling in the gloom, however faintly at first. As he continues to thank God for this, one by one other blessings will be recognized, even as one by one the stars gleam forth in the evening sky.

Since gratitude has such power, both in making our daily lives happier and in lifting our thoughts Godward, we are certainly wise if we give special attention to its cultivation. Thus, being grateful becomes a habit with us instead of just an occasional experience. How can we learn to be habitually grateful? A little Sunday school boy was once asked how he demonstrated the truth in Christian Science. "First I say it," he answered, "and then I go and do it." So with us, first of all we can "say it"; we can declare the truth about gratitude. It is a spiritual quality that belongs to everyone impartially and universally. The real man is by nature grateful. He does not have to become so. Gratitude is a quality of his being. It is his already—the gift of his loving Father-Mother, God. So we can all claim gratitude as our spiritual heritage. We can daily affirm that gratitude is part of our spiritual riches, and we can deny that anything can deprive us of the privilege and joy of expressing this beautiful, God-given quality. This affirmation of truth and denial of evil is true prayer, as Christian Science teaches.

Our dear Leader, Mary Baker Eddy, tells us (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 13) that "if our petitions are sincere, we labor for what we ask." So the next step in our cultivation of gratitude will be to "labor" for it. One finds endless opportunities during his daily round to practice this lovely spiritual grace. What an opportunity to be grateful when someone gives up his seat in a public conveyance to another; when someone in a hurtling, hustling crowd takes time to be courteous; when someone goes out of his way to be kind to a stranger! The loveliness of the newly-decked world in the spring, the fields, golden with rich harvests in the autumn, enjoin us to give thanks. Every loving deed, every least act of kindness, every manifestation of beauty, offers an opportunity to cultivate unselfed gratitude for good expressed.

It is especially helpful to us to include prayer for the whole world in our thanksgiving to God, as this not only encourages the little seed of gratitude to develop and blossom, but also enlarges our entire outlook by leading thought away from petty selfishness into universal loving. Every week in the Sentinel, every month in the Journal, we find testimonies of healing. Reading these testimonies offers wonderful opportunities for expressing gratitude. We can, for instance, be grateful for each specific healing, and for the healing mission of Christian Science, which is encircling the world, offering refuge to all mankind beneath its compassionate wings. There are also numerous opportunities presented, as we read The Christian Science Monitor, for gratitude that through right knowing we may aid in the healing of world conditions.

The individual who, by daily practice, establishes the habit of thinking in terms of gratitude will find this quality an invaluable aid on occasions of special stress. Whatever his seeming plight, he will know that there is always the spiritual fact for which he can be grateful, and that he can discern it if he will "turn from the lie of false belief to Truth, and gather the facts of being from the divine Mind" (Science and Health, p. 370). For instance, if one is out of employment, one can be grateful that, as our Leader says (Retrospection and Introspection, p. 70), "Each individual must fill his own niche in time and eternity." If want stares him in the face, he can be grateful that, whatever the seeming, in truth "now are we the sons of God." If sickness is his problem, he can be grateful that, in reality, man is always in a state of health.

In the midst of the trial it may be difficult sometimes for one to realize these spiritual truths. But anyone can lovingly and obediently affirm, I am grateful that this is true. Jesus' promise was, "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." So that if one who is faced with a problem will continue in the "word" —will continue to affirm the spiritual fact and be grateful for it—he may reasonably expect that he will "know the truth," will come to understand the affirmation in its full spiritual significance. As this understanding or awakening comes, he will indeed be freed from the false claim and its evidence.

It is one of the most wonderful of all human experiences to be able sincerely to express gratitude to God for a spiritual fact in spite of "the noise of many waters." Such gratitude brings with it a spiritual exaltation that seems to robe the circumstances in rainbow hues. We may be sure that gratitude for the spiritual fact of eternal life filled the heart of the Shunammite when she was able to say, "It is well," though material evidence said her son was dead. Such gratitude for blessings as yet unseen includes unfaltering trust in God, and reveals a shining, glorious path of enlarged spiritual understanding.

So let us express gratitude habitually; let us be grateful for big blessings and for little ones; for our own blessings and for those of others; for blessings already in evidence; and, more than all, for blessings which "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard."

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