Gratitude is a catalyst that brings God's goodness into focus.
Good Things Come To Us, sometimes, in unexpected ways. And they can be lessons that help us in our spiritual journey. I remember such an instance.
A friend came to visit me one day. I had injured my hands and was, at times, in a lot of pain. He knew I had been praying for a while about this, and he wanted to share some encouraging thoughts. At first, it seemed that we were on different wavelengths—speaking two different languages. He, the language of gratitude. I, the language of "Wait to feel better first; then it will be the time to rejoice again."
I believe in the healing power of gratitude. But in this instance, I was waiting for a reason to be grateful. I was waiting for my prayers to bring freedom from pain. I was waiting to experience God's healing power. In short, I was in a holding pattern.
As my friend spoke, I realized that there was a different way to look at things. He was speaking of gratitude not as something that depends on circumstances but as something that depends on God's love and care for His creation. In that context, I started to see that I didn't have to wait to feel grateful. I could turn my thoughts to God right away and begin to feel His presence, His love, His care.
By the time my friend left, I felt at peace. I'd gained a better view of my relationship to God—seen something more about His nearness and about my ability to be conscious of this nearness. The distress I had felt over my hands was gone. It was the turning point in the healing of my injuries. Soon after that, I was free from pain.
That healing helped me to see that gratitude is not simply a "thank you" for something received. It is a catalyst that brings God's goodness into focus.
Mary Baker Eddy wrote a book that teaches much about gratitude. Science and Health points out that God is the supreme and only creator of the universe—the God, who is always caring for His creation. The very first chapter of the book—the chapter on prayer—asks, "Shall we plead for more at the open fount, which is pouring forth more than we accept?" Science and Health, p. 2. Throughout the book there are explanations that no one needs to plead with God, or wait for His blessings, since God is infinite Love, immutable, all-powerful, everpresent. And that since God is Spirit—and not matter—our joy and our well-being are not at the mercy of material circumstances. These facts cannot change. That is why we always have reason to be grateful.
In her own experience, Mrs. Eddy had ample proofs that God's goodness is invariable. Her long search for health, for a happy home, and for financial security led her to an understanding of God's constant and harmonious government of our lives. Her health was restored, she found financial security, and she established a good and satisfying home. But she also taught others to recognize infinite good that is inherent in divine Life. This recognition brings out the deepest sense of gratitude. This also led her to find ways for people to express their gratitude, and to speak of the healings that the Christ—God's message of freedom—had brought to them. As a result, she established a weekly church service on Wednesdays, for the sharing of healings and gratitude to God; as well as weekly and monthly magazines to publish public expressions of gratitude. Thanksgiving services in Christian Science churches "harvest" gratitude all year long, all over the world (see the article on this topic on page 53).
Our thankfulness grows as we think of what we are—God's child, God's creation.
There Are Times, however, when feeling grateful can seem particularly hard. Someone with a difficult problem might wonder, "Can I really feel grateful?" But, perhaps what is troubling us is just a distorted view of our life. A view that includes lack—lack of health, time, financial stability, appreciation by others, or opportunity for growth. But none of these represent God's creation, or God's will for us. When we stop being absorbed by thoughts like these and think instead of what truly expresses the nature of God's creation, we see, and experience, something very different. We begin to see that God has not forsaken us. That His care for us, and for each of His children, is ever enriching our life, providing a basis for gratitude.
Our thankfulness grows as we think of what we are—God's child, God's creation, God's idea in divine Mind. We can also think of what we have, what is always with us. We have the love of a divine Father-Mother—a Mother that rejoices over us, a Father that keeps guard over our steps. We have God's law of justice and mercy. It's always at work in our lives. We always have a lot to be grateful for. But we need to keep working at being grateful, need to keep looking for signs of God's goodness. The good we see in others, the beauty surrounding us, the intelligence, the strength, the patience, and the love we find to cope with the demands of a busy day, all point to God in our life. If we don't let ourselves be hurried or worried by the demands of the moment, but rely instead on God's care, we won't ever lack reasons to be grateful.
Along the mental paths that guide our footsteps toward the full understanding of spiritual reality, gratitude serves as a sentinel, pointing upward. It lights the way and shows us what God gives. Mary Baker Eddy spoke of the effect of gratitude in our life when she said, "What is gratitude but a powerful camera obscura, a thing focusing light where love, memory, and all within the human heart is present to manifest light"? The First Church of Christ, Scientist and Miscellany, p. 164.