IN the United States and in Canada, Thanksgiving is a recognized holiday, although the two countries give thanks at different times. But thanksgiving doesn't have to be limited to once a year. A grateful attitude can do much to smooth our way, every day. Simple logic shows that people respond positively to being appreciated. That's one level of gratitude. But there's a deeper gratitude that will actually help us in time of trouble because it teaches us to recognize God's ever-present care.
The Bible's psalms tell us more than once of the importance of giving thanks. The writings of Paul also stress the value of gratitude. In fact, Paul writes, ``In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.''1
Christ Jesus never failed to give thanks -- to acknowledge that God, our Father, is the source of all good. Even at the grave of his friend Lazarus, he gave thanks to God. And then, having acknowledged God's goodness in this way, he went on to raise Lazarus from the dead.2
It is clear from Jesus' ministry that he didn't think of good in material terms. He wasn't expecting God to give him things in return for his thanks, although he knew his Father would meet his needs. The Master knew that giving thanks was an acknowledgment of God's power and of man's inseparability from Him. When we recognize that man's relationship to God is spiritually true of us, our entire perspective changes.
We see things differently. We may view someone's actions, which before had infuriated us, in a new light and actually feel compassion. These changes are brought about through our perception of Christ -- the true idea of God, divine Love, as exemplified by Jesus -- and through our willingness to yield to Love's guidance. As we come to know ourselves in spiritual terms, as the likeness of Love, we learn that we can't ever be separated from our Father, God. His love is always with us.
Sometimes when bad things happen, however, that love may not seem so evident. And it may be more difficult to be grateful. Yet if we can muster the strength to maintain our gratitude, the burden of these difficult times can be greatly eased. I experienced this when my mother passed away.
As is common at such times, I had to deal not only with my own sorrow but with many of the necessary details. Since previous experiences had taught me the value of being grateful to God, I knew this would help me again in this case.
Each time I felt overwhelmed, I recounted all that I had to be grateful for, all the ways in which God's love was being shown through the kindness of friends and through the resolution of difficulties. Acknowledging God in this way lifted my thoughts to a more spiritual level and helped me through that time.
Of course, gratitude isn't the only way to perceive our inseparable relationship to God. Love, reformation, joy, increased spirituality, are all part of the Christian's experience. But gratitude is often one of the simpler ways to begin to turn our thoughts fully to God and to His care. Its role as an essential element of prayer is brought out in this statement by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science: ``Gratitude and love should abide in every heart each day of all the years.''3
When we're willing to discipline ourselves to do this -- to acknowledge the presence of good, of God, in our lives -- each day becomes our own individual Thanksgiving.
1I Thessalonians 5:18. 2See John 11:41-44. 3Manual of The Mother Church, Article XVII, Section 2.