`BE grateful for what you've got.'' These are words that can ``grate'' on us when we're discontented. We've all had times when gratitude was hard to feel -- when such counsel sounded less than comforting. When this has happened to me, I've often thought about the time in the Bible when Christ Jesus is called to the home of his friend Lazarus.
Word reached Jesus that Lazarus was very ill. Jesus didn't go, however, to the village of Bethany where this family lived until after Lazarus had died. It wasn't a happy place to be, and on top of it all Jesus was criticized for not getting there sooner so that he could help his friend. Not an unusual response for grieving people. In fact, Jesus himself wept.
It always amazed me that Jesus gave thanks to God in the middle of such an unhappy scene. But he did. ``Jesus lifted up his eyes,'' the gospel writer John records, ``and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I know that thou hearest me always.'' Within moments, Jesus had resuscitated Lazarus, and he was reunited with his family and friends.
This story has been an inspiration for people down through the ages whenever life has seemed dark and beyond hope. Nevertheless, until a recent experience, I don't believe I realized how quickly hardship could yield to gratitude.
I was far from home. I had become ill before I left, and the illness had affected the hearing in one ear. Unfamiliar places and the demands of a heavy schedule were pulling me down in addition to the illness. Things got so difficult that one day I actually found myself grateful for something as simple as a glass of cool water. When I recognized this, I began consciously to be grateful for every evidence of God's direction and care. It wasn't long before this gratitude spread to everything that I did. I was healed of the illness and my hearing was restored.
Looking for an explanation of the spiritual cause of such healing, I came across a reference to gratitude that the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, had made. ``What is gratitude,'' she writes in The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, ``but a powerful camera obscura, a thing focusing light where love, memory, and all within the human heart is present to manifest light.''
Genuine gratitude, I began to see, brings into focus even the slightest perception of the light and goodness of Christ, Truth. Wasn't Jesus' thanks to God just this, a focus of light to the sickness, darkness, and grief that enshrouded the village of Bethany? His turning to God, recognizing that man's life is the creation of God and is never taken away from man, awakened those people and must have been the spiritual force that resuscitated his good friend Lazarus.
I could see that for me, too, the gratitude I had come to feel was more than thankfulness for a glass of water, or for more favorable conditions, or for anything solely material. It was an outward sign of a spiritual awakening to man's relationship to God. This awakening to man as the spiritual child of God is what brings healing to our lives.
Even before we fully see evidence of man's selfhood as Godlike, perfect, and whole, we can begin to sense spiritually our unbroken relationship to God. Sooner or later, we're going to feel the gratitude that comes from a knowledge of God as our unfailing Father and Mother. Even the first glimpse of this fact at this very moment brings healing.