A FEW weeks ago, I was digging up potatoes in my garden. I found myself thinking about the Pilgrims who came to America in 1620; their first harvest, in a wild and inhospitable land, is the basis for Thanksgiving Day.
Now, even if you're not an American or not celebrating Thanksgiving, you might want to take a few minutes to think about gratitude. Being grateful is more than just a mental exercise. It brings your thoughts closer to God. He is the giver of all good, and gratitude requires us to look for good in our lives now-even if the evidence of it seems small or nonexistent.
Each good experience, or insight, helps us to know the presence of God. It can help remind us that whatever difficulty we are facing, we are not alone. This is true because each of us is spiritual-a child of God. As God's children, we can have and know only good. But humanly speaking, there may be times when we have to seek diligently to find goodness in our lives and in the world.
Taking time for gratitude is especially valuable for someone facing trouble. This is because focusing on the good we already have evidence of, instead of being gripped by the problem, is actually the best means of finding help. This emphasis on good shifts one's thoughts and opens him up to inspired ideas that he may not have thought of before.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, explains the importance of being grateful for present good in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Here is a question the book asks and answers, in the first chapter: ''Are we really grateful for the good already received? Then we shall avail ourselves of the blessings we have, and thus be fitted to receive more'' (p. 3).
Paul and Silas, two early Christians, proved the value of gratitude at a time when they were in trouble (see Acts 16: 19-39). Through the actions of people opposed to their work, these men were arrested. Their clothes were torn off. They were beaten and whipped. Then they were locked up in prison. (Not exactly the ideal circumstance to prompt the giving of thanks, was it?)
But that's precisely what they did. The Bible tells us, ''At midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken'' (verses 25, 26). In the events that followed, the keeper of the prison and his family became Christians. The keeper cleaned their wounds and fed them. The next day, Paul and Silas were set free.
This was just one of many incredible experiences that Paul had in the course of his adventure-packed ministry. Out of them he could write with some authority, when he told the Thessalonians, ''In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you'' (I Thess. 5:18).
It is never ''the will of God'' that you should be grateful for evil. God absolutely does not require suffering; He does not know it or condone it. Rather, God guides us and leads us to freedom, whether it is from illness, family problems, or any other trouble. You can always give thanks for God's presence.
It's also possible and helpful to be grateful for whatever spiritual qualities you've already succeeded in expressing. For example, in trying times even the ability to be patient is worthy of gratitude. It shows the influence of God as divine Love. Having the intelligence not to react with anger in a heated situation is evidence of spiritual activity as well, because intelligence is a quality of God, who is divine Mind.
Take a moment to review the different ways you've already succeeded in giving gratitude. Look at the good God has already given. The next step is to build on these discoveries, so that the gratitude will continue to grow.
No matter what you're facing, you can take a few moments to look over your harvest of gratitude. You may be surprised at all the good you find here and now!