A stirring in our thoughts and in our hearts. A powerful, warm, often cleansing feeling.
I've felt it on Thanksgiving Day, a day specially set aside to give thanks to God for the good in our lives. And I've felt it many other times - whenever I've paused to consider all I have to be grateful for.
Sometimes, of course, gratitude just naturally springs up within a person. Like when something wonderful has happened. The way I felt after the tender care and loving prayers of family and friends brought me out of a life-threatening illness and set me back on my feet, whole and strong again. I was overflowing with thanks to God for even the simplest details of daily living. And this feeling of gratitude mobilized in me a genuine desire and effort to express more love and goodness in my life.
Other times, though - when the going gets especially rough, or when life is comfortably uneventful, or somewhere in between - we often let gratitude fall by the wayside. We fill up with fear, criticism, depression. Or we just plain take things for granted. And then we fail, unintentionally, to see and appreciate the good that is there in our lives. That's when making a concerted effort to be grateful makes particularly good sense.
When I've done that - when I've persisted in finding things to be grateful for, until I've felt energized in healthier, more productive directions - I've been lifted right out of my troubles, or out of some rut of dullness I've dug for myself.
What is this power behind gratitude that stirs hearts to purer desires, moves thoughts to nobler goals, and makes lives healthier and more productive?
It's God and His expression.
Why "and His expression"? Because when you or I cherish the good in our lives and thank God for it, the impact of who we truly are really hits us. God is all-powerful good, and we are His expression, inseparable from Him. It's this powerful spiritual reality that moves us beyond thinking of just the material things we have to be grateful for and starts us realizing the bounty of spiritual riches that is always right at hand. We see something of how God is Love and Life and Truth, and we see the abundance of ways we can express God's nature. And soon we find ourselves asking, "What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?" (Ps. 116:12).
There are opportunities every day to thank God for making us in His/Her image. Or, in other words, to express divine goodness and love. Every good thought and deed counts. In the words of Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered the Science of Christian healing in 1866: "While no offering can liquidate one's debt of gratitude to God, the fervent heart and willing hand are not unknown to nor unrewarded by Him" ("Miscellaneous Writings," Pg. xi).
One of the most powerful ways to thank God is to trust Him. Christ Jesus trusted God without reservation. When he was faced with needy people, disease, even death, Jesus often started his prayer by thanking God that the human need was already answered. He trusted what he knew to be true of God's nature, and of His/Her good government of the universe, whether or not there was obvious evidence of that truth. To Jesus, the fact of God's absolute goodness settled the question. And the result of his grateful trust was that food was supplied where there had been none; the sick were healed; the dead were raised to life.
On many occasions, pain has disappeared when I've turned my attention deliberately away from my body, put full trust in God's allness, and been grateful for God and His benevolent government of His sons and daughters. And these experiences have moved me to new levels of devotion and service to God and humanity.
Truly, "It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High" (Ps. 92:1).
Give thanks unto the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the people.
I Chronicles 16:8