Gratitude heals

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

I used to feel the same way about giving gratitude as I did about eating vegetables; it was probably good for me (like eating green beans), but I didn't look forward to it. Gratitude to God seemed more like an obligation than a joy.

But that surely has changed. Now I want to express my thanks to God. What's more, I'm finding the deep joy and satisfaction that go along with it.

Thanking God for my blessings isn't a way to manipulate God so I can get what I want. It's not like eating my vegetables so that I can be rewarded with dessert. But being willing to recognize the good that God is giving me is a powerful way to feel closer to Him. And when I feel closer to Him, I naturally find more harmony, joy, freedom, love - more healing.

God is always close to us. The Bible says: "God is love," always loving and caring for everyone. Mary Baker Eddy wrote in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" that "Love [God] is impartial and universal in its adaptation and bestowals. It is the open fount which cries, 'Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters' " (pg. 13).

God is constantly giving each of His children love, joy, peace, freedom, strength. Jesus said this about God: "He gives his best - the sun to warm and the rain to nourish - to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty" ("The Message," Eugene Peterson, Matt. 5:45).

So we're showered with God's love. But it may seem as if we can't feel His love or that we don't deserve it. I've found that being willing to thank God for His care even in the darkest moments destroys fear, brings calm, and leads to healing.

One time I was very ill and wasn't feeling that divine love and presence. I was relying on prayer to God to bring an end to intense pain. But not finding any relief, I asked a friend to read to me from the book of Psalms in the Bible. I'll never forget the powerful effect these psalms had. The pain dissolved almost immediately as I agreed with the power and presence of God in the Psalmist's life as well as in my own.

Psalm 27 became a close friend. It begins: "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" As I continued to join the Psalmist in praising God for His closeness and for His ability to rescue us no matter where we are or what situation we're in, I found peace and, in a short time, complete healing.

Poet and writer Maya Angelou told in an interview about an experience she'd had in the early 1950s. She had returned to the United States from Europe, leaving behind a child. She said: "One day I was very frightened for my sanity.... So I went to my voice teacher and told him I was going mad. He said, 'Here's a yellow pad. Write your blessings.' I said, 'Oh, please, I don't want to even hear that. I'm going crazy.' He said, 'Start with the fact that you can hear me, that you can see the page, that you can hold the pen.' Before I reached the end of the page I was transformed. So, everything I have written, every book, every stage play, every screenplay, was written on a yellow pad. As soon as I pick it up, I am reminded of my blessings" (The Christian Science Monitor, October 20, 1993).

I used to think gratitude was a step along the road to healing. Now I think gratitude, in many ways, is the healing. Gratitude for the good - the trees outside my window, a bed to sleep in, good friends that care about me, good ideas and direction from God - changes things profoundly. Gratitude may begin as a pinprick of light, but soon its light dissolves a roomful of darkness.

"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,' " wrote Mary Baker Eddy ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," pg. 164).

Deep, heartfelt gratitude has the power to heal us.

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