For anyone who has ever experienced lack, the expression "It's more blessed to give than to receive" might seem a little incongruous. Sure, everyone knows that generosity feels good. But, I found myself asking at one point, does it really have any concrete benefits? Do we have to resign ourselves to the somewhat transient pleasure that comes from being the doer of a good deed, or does generosity really come with its own set of blessings?
My question was answered in an unexpected way one weekend a few years ago. I was feeling left out. My two closest friends were dating, and while they did their best to include me, this particular weekend, I really felt like a fifth wheel.
I hated feeling left out of love, and so, as I often do when I'm faced with a problem, I prayed. But my prayers - which started from a "poor, unloved, lonely me" basis - didn't seem to be having much effect. I woke up the next day still feeling crummy.
I wasn't the only one feeling bad. One of my friends wasn't feeling too well, either; she'd developed the symptoms of a heavy cold. My heart went out to her. She was traveling the next day, and not only did I want her to have a good trip, but I also wanted her to be able to enjoy her last day with her boyfriend.
So I offered to pray for her. And she accepted my offer.
I began by asking God what I needed to know. As I listened, the thought came to me strongly to pray with the idea that God's love cannot be limited. I realized my friend might be feeling apprehensive about saying goodbye to her boyfriend for a whole month. And so I mentally embraced us all in Love, acknowledging that Love was invariable, infinite, and free from the confines of space or place.
I also prayed to understand that Love could be palpably felt regardless of circumstance. And I acknowledged that every smidgen of love we'd ever felt or shared came, not from a person, but from God Himself, who is the source of all love.
Soon, I was enveloped by a feeling of peace. Somewhat surprisingly, I even felt ... loved. But, perhaps foolishly, I wondered, Why? What had changed? This time around, I hadn't even been praying to feel loved. Yet, in praying for my friend, that's exactly how I'd started feeling. And my friend was fine, too; her cold was gone.
To me, this experience points to a wonderful but sometimes overlooked fact: Whatever we need is already within each of us; it just needs to be activated. Christ Jesus spoke of this phenomenon when he affirmed: "The kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 10:7).
That "kingdom of heaven" isn't something outside us. In fact, as Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy described it, it's "unselfishness, goodness, mercy, justice, health, holiness, love" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 248) - those qualities within that constitute our pure, spiritual identity as the reflection of a wholly good, complete God.
It's easy to get caught up in the lie that we're constantly missing something, such as satisfaction or comfort or just general well-being. These thoughts of lack can lead us on an endless search to find those qualities somewhere "out there," to focus on getting instead of on giving.
But Jesus' promise is that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, and that means we're equipped to experience - and more than that, to share - the infinite goodness that God has already given us. In my case, it wasn't that I needed more love. It was that I needed to be more loving. It was only in loving my friend through that act of prayer that I found I could never be left out of Love - that it was impossible for me as the very image of Love to be anything less than loving, lovable, and beloved.
What I discovered that weekend was that it really is more blessed to give than to receive, and that's because in giving, we find that whatever it is we thought we lacked is actually already ours. It's part of that kingdom of heaven within, the unlimited capacity to express every quality of a God who made us in His image and likeness. And connecting with that kingdom within leaves us with more than just a good feeling. It leaves us with something absolutely concrete - the knowledge that we are, and forever have been, whole.