The power of gratitude

A Christian Science perspective.

I boarded the airplane feeling depressed and heavy-hearted. I was unhappy over several thorny family issues, and to top it off, our dog was sick. So when the pilot’s voice came over the loudspeaker announcing there was a mechanical problem and the plane would be stationed at the gate while they tried to fix it, I mentally groaned and thought: “Great! Now I’ll probably miss my connecting flight. Can’t the airlines get anything right?”

My mood got even darker.

But then an interesting thing happened. A thought began to formulate, and I can only say that it must have been an angel message from God. As I sat there feeling grumpy, it came to me that if there was a mechanical problem, perhaps I should be grateful it had been caught while we were still on the ground and not in the air. I began to be grateful for the mechanics who were trying to fix the problem. I was grateful for the air-traffic controllers who were diverting planes to other gates so our plane could stay at its gate and get fixed. And I gratefully acknowledged that, actually, everyone connected with this flight was working hard to see that we all arrived at our destination, not just on time, but safely.

As it turned out, it wasn’t long before the problem was fixed and we were in the air. But what was remarkable to me was that the darkness and heaviness I had been feeling were completely gone, and I felt joyful! The change was so dramatic that I was compelled to think about what had happened and why. In the Bible, the Psalmist says, “Praise the Lord; for the Lord is good: sing praises unto his name; for it is pleasant” (Psalms 135:3). And it occurred to me that in praising God for everything that was going right on this trip, I had experienced the power of gratitude.

It has been proved to me time and time again that nothing lifts our spirits or lightens our burdens like gratitude. Recent books on the subject and reports in the media indicate that many others are finding this to be true. In an article published two years ago in The New York Times, John Tierney writes, “Cultivating an ‘attitude of gratitude’ has been linked to better health, sounder sleep, less anxiety and depression, higher long-term satisfaction with life and kinder behavior toward others …” (“A Serving of Gratitude May Save the Day,” Nov. 21, 2011).

I have thought about this subject of gratitude more deeply since my experience on the airplane, and I have come to understand that the effects of gratitude are actually the effects of applying a spiritual law.

Mary Baker Eddy, who founded the Monitor, wrote a textbook about her discovery of the laws of God and their application to spiritual healing. In it she writes, “In the Saxon and twenty other tongues good is the term for God” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 286). It then follows that if good is another term for God, every time we consciously acknowledge the good in our lives, we are acknowledging the fact that God is present. And where God is, sickness, sin, and inharmony – evil of any kind – cannot be. The presence of God precludes the presence of inharmony. I’ve learned to humbly look for every evidence of good to bring this law of gratitude into operation.

There may be times that seem so black we can’t summon up one single thing to be truly grateful for. When this is the case, I’ve found that asking a simple question gets me started on the path to gratitude. The question is this: What went right today? For example, Did the lights turn on this morning when I flipped the switch? Did I have clothes to put on when I got out of bed? Food on the table? Was there water for my shower? Did my car start when I turned the key? There is so much evidence all around us of God’s goodness and harmonious government of the universe. The point is, there is nothing too small to be grateful for. And sometimes we can break the gloom and begin the process of seeing God’s loving presence by being grateful for the most basic things.

In Science and Health, Mrs. Eddy pointedly asks us: “Are we really grateful for the good already received?” And she follows with the promise: “Then we shall avail ourselves of the blessings we have, and thus be fitted to receive more” (p. 3). This is a divine law, and it lifted me out of the heaviness that day on the airplane.

Meister Eckhart, a German theologian of the Middle Ages, is reported to have said, “If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘Thank you,’ that would suffice.”

So, God – “Thank you!”

This article was originally published in The Christian Science Journal.

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