Thanksgiving: why gratitude packs a surprising punch
A Christian Science perspective. Thanksgiving, gratitude for God's goodness, heals.
I rolled my eyes; my heart sank. I had drawn the “gratitude card.”
I thought: “Couldn’t she do better than this?” Gratitude seemed pretty lightweight. I was expecting the Christian Science practitioner who was praying with me for healing to give me some great spiritual idea that would inspire me and lift me out of the mental darkness and sickness I was dealing with. "But no,” I mumbled to myself, “I got stuck with the gratitude assignment.”
The practitioner asked me to think of things I was grateful for. So reluctantly I decided to try to come up with some gratitude. I was surprised; it wasn’t that hard. I immediately thought of three things: I was grateful that a friend was willing to drive me to pick up my car at the mechanic; I was grateful that I was going to eat dinner; and I was grateful for love in my home. Nothing too dramatic – pretty easy and simple things to thank God for.
Then a remarkable thing happened. I got out of bed to go with my friend to get my car, and it was as if I were walking out of a dark dream. The sickness melted away, and the feelings of darkness and depression vanished. I was a bit shocked. But there was no doubt about it. I was healed. Not only had the sickness disappeared, but I felt joyful and peaceful; I felt like myself again.
Why is gratitude so powerful? Giving thanks to God helps us mentally shift from the darkness of a problem that can seem very hypnotic – that insists that we are separated from good – to admitting the spiritual reality that good is present because God is present. God never leaves us, and that’s why we are not desolate or cut off from His goodness and love.
Acknowledging the light, being thankful for the good we can see despite the problems to be overcome, enables us to feel that love of God. This love is always with us no matter where we are or what we face. The temptation is to wait until we feel better to thank God. But gratitude is an important weapon against evil and delivers us out of darkness. Being willing to recognize and be grateful for good is the light that begins dissolving the darkness. And God’s light doesn’t care what the problem is. The nature of light is to destroy darkness – whatever it calls itself. I love this verse from a hymn:
O do not bar your mind
Against the light of good;
But open wide, let in the Word,
And Truth will be your food.
(Charles Parsons, “Christian Science Hymnal,” No. 201)
Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, writes, “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” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 164). When we’re grateful to God, who is all power and all light, we align ourselves with His power, His goodness, and that causes us to let go of dark thoughts and go forward.
Jesus proved how powerful gratitude is when he raised Lazarus from the dead. Before he called Lazarus out of the grave he “looked upward and said, ‘Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me’ ” (John 11:41, 42, New Revised Standard Version). Lazarus came out of the grave even though he had been dead for four days.
If practicing gratitude is so powerful, then why do I sometimes forget about it or resist it? Because the carnal mind – a mind in opposition to God, or, as the Bible says, is “enmity against God” (Romans 8:7) – tries to convince me that gratitude can’t make a dent in my particular problem. Sometimes I find myself agreeing with the false voice that says, “This problem is big, and gratitude is never going to be enough”; or “You need some big spiritual idea, and being thankful isn’t going to help”; or “You don’t feel grateful, so isn’t it hypocritical to thank God when you’re not feeling that way?” But these are dark thoughts that don’t come from God and only attempt to separate us from what we need. Thoughts that lead us away from being grateful or that belittle the usefulness of gratitude come from the carnal mind, and we can refuse to go along with them.
Gratitude brings healing. We may need to persist with our gratitude to see complete healing, but turning from darkness to the light, acknowledging good from God no matter how we feel, moves us forward. Gratitude is power that makes a healing difference.