Author Mary Baker Eddy asks a probing question and makes an important observation about gratitude in the Christian Science textbook, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”: “Are we really grateful for the good already received? Then we shall avail ourselves of the blessings we have, and thus be fitted to receive more” (p. 3).
For many years I felt that gratitude for the evidence we already see of good in our lives would allow us to see more of the blessings that are there, but which ingratitude might cause us to overlook. I also believed that consistently expressing gratitude would bring us more good because we bring into our experience the spiritual qualities we express as well as the things we understand spiritually.
And I still see this to be true. But more recently, I found myself yearning for a deeper, more profoundly spiritual understanding of gratitude when reading reports in The Christian Science Monitor of people affected by devastating losses of loved ones and all material possessions. To say to these people, “Cheer up and be grateful for what you already have,” seemed cold and insensitive in the face of this need for food, shelter, health care, emotional and spiritual comfort, and so forth.
It dawned on me, one day as I prayed, that there is something primal and foundational we’ve all been given, and that is the infinite good that is ours as God’s infinite image and likeness. The Bible speaks of this truth in the first chapter of Genesis when it says, “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good” (verse 31). This chapter reveals God’s, Mind’s, creation as complete, with no possibility of loss or depletion.
Every good thing we behold in the human experience is based on the spiritual good that abounds in the allness of God. Despite the human picture, under God’s government and care there is real and consistent nourishment, warmth, safety, light, companionship, health, and so forth, and all of these qualities are built into existence as the natural effect of the divine Mind, God, knowing and expressing His goodness in all creation, which includes us. Infinite Mind necessarily includes and provides for every right idea, from the tiniest expression of Life, to man as the compound idea of God. No one can be left out of this goodness.
So everyone, wherever they are, and whatever circumstances they find themselves in humanly, is blessed by reaching out with gratitude to realize something of this underlying reality of spiritual goodness.
Discerning it through prayer, even a little, enables us to receive more; both more awareness of spiritual existence, and correspondingly more realization of the abundance of spiritual goodness shining in our human experience with tender solutions to present needs. Every bit of gratitude helps to let in more light and dissolve the opaqueness produced by a sense of lack and fear.
One Thanksgiving, when money was very tight in our family, I remember asking myself bluntly, “Are you really grateful for the good already received? For the spiritual fact of God’s allness and man as His infinite manifestation?” At first I had to answer no! I was unhappy and afraid about my family’s prospects, and spiritual goodness felt abstract and far removed from our present needs. It was hard to turn to God in prayer. But I was not finding solutions by worrying, so I began to contemplate the permanent and eternal facts of Life as God, and slowly but steadily the realization began to take hold, with profound and deep joy in my heart, that we are all surely, infinitely loved and cared for as God’s ideas. We remain indissolubly attached to our source, to divine Mind. I also began to be vividly aware of how beautifully and preciously our family’s human needs were being cared for at that very moment, and gained confidence that they would go on being cared for, and all these years later, that has proved true.
The Bible again urges gratitude in advance when it says, “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, ... and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it (Malachi 3:10). The good already received is always received, because it’s part of underlying reality, the permanent premise of life in God. Turning in gratitude to Love’s infinite, ever-present, all-embracing nature opens our thought to the blessings that are even now presenting themselves to us, and gratitude enhances our receptivity to them.