At one point years ago, our young family had many financial demands, and on one particular day, in addition to worrying about the finances, I was feeling quite ill. Even the thought of getting my children to school that day seemed overwhelming.
Then the gentle thought came, “Stop worrying about all this and just be grateful.”
Gratitude, as an active acknowledgment of goodness, turns us away from morbid brooding over lack and limitation and focuses our thought on our blessings. I’ve found that when I find myself hitting a wall with regard to a relationship, or up against a wall with finances, or unable to break through a difficult health problem, it can help immeasurably to focus on gratitude. This has actually led me out of such dilemmas many times.
It may start with something as simple as gratitude for a smile from a stranger, but acknowledging even the smallest evidence of God’s love for us, His spiritual children, increases awareness of something even more substantial. I like to think of gratitude as a looking outward into the infinite resources of God’s goodness. God’s care is available everywhere, and gratitude leads to realizing just how bountiful divine provision is. It points to the spiritual qualities that are behind the present symbols of goodness in our lives, such as beauty and kindness. It guides us out of a limited sense of supply into a more expansive awareness of illimitable God, good, inspiring solutions that meet our needs.
There’s a great example of this in the Bible. A widow told the prophet Elisha that her sons were about to be taken away to settle her late husband’s debts (see II Kings 4:1-7). Elisha asked, “What hast thou in the house?” She told him she only had a pot of oil. He told her to borrow vessels from her neighbors and to start pouring the oil into them. As she did, the oil kept pouring out until all the vessels were filled – enough to pay the debt and provide for her family.
Elisha had some sense that all good comes from God, who conveys ideas that meet our human needs. In a way, Elisha was asking the widow to start being grateful, even when it seemed she had nothing. Her willingness to do as he asked represented a redirection of thought away from destitution and toward God’s care. And her needs were met.
So as I brought my children to school that day, I began with gratitude for the kids having a good school to go to, and for family and friends who loved us. And that led me to be grateful for divine Love as the source of the love expressed in our family and our community and our church and the world.
By the time I got back home I was feeling much better, and I was soon completely healed. Furthermore, while I can’t remember exactly how the financial situation eased, I do know all the needs were met that month, and in all the years since then.
In her writings, Monitor founder Mary Baker Eddy dwells at length on these ideas. For instance, she writes: “God gives you His spiritual ideas, and in turn, they give you daily supplies. Never ask for to-morrow: it is enough that divine Love is an ever-present help; and if you wait, never doubting, you will have all you need every moment. What a glorious inheritance is given to us through the understanding of omnipresent Love! More we cannot ask: more we do not want: more we cannot have. This sweet assurance is the ‘Peace, be still’ to all human fears, to suffering of every sort” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 307).
Thanksgiving is a good time to be reminded of gratitude, but every moment is a great time to let gratitude lead thought outward into the infinite goodness of God, meeting needs large and small.