The ‘Thank you!’ that heals
In light of Canada’s upcoming celebration of Thanksgiving Day, today’s contributor shares some ideas on gratitude – why it’s important, and how it helps us better understand God.
Thank you! How many times a day do we hear people say that? Whether said to a family member, colleague, politician, sales representative, or stranger, sincere gratitude benefits both the recipient and the giver. Even if it’s initially expressed only for personal reasons – I got what I wanted! – gratitude still requires taking a moment to turn outward and recognize the goodness of someone or something other than ourselves. In this way, gratitude encourages, supports, and grants a larger, more unselfish perspective.
Gratitude for goodness is also one of the many ways we can begin to see God at work. Christ Jesus recognized God as the source of all goodness (see Luke 18:19). This means that any expression of genuine goodness, no matter how great or small, actually provides a glimpse of the ever-present goodness of God. Witnessing goodness being expressed in human life and acknowledging God as the source of that goodness is a great way to begin feeling grateful for our Father-Mother in heaven.
Christ Jesus regularly demonstrated the importance, power, and effectiveness of gratefully acknowledging God’s goodness: As a result, people saw proof of God’s care. For example, one Bible story depicts Jesus feeding a large crowd of people (see Matthew 15:32-38). At first, only a little bread and fish were available. Yet Jesus dared to thank God before any additional provisions appeared. With so many hungry people, the limited amount of food could have been daunting except that Jesus knew God is inexhaustible, illimitable Spirit, who is fully able to meet practical human needs. Thus Jesus’ gratitude went much deeper than superficially thanking an unknown Deity; it was a loving acknowledgment of the intimate, spiritual reality of the kingdom of heaven, where each one of us is forever God’s child, always cared for and equally blessed (see Matthew 6:31–33).
The deep, expansive, unutterable affection one may feel for God increases in power as it moves from a feeling to an outward expression in thought, word, and action. Active gratitude softens hearts, encourages a more generous community, and amplifies happiness. Because words can’t adequately express my gratitude to God for the example and teachings of Christ Jesus and the path of salvation he opened for us, through Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, I strive to live the best Christian life I can.
Bountiful blessings have flowed into my life as a result. Through an increased understanding of my relation to God – and with gratitude to God playing a key role – I’ve been healed of fear, shame, physical injury, and feelings of loneliness, inadequacy, hopelessness, and more. I’ve become more aware of God’s ever-present care and direction, as well as His ongoing gifts. Along with these healings has come a resolution to be even more aware of all the good surrounding me and others at all times.
It can feel difficult to express gratitude in the face of many challenging ecological, political, social, and personal issues. Problems may aggressively demand our daily and hourly attention. And yet, there are always compelling, powerful, spiritual, and very practical reasons to express gratitude even under difficult circumstances. God is larger than any problem we confront, has the solutions we need, and is the Giver of all the wisdom, goodness, and love that anyone could possibly ask for, express, act upon, or be grateful for.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of The Christian Science Monitor, wrote, “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). As we develop a habit of gratitude, the spiritual light of God, Spirit, opens our eyes to more of God’s goodness, and we experience provision and healing as a result.
And so, as we enter into the Thanksgiving season in Canada, the United States, and around the world, I will be gladly participating in the ongoing celebration of God’s expression of goodness. I’ll start by thanking you for reading this article, and for all the good you express, do, and give to the world!