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Gratitude heals

Today’s contributor shares how a spirit of gratitude replaced the “poor me” discouragement she’d been feeling about a lingering illness with a tangible sense of God’s presence – and healing quickly followed. 

Settling into my airplane seat on the next leg of a long business trip, I heard a man say to his seat companion behind me, “I am so happy we live here. I love our home. I love our neighbors.” I didn’t really want to eavesdrop, but the sincerity in his voice drew me in. Next I heard, “I am grateful for our friends and for my work here. I am grateful for you!”

This flight was a year ago, yet I still remember his words clearly. Why? Because his list of heartfelt gratitude made me feel grateful, too. I considered the good in my life and all around me, and a fatigue that had accompanied me onto the flight dropped away completely, allowing me to arrive at my next stop joyful and energetic.

More than just positive thinking, gratitude can be a powerful, spiritual force for good, rendering one receptive to healing. I once found myself in desperate straits, and gratitude was key to my turnaround. I had been ill for some time and became very discouraged. The list of what was wrong seemed to grow every hour, and I was very tired of it all.

Seeking inspiration, I opened my Bible to Habakkuk, a book that was rather unfamiliar to me. As I began to read, I noted a lot of “woe is this” and “woe is that,” and oh, my, could I ever relate! But as I continued reading, I was struck by a sudden corrective to the negative flow: “But the Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him” (2:20).

To me, this was like a big “Shut up!” to the list of woes stirring around in my own thoughts. In the 1932 “Christian Science Hymnal” there is a verse I love:

“A grateful heart a temple is,
A shrine so pure and white,
Where angels of His presence keep
Calm watch by day or night.”
(Ethel Wasgatt Dennis, No. 3, © CSBD)

I considered how the antidote to any woe could be found in the holy “temple” of gratitude, of acknowledging God as abundant, divine good. The good that comes from God, who knows only peace and harmony, is more powerful than any evil, because it is unlimited.

These ideas stirred a change in me. I began to more consciously dwell in that temple of gratitude, considering the evidence of good from God in my life.

As I did this, I learned that it is impossible to be discouraged and truly grateful at the same time. Genuine gratitude is a manifestation of God’s goodness reflected in us. Such gratitude isn’t of human origin. It is a divine attribute, reflected in each one of us as God’s creation. This means no one can be shut out of the temple of gratitude – everyone is capable of feeling grateful, no matter what the human circumstance may be.

This doesn’t mean simply forgetting about or ignoring bad things. On the contrary, acknowledging the supremacy of God, good, equips us to overcome challenges. It magnifies God’s goodness in tangible ways. As we acknowledge the presence of spiritual good for all, gratitude expands in our consciousness and displaces mental darkness, doubt, and discouragement.

In my case, gratitude cut off the “poor me” discouragement that distracted me from knowing, hearing, and feeling God’s presence, or healing Christ – God’s message of love for each and every one of us, which Jesus expressed so fully. And I began to recover quickly from the illness. In fact, within a very short time, I was completely well.

In the United States, Thanksgiving Day is celebrated in late November, but a spirit of gratitude is a healthy mental state every day of the year. Here is the whole of the hymn mentioned earlier, which reminds us of what a grateful heart is and does for us all:

“A grateful heart a garden is,
Where there is always room
For every lovely, Godlike grace
To come to perfect bloom.

A grateful heart a fortress is,
A staunch and rugged tower,
Where God’s omnipotence, revealed,
Girds man with mighty power.

A grateful heart a temple is,
A shrine so pure and white,
Where angels of His presence keep
Calm watch by day or night.

Grant then, dear Father-Mother, God,
Whatever else befall,
This largess of a grateful heart
That loves and blesses all.”

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