Counting our blessings

In some ways, it may seem an unlikely year for gratitude. But the more we get to know the nature of God as infinite good, the more we find that every day is worthy of our thanksgiving.

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We’re living in a time when so many people are facing difficult situations, when sorrow has seemed to be everywhere and gratitude appears unreasonable. And yet this has also been a year of the most extraordinary courage, unselfishness, amazing generosity, and love, with strangers saving the lives of strangers and schoolteachers and parents discovering new creativity and endurance in helping children.

When the chips have been down – very, very down – so many have intuitively looked up, risen higher, and fought against oppressors such as disease, fear, self-centeredness, and hate by resorting to goodness, courage, grace, and kindness – and turning to God.

Where do these impulses come from? They come from realizing in some measure that we’re not the earthbound mortals we’ve assumed. We are, in fact, spiritual – made from divine Love and made to love by God. We are grander and holier and more like God than we’ve imagined or been taught by the world. The evidence of this, though not necessarily universal, has still been unmistakable.

When circumstances turn us to the Divine, even as a last resort, we begin to discover that the deific Mind, the one Spirit, perfect Love, can do all things for us. The more we realize that we are able – not of ourselves but through divine Love – to solve our problems, see the way forward, and meet our needs, the more we know our need of God. This is a blessing, because we will find there a restoration of hope, as well as our answers.

Christ Jesus walked this path before us, and his words and works remain for our guidance now. His preeminent teaching, the Sermon on the Mount, was not about human ease and social benefits. It was about our relation to our spiritual Father-Mother, God, and to one another.

“The Message” translation of the Bible interprets Jesus’ first of eight Beatitudes, or blessings, in this way: “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule” (Matthew 5:3, Eugene Peterson). And the Apostle Paul wrote, “I am well pleased with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, and with difficulties, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak [in human strength], then I am strong [truly able, truly powerful, truly drawing from God’s strength]” (II Corinthians 12:10, Amplified Bible). Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, explained it this way: “Paul took pleasure in infirmities, for it enabled him to triumph over them, . . . for they tested and developed latent power” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 201).

Mrs. Eddy opens her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” with the promise “To those leaning on the sustaining infinite, to-day is big with blessings” (p. vii). God, Spirit, never fails to be infinite, ever-present good, now as well as in the future. As a material sense of our identity, our prospects, and our history gives way to a fuller clarity regarding this spiritual reality, we let go of a mortal, finite sense of ourselves and others. Breakthroughs begin to take the place of heartbreak, and seekers find new solace and even joy in knowing God.

When I was growing up, the Thanksgiving Day service in the Church of Christ, Scientist, our family attended was the one we never missed. It wasn’t uncommon for that service to be a very moving occasion, which it still is, as many who come give thanks aloud for their blessings, such as finding a home or job or experiencing a physical healing through prayer. There are also testimonies about changes of heart and character that have meant even more.

I’ve also heard testimonies from some who faced especially tough challenges, such as the sudden loss of a loved one, bankruptcy, crime, moral failings, and severe illness. The gratitude from these speakers has seemed deepest of all – not for the losses or suffering, but because those hardships compelled serious searching for answers in heartfelt prayer and humble listening to God for direction and hope. Their gratitude went straight to God for God and for the love and goodness that are the very nature of the Divine.

Eternal life, ever-present good, and perfect love are our Father-Mother’s perpetual gifts to each of us. This year, even if we have only begun to grasp that fact, what blessings could be more worthy of our thanksgiving?

Adapted from an editorial published in the Nov. 23, 2020, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.

This year, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, is conducting its Thanksgiving Day service entirely online. All are welcome! Join live at 10 a.m. EST on Nov. 26, or listen to the replay, which will be available through 5 p.m. EST on Nov. 29. Click here for more information or to access the service.

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