When we’re faced with a difficult problem, it can be tempting to become frustrated and angry – or even to give up and feel sorry for ourselves. At such a time, gratitude might seem an unlikely response. Yet, giving thanks can be not just an effective way to lift our spirits, but also the first step in overcoming a tough challenge.
The kind of gratitude I’m talking about is more than simply counting our blessings. It involves turning our attention away from a troubled human sense of things to God, the source of all good. As our divine Parent, God tenderly guides and cares for us as any loving father or mother naturally would their child. Giving thanks for this ever-available care opens our mental shutters so we can receive the inspiration and ideas that the divine intelligence is always communicating.
Genuine gratitude flows from an understanding of the unchanging goodness of God and the harmony of God’s creation, including the innocence, purity, and uprightness of His children. From this perspective, a problem invites a change of view, one in which the infinite presence and power of God, good, become more real to us.
Gratitude can also be considered a warm-up prayer – a preparation to receive the Christ, the law of God, the truth of eternal harmony, which God is always imparting. Gratitude calms thought and opens it to spiritual reality, which we can lose sight of when absorbed in a problem. As “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, states, “Prayer cannot change the Science of being, but it tends to bring us into harmony with it” (p. 2).
I had occasion some years ago to think about gratitude in a fresh way. My employer became insolvent, and I lost my job. Although I was able to take on some freelance work, projects were complicated, budgets small, and time frames short. My wife and I were also due to move house. Then a relative passed on, and I was required to sort out their affairs. I felt stressed.
At this time, I noticed an irritation on my arm. I asked a Christian Science practitioner to help me through prayer. Naturally I wanted the physical problem to be healed, as the itching had become severe and had spread to other parts of my body. But I knew from my study of Christian Science that this was not just about a set of physical circumstances that needed changing. I needed to get a better understanding of my true identity – not as a physical entity but as a spiritual idea expressing the flawlessness of God, Spirit. And I needed to see that God, Love itself, forever cares for and maintains all of His children perfectly.
At first, I felt inadequate, being unable to report much progress to the practitioner; but I was always so touched by her loving response when she answered the phone. Her sincere appreciation for my call gave me a sense of the divine goodness always in operation. She assured me that despite any physical evidence to the contrary, God is always at work, maintaining every bit of my being as pure, whole, and loved.
This was a great comfort, and I really wanted to understand and feel it more deeply. The practitioner suggested that I “put on the new man,” the spiritual identity referred to in Ephesians 4:24, “which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” She encouraged me to consider and list Christly qualities from God that we all reflect. Naturally, one of these was gratitude!
I began to appreciate an increasing number of beautiful spiritual attributes that we each possess – as well as the fact that we are loved and cared for by God. I felt more and more grateful and less and less fearful or impressed by the discordant physical condition. During this challenging time, I was able to complete work projects successfully, fulfill duties at church, and meet requirements for my relative’s estate.
And as my awareness of God’s continuous care for me grew, the irritation on my body faded away. I was of course immensely grateful for the physical healing, but the lessons I gleaned from this experience were just as welcome.
The second stanza of a hymn by E. W. Dennis conveys the essence of what I experienced:
A grateful heart a fortress is, A staunch and rugged tower, Where God’s omnipotence, revealed, Girds man with mighty power. (“Christian Science Hymnal,” No. 3, © CSBD)