Counting our blessings
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, and it still isn’t, as many who come give thanks aloud for their blessings, such as finding a home or job, experiencing a physical healing through prayer, or having good friends and neighbors. There are also testimonies about changes of heart and character—such as overcoming fears or anger, or making efforts to be more patient, honest, or wise—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, 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. You could tell this search for meaning and comfort was more important than anything else. So their gratitude went straight to God for God and for the love and goodness that are the very nature of ever-present divine Life and Spirit.
We’re living in a time when so many people are facing the most difficult situations they ever have, when sorrow has seemed to be everywhere and gratitude appears unreasonable. And yet this has also been a year of the most extraordinary courage and unselfishness, amazing generosity and love, strangers saving the lives of strangers, opera singers serenading quarantined neighbors, the Eiffel Tower doing a nightly light show thanking first responders, and school teachers 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, fought against oppressors such as disease, fear, self-centeredness, and hate by resorting to goodness and courage, grace and kindness, and turning heavenward. 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 Love and made to love by God, immortal Life. 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.
Knowing our need of God is a blessing, and brings a restoration of hope, as well as answers.
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 Christian 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 and Founder 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 ). This leaning was and is key, as is “to-day” (which in an early edition of the book was “to-morrow”). Over time, and through understanding more and more of Jesus’ teachings and actively healing on the basis of these insights, Mrs. Eddy proved that God, Spirit, is the All-in-all of existence and 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 spiritual clarity regarding God’s nature as boundless Life, omnipotent intelligence, and real substance, 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, as the disciples did after their Master’s ascension, when they “returned to Jerusalem with great joy: and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God” (Luke 24:52, 53 ).
Jesus’ students were happy and thankful because they now believed with all their hearts that life is spiritual and ever unfolding, and knew that the way to continue to experience that blessedness was to grow in knowing God and in living the life their Master did.
Eternal life, ever-present good, and perfect love are our Father-Mother’s perpetual gifts to each of His children. This year, even if we have only begun to grasp that fact, what blessing could be more worthy of our thanksgiving?
Ethel A. Baker