You might say gratitude means always being ready to acknowledge good.
Gratitude is “the quality of being thankful; the readiness to show appreciation for, and to return, kindness.” And I find that, apart from this definition, there are two other words that make the spiritual power of gratitude clearer. One word is praise.
The Bible invites us, more than 200 times, to praise God regardless of circumstance. To praise God is one way of being grateful to God, and it’s interesting to note the majority of those invitations to praise God are from the Old Testament. You could approach the Old Testament from the perspective that the Old Testament was Jesus’ Bible, the Bible he used.
Jesus’ astonishing healing ministry was certainly built on the biblical demand to be grateful to God, to praise God under all circumstances. And so when I want to learn more about praise, I start with the Old Testament.
Another word closely linked to gratitude is satisfaction. Satisfaction means “being completely at peace; complete peace of mind; 100 percent content.” Gratitude, in its spiritual dimension, is being entirely content with God’s power, creation, and authority. Mary Baker Eddy’s poem (also a hymn) titled “Satisfied” is one glorious praise of God (Poems, p. 79). It’s a powerful Christian Science treatment, and it ends with this verse:
The centuries break, the earth-bound wake,
Who doth His will—His likeness still—
So there you have it, the sisterhood of gratitude and satisfaction.
The words just mentioned, praise and satisfaction, are what I would call “colors” of gratitude; they describe aspects, shades, of gratitude. They acknowledge good. Gratitude, with these fantastic, glorious, and beautiful hues, opens the windows to a grander view of Life. Life, God, is all-good, holy, whole. Life is health-giving and grand. So, gratitude is our recognition and expression of God’s goodness.
Gratitude is all about an honest, active use of spiritual awareness of good, and that makes it so vital. Gratitude is really a sign that we are God’s children, that we belong to God, and that we understand the fundamental truth that being is spiritual and all-good.
When I was about fourteen years old, I fell in love with the messages in the Bible and carried my Bible around with me every day. It was a small pocket version, and I studied it daily. That’s how I came to be in touch with the subject of gratitude. I also started to read everything Mary Baker Eddy wrote, and one book was Retrospection and Introspection.
Gratitude is our recognition and expression of God’s goodness.
One afternoon as I sat in the living room reading this book, I came across this sentence, which defines God through synonyms: “Christian Science declares that there is but one Truth, Life, Love, but one Spirit, Mind, Soul” (p. 60). This radical, deep, and straightforward statement about the oneness of God impressed me very much, and I knew that the sentence didn’t just present a nice proposal, but defined a spiritual fact, law. If there is only one Truth, Life, Love, one Spirit, Mind, Soul, then we, God’s spiritual creation, include and express truthfulness and authenticity, spiritual energy, substance, perception. I was standing on holy ground, and deeply grateful for God.
A few minutes later my mother entered the living room, and she asked me whether I had prayed for her, telling me she had been dealing with a terrible headache, when suddenly she was free, as if the headache had been switched off in no time. I had not prayed for her; I didn’t even know about the problem. I had just been grateful and in awe of the greatness and goodness of God, which includes all. Gratitude for Truth blessed all in my household of thought, in which, of course, my mother owns a special place of her own.
This stunning experience presented to me a key to healing. Gratitude for God, honest reverence, and consecrated praise are straightforward and profound. They move us kindly and irresistibly beyond material sense to the spiritual sense of being, which is all about the oneness of God, good.
To be discouraged at a time of trial is understandable, but such a time presents us with an opportunity to remember the goodness of God that is right here. Gratitude is the acknowledgment of good and is an expression of the foundational spiritual fact that God is the one and only authority, power, and supreme intelligence of the universe.
Gratefully to acknowledge God, good, in the midst of a trying experience is to rob error or evil of its claim to victory. So the grateful recognition of God’s omnipotence aids us in demonstrating the divine law of good. Gratitude is not theoretical; we trust what we know and continue to grow.
Handling opposition to gratitude
In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mrs. Eddy states, “Mortals obtain the harmony of health, only as they forsake discord, acknowledge the supremacy of divine Mind, and abandon their material beliefs” (p. 400). And to acknowledge the supremacy of divine Mind in our lives and let go of limiting concepts is really a daily task.
God is the one and only authority, power, and supreme intelligence of the universe.
We may notice that gratitude is not usually the first thing we think of when we’re met with challenges. In order to practice gratitude more consistently, we have to meet fearlessly and with determination the human mind’s opposition to grateful awe. I’ve observed that opposition comes to our thoughts mainly in two forms: first, in a tendency to downplay God’s blessings and to underestimate the power and substantiality of grateful living; and second, in the form of an exaggerated and self-righteous sense of ego that insists on a life (and achievements) of its own, separate from our creator.
As the first form of opposition produces a depressed and uninspired state of thought, the second form of opposition results in mental emptiness and an overemphasis on human routine that distorts our ability to recognize good. We must be absolutely clear on what’s true and alert to the human mind’s tendency to discount the power of gratitude for God’s kingdom. Nothing can erode our joyful, daily service to our Maker! The kingdom of heaven, our true home, rightfully deserves our full and humble attention.
Humility has no problem with keeping the First Commandment and putting God first. It is humility that enables us to pray: “My consciousness belongs to God. I will not let one of my thoughts or one of my feelings be used to deny that God is good. I will be a good host to gratitude.”
It’s crucial to remember that gratitude, humility, and goodness do not originate in us, but have their source where goodness and health come from: the supreme lawmaker, infinite individuality, God, good itself.
As we pray each day from the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11), we might also occasionally pray, “Give us this day our daily applause for good”—because good is already here, and we are given the ability to express gratitude to our dear Father-Mother God. The most honorable, and natural, response to overflowing good can only be celebration.
This article was adapted from a podcast called “The heart and soul of gratitude” on JSH-Online.com.