Don’t give up—give thanks
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.
Gratitude 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. God is our divine Parent, and He 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, preclude even the possibility of evil.
The twenty-third Psalm outlines the many ways in which God lovingly protects, nourishes, and prospers us. The Discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, gives the spiritual sense of this psalm on page 578 of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:
[Divine love ] is my shepherd; I shall not want.
[Love ] maketh me to lie down in green pastures: [love ] leadeth me beside the still waters.
[Love] restoreth my soul [spiritual sense]: [love ] leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for [love ] is with me; [love’s ] rod and [love’s ] staff they comfort me.
[Love ] prepareth a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: [love] anointeth my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house [the consciousness] of [love ] for ever.
In its opening chapter, “Prayer,” Science and Health asks: “Are we really grateful for the good already received? Then we shall avail ourselves of the blessings we have, and thus be fitted to receive more. Gratitude is much more than a verbal expression of thanks. Action expresses more gratitude than speech” (p. 3). This statement encourages us to Christianize our thinking and actions, demonstrating thereby the sincerity of our gratitude.
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 states, “Prayer cannot change the Science of being, but it tends to bring us into harmony with it” (p. 2).
Gratitude calms thought and opens it to spiritual reality, which we can lose sight of when absorbed in a problem.
I had occasion some years ago to think about gratitude in a fresh way. Following a financial crisis, 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, which I was scratching inadvertently. I asked a Christian Science practitioner to help me through prayer. Naturally, I wanted the physical problem to be healed, as the itching became severe and spread to other parts of my body. But I knew from my study of Christian Science that it was not ultimately a bodily condition or set of circumstances that needed changing. Rather, 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, who is 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, and that I needed only to yield to this divine control.
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 man reflects. 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 impressed by the discordant physical condition. During this challenging time, I was able to complete work projects successfully, fulfill reading duties at church, and meet requirements for my relative’s estate.
The practitioner’s uplifting assurances of God’s omnipotence, and her complete confidence that I would be healed, gradually removed my fear. 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)•