I’ve recently discovered something like a mathematical formula in my understanding of God’s goodness: Gratitude plus love equals joy and expectation of good.
Actually, gratitude itself was a new concept for me until I became a Christian as a young adult and began reading the Bible. Learning that God is love, and that I could understand God and his love for me, put me in an entirely new place where I could begin to feel whole.
Countless times in the Old Testament we are encouraged to praise, bless, glorify and give thanks to God. Christ Jesus gave thanks to God, his Father, before he fed thousands of hungry people with just a few loaves and fishes, before he raised Lazarus and at the Last Supper, when he knew what was about to take place. I’ve learned that it’s natural to do this, knowing that our God is Good itself.
I love thinking about what gratitude does, how it connects us with the divine source of all goodness. Being thankful focuses our thoughts on good, like the lens of a camera or a beam of light penetrating the darkness of doubt or gloom. Expressing gratitude makes us happy and pleases God. It replaces fear with confidence in God’s love and grace.
Even our faults and misfortunes, when we use them as opportunities to turn to God with humble trust, can be occasions for gratitude. My favorite prayer of surrender is, “God, I don’t know, but I know you know, and that’s all I need to know. Thank you!”
I love that this prayer is always answered, including when I’m typing a document on my computer and have to find how to make it undo something I didn’t intentionally tell it to do.
We can be grateful not only for every expression of good around us, but for all the good our heavenly Father causes us to be and to do.
Jesus commands us to be like little children, to love God supremely and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Knowing human nature and what he would face in his challenges to overcome evil with good, he made sure we include our enemies as well as our friends in that love. He said to love them, bless them, do good to them, and pray for them (Matthew 5:44).
He never said it would be easy, but I find that when I’m faced with the temptation to react, be angry or resentful of people, I can focus on loving God’s qualities reflected in his spiritual image and likeness, rather than seeing others as unjust or unkind.
It can be a bit of a journey to see things from others’ point of view, or even to want to love and forgive, but my prayers to do this are always answered. “God, make me willing to be made willing to do your will” is one of them.
If it’s myself I need to love, I remember that as God’s child I naturally reflect his unconditional love to myself, and I feel this love when moral faults are seen and relinquished. This is so freeing.
Heavenly joy is a natural result of this practice of gratitude and love. Immanuel, or “God with us,” becomes a tangible feeling of God’s nearness and dearness. We can expect, accept, enjoy, express and share God’s goodness, and lose all fear of there not being enough to meet our needs.
This little verse by Mary Baker Eddy is my daily companion:
“Good is my God, and my God is Good. Love is my God, and my God is Love.”
Carolyn Nagusky, C.S., is a practitioner of Christian Science healing and has a prayer office in Salida. She can be reached at 303-550-6238.