Picture this: A young writer, trying to sell her first manuscript, finds herself at a crossroads. Friends and colleagues are telling her that this is her moment. She's found her voice. Her success is inevitable.
But the writer has doubts. She fears mediocrity, or failure. Worse, she feels she can never measure up. Looking around at the great authors who have come before her, she feels paralyzed by inadequacy. Even her best surely can't measure up.
This scenario, of course, isn't unique to her. Almost everyone has dealt with the doubts and fears that threaten to thwart their best efforts â€“ or stop them in their tracks.
Thankfully, there is an antidote. It's expressed by one simple word: gratitude.
Gratitude doesn't necessarily make people think of a higher power. Especially this time of year, even the secular embrace the term; there's nothing specifically religious about feeling grateful.
And yet, gratitude to God transforms thankfulness from mere words to power. At least, it did for the young writer. As a student of Christian Science, she found it natural not to give in to her fears. Rather than crumble, she found herself turning to God.
She'd learned from her study of the Bible and "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy, that God is loving, good, and beneficent. God blesses His creation by equipping each of His children with everything they need to succeed â€“ to manifest His glory.
So she began her prayer by affirming her connection to God and to His goodness. She affirmed that God made her with a distinct purpose. And she acknowledged that God didn't just leave it up to her to find the resources to fulfill that purpose; He also gave her everything she needed to fulfill it. That His gifts included strength and clarity, intelligence, and creativity.
And yet, the fear remained. That's when she felt this prompting: Try gratitude.
In that moment, she recognized, for the first time, the real power of giving thanks to God. She'd seen before how gratitude can open our eyes to the ever-present goodness of the Creator. But now she saw how gratitude was also able to give her more conviction that God was with her.
The truth was that her affirmations, though sincere, had contained an element of wishful thinking. She was affirming her creativity and intelligence, and yet wondering if her work was actually inspired by them.
Being grateful took her prayers out of the realm of doubt and fear â€“ out of a mental place where she felt separate from God â€“ and elevated her viewpoint. She was catching a glimpse of creation from the perspective of an all-wise Creator "to whom each need of man is always known and by whom it will be supplied," as Science and Health states (p. 7).
Gratitude took the wondering out of the equation. It removed time and the "what ifs." It's nearly impossible to feel grateful unless you're convinced that the blessing is yours. Which means that gratitude moves us from well-meaning faith to rock-solid understanding. In spite of what seems to be going on around us, it allows us to see with new eyes â€“ to see that "the kingdom of heaven is at hand," as Jesus promised (Matt. 3:2).
That's what the writer saw when she moved from acknowledging God's goodness to actually feeling grateful for it. She saw that God was rejoicing in the way He'd made her and what He'd given her, so she could, too. She was able to move forward with her work with a new appreciation of what she had to offer.
Gratitude doesn't ask for more, but instead allows us to truly honor the gifts God has already given to us. It celebrates the wisdom of a Creator who created each of us with something to give because that's the nature of son- and daughter-ship. We have a divine Parent who made us to express His radiance and to know that we can do nothing less.
That certainly sounds like cause for thanksgiving.
II Corinthians 9:8