I recently discovered several studies from Neal Krause, University of Michigan, which I found to be very interesting. So, you may find that I am going to blog about several of them in the coming months. The purpose of this particular study, (http://generosityresearch.nd.edu/assets/13605/gratitude_toward_god.pdf_) was to see if feeling grateful to God reduces the deleterious effects of stress on health in late life. One result of Mr. Krause’s research determined that the effects of stress on health are reduced for older people who feel more grateful to God. While I am sure neither age nor gender has anything to do with it, I have to say that I agree that gratitude to God does indeed affect one’s health.
When I first started attending the Christian Science church, I heard the word ‘gratitude’ used all the time, especially at Wednesday evening testimony meetings. For me, that word was new. I was used to saying I was thankful for my blessings, but that word ‘gratitude’ was a new expression of being thankful. Gratitude seemed to be a deeper feeling than just being thankful. And, many people referred to being grateful to God. Wow! Not just grateful for things but grateful to God. Now, I am not saying that I am not grateful for my many blessings because I truly am. Last week was my birthday. Many friends and family gave me gifts. I was really grateful for all the gifts and I am enjoying them so much. However, most of all, I am grateful for the giver of the gift and the love and hugs I get from them year-round. That is giving priority to the giver and not the gift. This is what we do when we give gratitude to God for all. In thinking about this now, after reading Mr. Krause’s study, I would like to elaborate about gratitude in a spiritual way…..
The Bible says “in every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you,” (I Thess 5:18). And, in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy, it says: “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.” Mary Baker Eddy goes on to talk about gratitude as told in a Bible story: “Of the ten lepers whom Jesus healed, but one returned to give God thanks—that is to acknowledge the divine Principle which had healed him.” (S&H, pg 93) When I acknowledge God as the healer of the stresses on my health, then I am able to see the effects of my gratitude on my overall health. This condition of being grateful to God is my certainty of good health. One Wednesday, I had been feeling ill all day with a stomach problem. I decided to go to the Christian Science Wednesday evening testimony meeting, knowing I would hear something to help me in my prayers for my stomach that day. As I sat and listened to the members of the congregation stand and give gratitude and praise to God for healings, my heart was so filled with gratitude for all God had done, that I suddenly realized my stomach was no longer uncomfortable and I knew I had been healed in that meeting of Christian thanksgiving! My healing was a direct result of my gratitude to God!
Neal Krause goes on to say “that research revealed that gratitude is among the most beneficial character strengths” (Park, Peterson, and Seligman 2004). Based on my own experiences, I agree with that statement, too. Health is a fact of spiritual being and is improved by many spiritual character strengths, one of them being gratitude. I have experienced the effect of gratitude on the stresses on my health. Prayers of gratitude are indeed effective in overcoming stresses of all kinds. I believe my health is definitely better because of being grateful to God. I thought I would close this blog with a favorite hymn of mine, from the Christian Science Hymnal:
Ethel Wasgatt Dennis
Arnold’s Complete Psalter, 1756
A grateful heart a garden is,
Where there is always room
For every lovely, Godlike grace
To come to perfect bloom.
A grateful heart a fortress is,
A staunch and rugged tower,
Where God’s omnipotence, revealed,
Girds man with mighty power.
A grateful heart a temple is,
A shrine so pure and white,
Where angels of His presence keep
Calm watch by day or night.
Grant then, dear Father-Mother, God,
Whatever else befall,
This largess of a grateful heart
That loves and blesses all.