Right Relationship to the Divine

Lesson Two: Gratitude to God

Gratitude to God

God's generosity. We have so much reason to feel gratitude to God. In Her generosity, our Divine Mother is like a parent who showers presents upon Her children every day, as genuine expressions of Her love for us personally.

Divine love and generosity are expressed in every form of goodness, including:

the Universal laws that serve happiness and evolution.

the Inner Voice through which God encourages us to do good things and patiently teaches us higher values and Divine wisdom.

the good features of creatures -- sensitivity, goodwill, inspiration, self-sacrifice, self-transcendence. (Even though people deserve credit for cultivating their good qualities, the qualities themselves are gifts of God.)

And behind all God's beautiful gifts is the GREATEST gift of all: the gift of Her Love.

Our gratitude. There can be no question that, when we glimpse the magnitude and multitude of God's gifts, heartfelt gratitude awakens. Gratitude IS the appropriate response of anyone who recognizes even a fraction of God's love and compassion.

The heartfelt quality of our praise and the sincerity of our gratitude depend on our awareness of the true value and volume of God's gifts to us. A lack of gratitude reflects misunderstanding of God's infinite love, mercy, and grace. When we don't feel thankful to God, the following factors may be involved:

Blaming God for the suffering in the world

People often blame God for the myriad tribulations of earthly life -- assuming, mistakenly, that many random or man-created events are the results of God's will. But the challenges and misfortunes we experience are not products of God's indifference, anger, or desire to punish us. And, blaming God for the problems in the world and in our own lives is obviously not conducive to a feeling of affinity with God. When we blame humanity's suffering on God, we feel not gratitude, but resentment.

In order to rightly relate to the Divine, we must first forgive God for all the things we wrongly held against Him. There are better, healthier, and more accurate ways to interpret our misfortunes, or the misfortunes of others. One of the most important ways is to understand man's free will. Appreciating God's gift of free will, and how it affects the circumstances in which we live, helps us forgive God in the following ways:

1. Forgiving God for the misdeeds of ourselves and others (and for the pain those misdeeds cause). God gave each of His children free will, and does not intervene to protect us from the repercussions of our own or others' wrongdoing, for good reason: if He did, WILL would no longer be FREE. Therefore, we have to admit that the suffering of humanity is not a direct expression of God's will. Rather, man's free will choices are the cause of much of the suffering on earth.

The gift of free will NECESSARILY implies that man creates as he wills, for better OR for worse. We are under no obligation to align our will with God's -- and much of the time, we DON'T. Oftentimes, that's when problems arise.

Problem: We blame God for the considerable suffering that really comes from mankind's wrongful use of free will.

God, why do you allow human beings to treat each other so badly? This world is full of racial hatred, economic imbalances, human rights abuses. You're all-powerful; why don't You DO anything to stop all this? You must not care!

Solution: None of the aberrant acts of man -- such as war, cruelty, etc. -- should be considered God's fault. They are the results of human choices. Free will is one of God's greatest gifts, and He will not rescind it even to prevent misdeeds. Therefore, He cannot protect us from the repercussions of our own or others' wrongdoing.

Lord, we cause so much pain for ourselves and others by not harmonizing our will with Yours. But You care about us so much that You patiently let us learn from our choices by experiencing their consequences. Meanwhile, I know that You feel our pain and suffer along with us when we suffer.

Problem: By being personally irresponsible, or by being responsible for creating negative effects, we have caused ourselves much pain. And yet often we blame that suffering on God.

My wife left me, my children don't want to see me, and my friends all say it is my fault. My life is miserable. God, why have You forsaken me?

Solution: God does not punish or condemn us for being irresponsible. He simply allows us to experience the consequences of irresponsibility so that we can learn to take better responsibility in the future. Because blame always accompanies irresponsibility, we must live responsibly before we can truly forgive God for what WE did.

God, You were right. My inner voice TOLD me to give my wife and children more love and attention when we were together. I ignored it, and now I'm sorry, because they're gone. Thanks for trying to warn me. Perhaps, if I had loved my wife and children as You would have me love, I would not have lost them. Maybe if I change my ways, there's hope for us still!

2. Forgiving God for the innocent or random results of free will choices.

Often the free will choices of others create our misfortune, not because their will was particularly negative, but simply because it was at cross-purposes with ours.

Example: You find a wonderful couch at a bargain price at your neighbor's yard sale. You rush home to get some money. By the time you get back, another person has purchased it. Now: Did God object to you having that couch? No; someone else wanted it, and she bought it!

3. Forgiving God for the suffering caused by honest mistakes and poor judgment.

Another cause of people's hardships in life is inadequate perspective. It is understandable that these types of failures are heartbreaking, but again, they are not God's fault. For example:

Through tremendous effort, a girl lands a job as a receptionist in the office of a handsome, wealthy bachelor. Her dream is that once they meet, he will fall in love with her and marry her. Disappointingly, the marriageable executive takes no special notice of his new receptionist. He has many other pretty girls to choose from. Maybe she should have thought of that.

A man invests all his money in souvenirs to sell at sporting events. However, he overlooked the fact that his competitors had the resources to buy the same items in larger quantities and resell them at prices he couldn't possibly match. So, when he comes on the scene, they simply lower their prices enough to put him out of business.

The bottom line is, both bad things and good things happen for MANY reasons. Through understanding the use of free will and studying the principles that work together with free will to create effects, we come to recognize that God deserves credit, not for the misfortunes man brings upon himself or encounters randomly, but rather, for His infinite respect for man's freedom, for His confidence that we can learn from our mistakes and troubles -- and for the ongoing mercy by which He helps us do exactly that. Seeing this, we rise from the position of blame to the higher position of understanding, forgiveness, and gratitude; and with that we step into a healthy, happy, and unobstructed relationship with God.

Improving our ability to recognize God's gifts

Another obstacle to heartfelt gratitude to God is our inability to RECOGNIZE God's many gifts. It takes discernment to recognize God's gifts, and courage to accept them. Consequently, consciously or otherwise, we may overlook or refuse many of God's gifts. How can we enjoy or appreciate the beauty and benefit of gifts we have failed to see and accept?

Problem: Sometimes we refuse God's gifts even when they are obviously beneficial.

God, when will I find the man of my dreams? Tom would make someone a very good and loving husband, but I just can't marry someone shorter than me! So here I am, waiting for someone who is RIGHT in every way!

Solution: God's most obviously beautiful gifts invite us to live up to the glorious opportunities they offer. We should accept them happily, trusting that God will not give us gifts we can't handle or don't deserve.

God, You gave a great chance to take the job in my uncle's business. But I turned it down three times -- and now he won't have me. My pride got in the way. Next time opportunity knocks, I will give it a chance.

Problem: Among the greatest and most enduringly valuable gifts of God are those delivered via challenges and difficulties. God does not create challenges to teach us lessons, but He helps us make good use of the challenges we naturally encounter in life. The trouble is, people can be quite lazy when it comes to facing challenges, and quite stubborn in refusing to learn from experience.

God, my friends are SO intolerant! It seems like every time I lose my temper, my friends avoid me.

Solution: By facing the consequences of our actions, and by learning the lessons of experience, we make most of our progress in happiness. Then we begin to cherish the trials and tribulations that come our way.

Thank you for teaching me to control my temper, and that relationships need nurturing and constructive communication in order to thrive. My friendships are all deeper and sweeter since I learned this invaluable lesson, and started applying it.

Many of the clouds we see have bright silver linings. God can't prevent our trials and tribulations, but within each challenge we face, and each poor choice we make, God puts a silver lining: a wisdom-lesson, a growth opportunity. That's why people often say of a difficulty that became a turning point in their life, "Oh, that difficult situation was the best thing that ever happened to me." And everyone has observed how catastrophes inspire people to work together better than they ever would, otherwise, and bring out their best, most heroic qualities.

Thanks for all of your gifts today. I thank you for your more obvious blessings, and also for the blessings hidden in the challenges and difficulties of my life. In hindsight, I realize that losing my old job was the best thing that ever happened to me. It was a dead end anyway, and the people at my new job appreciate me so much better.

Problem: Often we miss the benefit of God's silver lining because we fail to look for it and make use of it. When we react to problems we see, or jump to habitual conclusions, a challenging experience only reinforces our suffering instead of helping us expand and grow through it.

I cannot forget the faces of those sick, homeless children I saw on the street. I feel depressed and overwhelmed by the senseless suffering of this world.

Solution: If we open our hearts and minds, and ask God how to understand the things we see and experience, God will show us the silver lining within them.

God, when I saw the suffering of those children, my heart was flooded with compassion, and I felt the urgency of doing everything I can to comfort those who suffer, and of trying my best to solve the human problems I encounter. Thank You for lighting that fire in my heart!


Lack of gratitude to God springs from two human errors:



Wrongly blaming God for the suffering of the world.

Failure to appreciate God's gifts because we fail to recognize or accept them (both obviously positive gifts, and also the growth-producing opportunities and lessons of challenges).