Gratitude for natural blessings comes more naturally because such blessings are so definite, so tangible, apparently so real. Yet as we all know, eventually we all leave these things behind. And we should realize that although our spiritual gratitude should not be separated from our natural experience, it is not measured or determined by it. We can, in fact, make our natural blessings real and lasting by bringing the spiritual down into them. Spiritually, we give thanks to the Lord for the natural blessings of this life by learning to value them for their spiritual uses.
If, for instance, we are grateful to the Lord that we have a happy and comfortable home because it renders us more fully able to perform useful services for our community and nation, then we know something of what spiritual gratitude is. Thankfulness at this level gives the natural experiences of life a new interpretation and a new meaning. They become expressions of divine love, and therefore openings for heavenly usefulness. We give natural thanks for prosperity when we are grateful for the personal happiness that such prosperity brings; but we thank the Lord spiritually when we use our prosperity to increase our usefulness to the world.
With this understanding of the nature of true gratitude, we may, if we will, go over all the good things of life: the things that we naturally call good. We may be grateful for each of them in turn in a spiritual way through recognizing their relation to the spiritual dimension of life. In such a case we are gratefully aware that our making use of them is primarily a means of appreciating God's love; and secondarily that they can be means for making God's love operative in the world through us. When we do this, we no longer thank the Lord merely because He has given us these things for our enjoyment; we are now truly thanking him because He is good.
The gratitude of the spiritual person does not limit itself to the things that the natural person calls good; indeed, spiritual people do not in any special degree connect their conception of gratitude with the natural blessings of their life. Although it is a hard fact to learn, it is nevertheless true that the goodness of God is just as much present with us in our trials, temptations, and misfortunes as in our times of prosperity and ease. These so-called "negative" things are also a means by which the Lord's mercy is revealed to us in many ways. This principle is stated clearly in Scripture. For instance, we read, "When you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord" (Deuteronomy 6:11-12).
Times have changed, but God has not ceased to love us. People who express gratitude in this way are thankful right to the core of their being. This sort of gratitude rises above all the circumstances and happenstances of our experiences in this world. Whatever our outward situation may be, spiritually we are "giving thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever."