Thankful in Every Season
By Sandi Cross
Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands!
Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.
Know that the Lord, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.
Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
This time of year is especially easy to be thankful — or at least be reminded that we should be thankful.
Merriam-Webster defines thankful as being “conscious of benefit received; expressive of thanks; well pleased.” For the believer, biblical thankfulness is being thankful for the love God has bestowed on us through His Son, His word, and His Spirit – a benefit received! Then, God takes thankfulness even further by telling us to be thankful in all circumstances (Thessalonians 5:18).
So, how is this accomplished? Can every circumstance, every season in life, be worthy of thanks? For me, it has been a lifelong pursuit, and I am not done learning! Please allow me to share with you how the Spirit has been faithful to show me the discipline of being thankful in all things.
To be thankful when things are going good is pretty much a given. I can rattle off thanks for salvation, God’s mercy, His faithfulness, and His never-ending love without hesitation during my prayer time. When the marriage is happy, when the kiddos are “behaving,” when I’m getting promoted, when there is extra cash in our checking account, when my small group girls are growing in their relationship with Jesus — these are all examples of when it is easy to be thankful. Please don’t hear me saying I don’t think these gifts are worthy of thanks. All good things come from God (James 1:17), but it is certainly easier to see God’s goodness when things are going well. Having a heart of thanksgiving helps me stay thankful through every high and low. The thoughts I allow in my mind are going to determine whether my heart is full of thanks or complaints. Matthew 15:18 says, “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.”
I grew up hearing the word preached and became very familiar with the “do’s and don’ts” of scripture. It became my own work, and that was how I approached most of life – I do this on my own! It wasn’t until my late 30’s in Sunday School one morning that the teacher challenged us to ask the Spirit to work in our hearts, to do the changing that needed to take place in order to further our walk with the Lord. Before that time, I didn’t know I could petition the Spirit! I didn’t understand the role that the Holy Spirit has in our lives and how important and necessary His work is! What has happened since that time has changed my life, and it is still changing! I began to understand what it looks like to be filled with the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), and I recognized when there was little or no fruit. Up to this point, life had not been easy, admittedly, because of the prideful “me” choices I had made. But what laid ahead wasn’t necessarily easier because I had a better grasp on having a heart of thankfulness.
Without sharing my entire testimony, let me give some background. As I stated earlier, for most of my life, I was in church and hearing the word. But, for a short time, we did not attend anywhere. It was during this time, at the tender age of 9, a family “friend” introduced me to immorality. After my parent’s initial surprise and anger, it was never discussed again. We began attending church soon after and I prayed the prayer of salvation at 10 years old. Thus began my “checklist.” I believed my ability to be a good girl was because of my own merit. Much to my shame and my family’s embarrassment, I was pregnant by the time I turned 17. My parents were, of course, hurt and disappointed, but they loved and supported my baby girl and me throughout this time. I knew I could do better; so, as a single mom, I spent the next 10 years doing all I could to make things right.
Enter, Gordon. He was a divorced dad of two. We were determined — we were going to blend this family, and all would be well! It was never easy, but we were tough! Both of us had already been through difficult times; we thought, “How much more difficult could this be?” To be very honest, we are almost 20 years into this marriage and we are still seeing the difficulty of our sin and how it has affected all of our now grown children. I will say, and this is a shameless plug for biblical counseling, that our experience in counseling at Bethany has helped us examine our hearts, see our sin, and respond to the Spirit’s call for repentance. Alas, we still sin! (Oh, come now, don’t be so surprised…you do too!) When difficult times land, some of my favorite phrases are still, “Not again!” or “You’ve got to be kidding me!” But I eventually get to the heart of thankfulness and, by God’s grace, my response time of getting there is becoming faster!
I am so thankful (there it is!) that God has given me a heart of gratitude for everything in my past: from things done to me to things I’ve done to others; from the highest mountain top experiences to the lowest valleys; during times of spiritual drought or abundance; for sin; when things don’t make sense. It is all because of the realization that in every season, He is always sovereign. Everything that comes our way has been divinely ordained. God doesn’t say “Oops, that one got by Me.” One speaker says, “God never gets the wrong address.” Psalm 139:16b-17 says, “...in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!” Our gracious Father has put loving thought into every detail of our lives, and, what’s more, He has prepared us to live the life He designed! He has given us everything we need to be thankful.
A heart of thankfulness begins inwardly with preparing to battle against grumbling. Knowing who God is through His word and prayer has been significant for me in this war. He gave His Son, His only Son, to hang on a cross and take even the most appalling sin for those who would believe on Him! Then He sent His Spirit to guide, encourage, convict, and empower us to fight against the complaining and, instead, grant the ability to be thankful.
He has also given His perfect word. This is where we will find His command to be thankful for all things, but also, His goodness in all things! He never told me I was to be thankful for the actual sin I’ve committed or to be thankful for disease or the loss of loved ones. But He did promise to never leave me during those times. He promised His strength, when I am weak, to endure. It is through these circumstances that He shows His unfailing love and His faithfulness. For me, this is where I have seen His goodness in my life and have learned to be thankful.
Finally, we live this thankfulness outwardly. This may be the most difficult aspect of thankfulness. But, to a world that loves to complain, it might be one of the most important ways to display Jesus to them. I promise you, it will be an ugly war! I can also promise you that there is much peace and joy in being thankful in every season! “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
I am a prayerful overseer of our divinely blended family, and I am Mimi to two beautiful littles. You might see me out enjoying coffee with some sweet young ladies or helping out in senior high. When I have downtime, I love being outdoors — the more beachy, the better!