Every season is beautiful

Fall is a beautiful time of year, isn’t it? Here in North Texas, temperatures still feel like summertime (but we’ll just wake up one day and suddenly need a coat and mittens, as those of us here know).

But nonetheless, signs of the new season have arrived — leaves turning to red and brown, college football, post-season baseball (my Rangers lost yesterday; please console me), boots, crisp air, shorter days and of course, pumpkin spice everything. You might argue it’s getting out of hand, but that hasn’t kept me from getting on the pumpkin bandwagon. I even have a pumpkin muffin recipe I’m going to make in a couple weeks.

Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m rarely seen without a Starbucks cup in hand, so as you could guess, I may have had a few too many pumpkin spice lattes already this year. If I consume any more pumpkin, I might turn into one! Not that that would necessarily stop me.

What is it about a new season that’s so welcome and refreshing? Is it that we’re ready for a weather change, or perhaps we’re simply bored of the current season? Whatever it is, I think we can draw a parallel between the cycle of calendar seasons and the seasons of our lives.

Sometimes, frankly, we’re in a season we don’t like very much. Much like winter when the trees lose their leaves, our lives feel bare. Maybe finances are not in a good place, God has taken a loved one or we’re waiting for a life event that we felt would happen long before now.

God uses these seasons laden with challenges to strengthen our faith — so when we get to the next season, whether it’s easy, hard or somewhere in between — we’ll trust Him more.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. -James 1:2-3

Unlike the calendar which tells us when we can expect the next season, life isn’t like that. We can’t predict when trials will end, but we know they can’t last forever.

I’ve learned that there’s beauty in every season, even the hard ones — because God created all of them. The most beautiful thing I’ve experienced is when God extends his grace during difficult days, and when it feels like there’s nothing to praise Him for in my actual situation, I find myself praising Him for who He is and what he’s going to do. Put simply, He’s teaching me to live by faith.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. -Ecclesiastes 3:1

So take in this beautiful fall around us. Don’t let it pass you by, because before you know it, we’ll be in a new season!

Let His grace be enough for today

Are you trying to do it all on your own? I think you know what I’m talking about here. You think that if you keep trying to make things happen your way, eventually they will.

I’ve been through the cycle over and over. I pray for God to meet a need, and then I wait. Nothing happens. So I pray a little more. Still nothing happens. My thoughts go something like this: “OK God… come on. I’ve prayed, I’ve been faithful and now I’m getting really bored. What am I supposed to do? Actually you know what? Since you’re not really moving in this situation, let me see what I can do about it myself. I’ll handle this.”

And whether consciously or not, I proceed to try and change the situation myself. Oh, how I try. For a while, it actually seems to work. “Yes!” I think. Things are happening. But then you know what happens? They fall apart, just like they always do. And there I am again, on my knees because I wondered how I ever thought I could possibly do this on my own.

Admittedly, I probably try again at least a few more times myself. I fail again. God is probably shaking His head at this point. And I don’t know exactly when or how, but there comes a point where I surrender it all to God, because I just can’t do it. Once I realize how well He can take care of me and meet every need in exactly the right timing, it’s a beautiful surrender at the feet of Jesus.

I’m still not there yet. I haven’t gotten to where I feel I should be in life. But apparently, I am exactly where God feels I need to be. He’ll direct my steps and get me to the right place at the right time.

It’s really all about letting His grace be enough for us in this moment, and in every moment. His grace is all we need, which is why I love the following verse.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. -2 Corinthians 12:9

Don’t get so impatient that you forget that the Lord is working in your situation at this very moment, even though it’s not always visible. For now, let His grace guide you through whatever you are facing. He will always be faithful.

Joy is a choice

It is. God gives us joy, but we have to choose to receive it.

You can choose to become consumed by your circumstances and wallow in them – looking primarily at the here and the now – or you can choose to look up to God, showing gratitude for all He’s done in your life and trusting that he is in control. That’s real joy.

Joy is so much deeper than happiness. It’s not circumstantial. Happiness will come in your life, certainly, but it’ll also fade. Notice how you can be on a cloud one day and down in a ditch the next?

Joy isn’t like that. It never fades. We can have it regardless of our circumstances. It comes from God and it lives deep within us. It’s an outcome of our relationship with the Lord, and it can give us strength to get through whatever we’re facing.

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy,and with my song I praise him. -Psalm 28:7

One of my own tendencies is to allow others to control my joy. If they do something that makes me unhappy, frustrated or leaves me otherwise unsatisfied, I’m ready to throw the towel in. Ever been there?

But as Joyce Meyer says, “My joy is not someone else’s responsibility. It’s my responsibility!”

You have to consistently choose not to let others drag you down. Because believe me, if you let them, they will.

When you depend on God, though, and believe He’s going to provide for your needs, it’s a lot easier to live in joy.

You can choose to live joyfully, allowing God to direct your heart, or you can live in fear. It’s your own choice. But here’s the thing: You’re going to have to face your current situation regardless of what you decide.

For me, joy usually starts with being thankful for what God has already given me. He has provided so much, yet I find myself continually looking at what I don’t have and what I still need. But when I focus on everything He’s done in my life so far, I’m just overwhelmed with thankfulness, and that leads to joy.

Joy also begins with letting go of things I can’t control. This happened to me recently. I have been holding on to something so tightly – something that I want to be within my control, but it isn’t. I’ve been praying about it every day. And I don’t know how it happened, but one day I just woke up and wondered what would happen if I decided to give it to God, be happy and quit worrying about it.

Can I just say, wow. I changed my attitude and God did the rest. He has given me so much joy and peace about it ever since.

It’s not that the situation has gotten any easier. Nothing has changed around me. It’s just I have one less burden because I know my God can handle it much better than I ever could. The change happened in my heart, and it was all because I chose to let go and let God work. When we just trust him, he gives us unexplainable joy.

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. -1 Peter 1:8

What is it you need to lay at the feet of Jesus? He can give you joy beyond your circumstances. And he will, if you just pray to Him and trust that He’s got you in the palm of His hand.