I live in the Southern California desert, so summer is definitely not my favorite time of year. And yet, if I'm going to be faithful to the Scriptures, then I must line up my thinking with Philippians 4:11, which declares, "I have learned in whatever state (condition, circumstance, season) I am, to be content." Easier said than done when the thermometer is well into the triple digits! Yet if I spend my entire summer grumbling about the heat, I'm certainly not going to enjoy the blessings that God has for me during this particular season.
2 Timothy 4:2 instructs us to "Be ready in season and out of season." Each time I read that I realize how often God gives me time to prepare for the situation I'm in—and how often He doesn't. Sometimes I have the luxury of getting my ducks in order before being called upon to obey God in one way or another; other times I just have to take a deep breath and let God carry me. (Isn't that the best place to be anyway?)
Obeying God doesn't always mean that I have to walk through fire for Jesus. Most of the time it simply means "renewing my mind" according to Romans 12:2, which explains that our thought processes must be changed to conform to God's Word rather than the prevailing trends and mindsets of the world.
When I became a Christian in 1974 (yes, I was one of the "Jesus freaks" of that era!), I immediately realized that everything I had ever thought or believed was wrong and that I had to relearn absolutely everything from God's point of view. I knew nothing at the time about the instruction in Romans 12:2 to renew my mind, but that was exactly what I set out to do as I opened my Bible for the first time and began to study.
Of course, it didn't take long to understand that the Scriptures condemned such heinous acts as murder and adultery, robbery and gossip—things which, for the most part, much of the world condemns as well. But it took me a little longer to understand that the renewing of our minds has to go deeper than a simple assent to the fact that those acts are wrong. God deals with the heart. His desire is to take our lifelong attitudes and gently but firmly begin to reshape and remold them into a worldview that reflects His values and His righteousness.
In the middle of all that comes an appreciation for the season we're in—be that summer in the desert or winter in Alaska, the early married years with children and bills or the senior years with arthritis and wrinkles. (Anyone want to guess where I fit into those descriptions?)
Yes, I'm moving into the latter season of my life on earth, where arthritis and wrinkles are becoming definite realities. But I haven't forgotten what it was like when I first became a believer and was living in the season that included babies and pre-schoolers and never enough money or time to go around. Sadly, I must confess that I missed much of the joy of that earlier season because I got caught up in the trap of thinking that things would get easier when the children got older. As a result, I spent much of my time and energy longing to escape the season I was in and enjoy the one that lay ahead.
To some extent, of course, that proved to be true, and the next season was a bit easier—in some ways. However, I also learned that I was really just trading the difficulties of one season for new ones in the next. And along with leaving those particular difficulties behind, I left some of the joys as well.
True, I have pictures and memories that transport me back to those times, and I smile at the images they bring to mind. But sometimes a tear trickles down my cheek, even as I smile, because I know those very special moments are gone forever, swept away with the passing of time—the changing of seasons. The Spring and Summer of my earthly life are over, and Fall is quickly fading into Winter. Should I bemoan the loss, giving myself over to living in the past? Many do, particularly if they have no promise of eternity with the Father. But I'm a Christian, a born-again believer whose eternal existence is assured. If my mind has been renewed by the reading and applying of the Scriptures, then there's no place for regret or sorrow as I face the winter of my life.
But even as I press forward with joy to that day appointed by God when I will shed this temporary suit of flesh and "fly away," as the old hymn proclaims, I can still fall into the trap of focusing so completely on that wonderful "someday" that I miss the remaining joys and fruitfulness that God has for me right here…right now. Each season of our lives, regardless of the "state" or circumstances that accompany it, can be times of rejoicing if we choose to make them so, as the Apostle Paul did. We can choose to be content, whether we have an abundance of this world's riches or scarcely enough to get by. We can choose to be content, whether our health is perfect or less than we'd like it to be. We can choose to be content, whether the world is singing our praises or condemning our every word and action.
The important thing is to remember that Paul said his contentment in every situation was a learned process. When I became a believer I understood that I had to change my way of thinking from that of the world to that of the One who spoke the world into existence, but it didn't happen overnight. It was a learning process—a long one, which will continue until I step from the winter of my temporal life into the eternal season of God's presence.
God intends for Christians to flourish in all seasons, regardless of our situations, and we will only do that as we renew our minds to think as He thinks, to live as He lives, and to love as He loves. We can't do it in our own strength or wisdom, for apart from Him we have none. But the One who is omnipotent and omniscient stands ready to impart His strength and wisdom to us so that we might rejoice in the season we're in today, even as we anticipate the one to come.
Kathi Macias (www.kathimacias.com; http://kathieasywritermacias.blogspot.com) is an "occasional radio host" (www.blogtalkradio.com/communicatethevision) and an award-winning author of more than thirty books, including her popular Extreme Devotion series from New Hope Publishers and Valeria's Cross from Abingdon Press. A wife, mother, grandmother, and great grandmother, Kathi lives in Homeland, CA, with her husband, Al, where the two of them spend their free time riding Al's Harley—hence, Kathi's "road name" of Easy Writer.