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We’re in the middle of my absolute favorite season of the year—autumn! I love the brisk, cool weather, cozy clothing, vibrant colors in nature, our traditional family activities, and the yummy comfort foods of autumn. The heat and humidity of summer wears me out, while the cooler weather of fall invigorates and refreshes me.

With the changing of the weather comes the realization that soon it will be time to winterize the house and yard. And, since we have lots of trees, it means we’ll rake leaves. And more leaves. And yet more leaves! Of course, autumn also means the school year is in full swing, Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and the Christmas season is right on its heels.

For many, Thanksgiving and Christmas can conjure up nostalgic thoughts, feelings and desires for, or memories of, peaceful, warm, loving times with family and friends. Some folks are enjoying good health, steady finances, and warm, rewarding relationships. Others are experiencing ongoing problems, illness, severe need, or tragic loss. So, for some families, nostalgic hopes are realized and enjoyed, at least some years, but for others, the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons are times when problems can be felt more keenly and it takes all the strength they can muster just to make it through.

During our thirty-eight years of marriage, we’ve experienced some of both ends of the spectrum. Right now, we have a roof over our heads, a dependable car to drive, food on our table, clothing in our closet, and family and friends we love and get along very well with. But, how well I remember some very long and difficult years full of health issues, long stretches of unemployment, mounting debt, and, on top of everything else, stress and exhaustion.

When earthly things are so very difficult, it can be hard to find things to be thankful for. Yet, the Bible tells us to be thankful. So, thankfulness has to be possible, no matter what our bank account balance is, no matter how bad life looks at the moment—whether we have plenty without problems, or just plenty of problems. The answer lies in what we look at. We serve the one true God and there are many things in His word that we can be thankful for, no matter what we are going through! We just need to shift our focus from what we have or don’t have, to Whom we have, and what He is!

So, I’d like to help shift our focus and share five things any Christian can be thankful for. (Note: this is not, by any means, a complete list of things we can be thankful for!)

We can be thankful that the gospel message is for everyone!

In Ephesians 2:11-13 we’re reminded that the gospel was extended to the gentiles. But before that, we were “without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ” (emphasis mine). Before Christ, we had NO hope and we were without God in the world. What an awful predicament. But, as Christians, that’s no longer our situation! Because of Christ, we have hope, whether it feels like it or not, and we have God in this present world—and can look forward to a perfect eternity with Him!

We can be thankful that God works in us to make us pleasing in His sight!

God is holy, perfect, sinless, and just. But, let’s face it; we’re not. The bar is set pretty high for what we are supposed to be, in order to be pleasing to God, and we simply can’t cut it. But, the very God who is so holy and just, and has high expectations for us, works in us to conform us to His image. Hebrews 13:20-21 says, “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” He doesn’t just make us “passable” in His sight; He makes us wellpleasing! And Philippians 2:13 reminds us that it is “God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” So not only does He want us to do and be certain things, but He causes us to want to, and enables us to do it! Praise God that we don’t have to futilely struggle to do things that in our flesh, we may not even want to do—but God Himself works in us and accomplishes it for us! He makes us wellpleasing to Him!

We can be thankful that we are on God’s mind!

In Psalm 40:5 we’re told that “thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.” And in verse 17 of the same Psalm, it says “I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me.” Just think of it: the very God Who intelligently, powerfully, creatively, and magnificently created and sustains everything, has each of us personally on His mind! No matter what we’re facing, we have not been forgotten!

We can be thankful that we are promised a way of escape with every temptation we face!

1 Corinthians 10:13 promises that “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (emphasis mine). We are promised that when a temptation comes, the way of escape comes right with it! I pray that the Lord would give us eyes to see the escape, hearts to want the escape, and the strength to take the escape He so graciously gives!

We can be thankful that God is looking for those through whom He can show Himself strong!

2 Chronicles 16:9 says that “the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.” He is looking over the whole earth finding ways to show Himself strong in behalf of each one of His children! When we are weak, He is strong. So when we’re facing difficulties, if we’ll just continue living for Him, He will show Himself strong on our behalf!

At Thanksgiving time, people often mention being thankful for family, friends, home, and a job. Those are all great things, and if we have been blessed in those areas, we certainly should be thankful for them. But those things can be temporary. But the character, power, and love of God will never pass away. Indeed, as we look to Him and His qualities, we will only grow to know, love, and appreciate those amazing attributes of God more and more! And that is something we can rest in, and be thankful for—this year, and forever!

May you rest in Christ, and enjoy a thankful autumn! 

This article was published in the November/December 2015 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine.

Kari Lewis is the "mom" here at Home School Enrichment. She and Frank have been married since 1977 and homeschooled their two sons, Matthew and Jonathan, from their early elementary years through their high school graduations. Together, the four of them started Home School Enrichment Magazine in late 2002. More recently, she's been enjoying her new role of mother-in-law and grandma! You can reach her at kari@HomeSchoolEnrichment.com.