Pastoral letter no. 3
January 14, 2015
My dear friends:
One of the things that was hard about living in St. Louis were all the gray, semi-cold winter days. We would go four or five days in a row with those kinds of days--lower 40s, gray, not raining, not snowing, just blah. After a while, I used to half-joke, I'd want to jump off the Eads Bridge into the Mississippi River.
Here the last few days, we've had that weather here in Hattiesburg. I know that every winter is different and that if you don't like the weather in Hattiesburg, wait a minute; still, I don't recall previous winters where we've had as many gray days. I used to brag to my friends up north that winter is when we get paid back for summer; but not this year.
Sometimes after a series of gray days, I begin to wonder whether the sun will ever shine again. Maybe gray days are all there are; maybe the sun has gone on vacation and will come back in the summer to bake us to death. Maybe clouds are what we are going to see, chilly days what we are going to feel, for a while. But then, the sun comes back out--it is supposed to be sunny this weekend--and I forget about the long stretch of gray, cold days. Why can't I remember that the sun is behind those clouds, that the sun will shine again?
It feels that way at times emotionally, spiritually, doesn't it? There are days and days where we feel flat, gray, chilly--perhaps we have hit a lull in our work or in our marriages; perhaps we are struggling back from grief and sadness; perhaps there is something physical that is affecting us emotionally. And perhaps we begin to think that God has never been good, that God is not there, that God doesn't care. The Son is gone behind the clouds and he won't come out again.
But the Son does--he was there all along. The great English poet William Cowper puts this perfectly when he writes, "Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take/the clouds ye so much dread/are big with mercy, and shall break/in blessings on your head. Judge not the Lord by feeble sense/but trust him for his grace;/behind a frowning providence/he hides a smiling face."
As you look at these clouds outside, in your heart, in the heavens, remember: the Son is there; he is smiling upon you still; he has mercy and steadfast love for you. Be patient: the Son is coming out again.
In the grip of God's grace,