I recently returned to work after a three-month sabbatical – you can read my blog about what I got up to on my website. I enjoyed time in the Philippines with the Purple Community Fund (including pastoral ministry and teaching and training); serving as a chaplain at the Leeds Festival; attending a bread making course; and walking 75 miles on the Camino Way in Northern Spain. All very different experiences but ones that will have a lasting impact on my life and ministry – but it doesn’t take long to get back into the busyness of life, does it?

I deliberately chose to take my sabbatical from July to September because it is, generally, a quiet time in the life of the church but also because the weather is usually pretty good that time of year.

For many of us, life seems so tranquil and carefree when the sun is shining, and the air is warm. The summer months offer us a welcome break from the often arduous routine of life with a chance to relax, rest, recuperate as well as recharging weary and tired bodies (Though I’m conscious those caught up in the demise of ‘Thomas Cook’ would have a very different story to tell).

The beginning of the autumn can be a challenging time for many with the onset of Seasonally Affective Disorder, often referred to as S.A.D Syndrome. Briefly, it describes how some people tend to go into a physical and psychological decline when winter weather draws closer. You know, dark nights, dark mornings, overcast skies, murky weather and plenty of rain, fog and such like – it’s enough to get you down just thinking about it, isn’t it?

I’m sure all of us will be affected in some way or another when the weather changes and the days and sounds of summer are long gone. You can almost guarantee that all your cares and worries are queuing up, waiting to bring you back down to earth with an almighty bump!

In fact, I’m writing this article on World Mental Health Day. A day which is helping to take away the stigma attached to mental health and a day when we acknowledge the increasing number of people who struggle with depression all year round. To quote a friend of mine:

The fog comes with no warning, no rhyme or reason. It stays as long as it stays and then it passes as illogically as it arrives.

This person goes onto say that they manage their ‘fog’ with medication, love and the strength that comes from their Christian faith. We are complex beings and we need a balance of care that provides for our physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual needs.

All of this reminded me about the unchanging nature of God who is: “The same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). It reminded me that whatever our circumstances, when times are hard and life is a struggle, we can still draw close to a loving Heavenly Father who wants the best for every single one of us: whoever we are, whatever our age, gender and circumstances.

The promise of God is that He will help to make sense of all that is happening around us and give us a hope and a purpose for life that goes beyond what we could ever imagine. And in the words of a well-known hymn:

Where there’s despair in life, He brings hope; where there is darkness, only light; and where there’s sadness, ever joy.

I do believe God wants the best for each of you and you don’t have to suffer alone. If you are struggling with life, whatever that might be, the churches in Billericay are there for you. We have many experienced people who can listen to you, pray with you, support you and encourage you on your journey through life and, especially, on your journey of faith.

With every blessing in Jesus’ precious name

This is a copy of my article for the November 2019 edition of the Billericay ‘Around Town Magazine’