Visitors who come to Southern California this month are always a bit surprised about our weather. I can still remember the first time I vacationed in SoCal in June as a teenager. Because I grew up in Michigan, I assumed that when I saw the thick cloud cover in the morning, that it was going to rain that day. By about the fourth day of carrying around an unused rain poncho to all our tourist sites, I realized that this was something altogether different than an impending Midwestern thunderstorm. This was a marine layer – something the locals at the time called “June gloom” – and it wasn’t going to produce any real rain. Unlike the sunny beaches and palm tree-lined boulevards I had seen on tv, my experience in the Golden State was more gloomy than glamorous.
According to psychologist Susan E. Rothwell, gloom is actually a low level of light which is so dim that there are physiological and psychological effects. Our human vision at this level becomes monochrome and so our surroundings seem dull and depressing. At times, each of us goes through our own personal “June gloom.” Thick clouds of worry seem to cover us every morning as we wake up. Concern creeps into our brow as we fixate on troubles, both real and imagined. While everyone else seems to be basking in their summer plans, we become depressed, thinking that the clouds will never break for us. We keep looking forward to the morning that we will catch a break.
In the 130thPsalm, the psalmist captures that feeling of foreboding. He begins by saying, “Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord.” He is overwhelmed with the turmoil of his life. Although he doesn’t elaborate on all his problems, one thing that troubles his soul is his own sin. He carries the burden of his regrets and realizes, “If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?”(v.3) This certainly verbalizes the gloom that can inhabit our own spirits. Whether it is a habitual sin we can’t seem to break, or a major transgression for which we are suffering real consequences, we worry about our standing before God and others. Sin isolates, and we feel all alone. Our prayers arise out the depths of our despair.
Rothwell suggest that gloom is a perspective problem, and perhaps we can say the same thing about spiritual sadness. The only thing we can see is the darkness of our circumstances. Yet, the fact remains, that just on the other side of a marine layer, the sun is still shining. It is consistent, and casts its golden beams on our earth every morning. So too is the warmth of the Son’s grace. Just on the other side of all our personal issues is the consistent Christ, whose love and mercy never wanes. Faith, therefore, is seeing our lives from His perspective (that is, from above), and not from our own obstructed outlook.
The psalmist gives us some real encouragement when seeing our lives through the eyes of faith. “Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.” (vv.7-8) Because of Christ crucified, our standing before God is sure. Notice the adjectives in these verses! God’s love is “unfailing.” His redemption is “full.” He redeems “all” of our sins. No matter what clouds of gloom are gathering, you can put your hope in the Lord. Jesus himself tells us, “In this world you will have troubles. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”(John 16:33) This is not the power of positive thinking. This is the assurance of things hoped for.
The wonderful thing about June gloom is that it doesn’t last. More often than not, the marine layer burns off by noon, and suddenly our day opens up to a sunny afternoon and a beautiful sunset at dusk. The Bible calls our present circumstances “momentary troubles” (see 2 Corinthians 4), and assures that our Heavenly Father will deliver us. Therefore, we can face our days in full assurance of faith. With the psalmist we can boldly proclaim, “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning.”(vv.5-6)