Area ministers: Focus on joy this season despite troubles

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 25, 2010

NATCHEZ — Christmas, a time of happiness and joy, has arrived for many shrouded in just the opposite this year.

Anxieties about the economy, worries about family and serious pain and illness are affecting the lives of many area residents today.

But ministers have a different message they hope will permeate the minds of locals as the holiday comes and goes.

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“My wish would be that folks can set (anxieties) aside even for a short time during the Christmas weekend and savor the event we are celebrating,” said the Rev. David O’Connor, pastor at St. Mary Basilica.

O’Connor points to the 14th chapter of John when he reminds people that no pain or worry on Earth is bigger than God.

“‘Don’t let your hearts be troubled or afraid,’” he quoted from the scripture.

“I suppose that’s a reality test for all of us. Life is not perfect now and probably will not be in the foreseeable future for any of us. But you can find peace in the midst of anxieties.”

No one knows that challenge — and peace — better than the Rev. Steve Pearson, pastor at Community Chapel Church of God.

After a year-long battle with colon cancer, a joyful, but short, remission ended with bad news.

Now, Pearson is in a fight for his life with liver cancer.

Aggressive chemotherapy gives Pearson five very bad days, 10 good days, then five more bad ones. His cancer is treatable, but he has no promise he’ll be here next year, he said.

“I could say, ‘I don’t want to do this,’ and roll up in a corner and die,” Pearson said. “But I’ve got grandkids I want to see born, a son I want to see get married.”

So instead, Pearson works to find his peace and see the joy.

“God is so good to me,” Pearson said. “I’m still here and as long as I’m here, I’m thankful.”

Pearson said personal suffering makes the suffering Jesus Christ endured on the cross that much more real, reminding him of his reason for peace.

And remembering that God’s Son endured a worse pain is key to seeing the joy in Christmas, said the Rev. Paul Southerland, pastor of Highland Baptist Church.

“God sent his Son to experience every temptation, every pain and every suffering we know,” Southerland said. “He comes alongside us during the times of suffering, and He supplies the grace to get through these hard times.

“If you realize that He came through Christmas, I don’t know how you can’t find joy. It’s amazing that He loved us that much.”

O’Connor said though anxieties and pain are a very real part of life, there are plenty of reasons to feel true joy.

The Rev. Leroy White of New Beginnings Missionary Baptist Church agreed, saying all blessing come from Jesus.

“There is a peace of mind knowing God is still providing,” White said. “He made a promise that He would never forsake us or leave us and that gives me a reason to celebrate.”

White said he reminds those who are suffering that physical pain is temporary.

“The Lord always has something better for you,” he said. “Jesus suffered.

“As long as the Lord has allowed you to still breathe and accomplish anything at all, you are still better off. Grab joy from that, even though you may be suffering.”

For those hoping to spread joy to a family member or friend in pain, Pearson said the best thing you can do is a simple act.

“When you are going through a very serious pain, you just need people to hug you, lots and lots of hugs. You don’t have to say anything, just hug.”