The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.Psalms 23:1-6
Today is not the first time I have walked through a dark valley. I have been through valleys where the walls were constructed of pure, unchecked emotion; the Valley of Depression. I have walked in valleys darkened by despair, by fear, by worry, by troubles within myself, and by the trials of others whom I love. The dark vale I have walked through the most frequently, however, is the Valley of Pain.
In this place, I find my world can narrow to an almost infinitesimal point. At other times, I pace restlessly and babble inanely, unable to concentrate or even sit still; these are the times when my world expands and I am tossed about in an ocean of anguish. Still other times, the most frequent times, the pain is merely the backdrop before which my life is played out. I have been told I have migraine headaches, cluster headaches, headaches caused by nerve damage, and possibly others, any one of which may blend seamlessly into another at any time. Often, a headache is the first thing to greet me in the morning and invades my last moments of awareness before I fall asleep.
As I type this, I am on two preventative medications and have take two separate abortive medications. The pain has been blunted to the level of what I call a "functional migraine," meaning I can still perform basic duties or anything that is fun or distracting (like writing), but multitasking is impossible without my becoming confused or anxious. Perhaps my words meander, perhaps they may make sense: I know not. I type to distract, not to communicate in times like these. On days like today, normal activities must be dimmed and my standards have to be lowered, but I can get through the day. This is a good migraine day. A bad one sees me never quite being functional and unable to move from whatever spot the pain crossed the threshold between "functional" and "full-blown." Those days are not my favorite.
None of this is fun, and that is just a quick overview. However, in the midst of this valley of darkness, God is there. He is teaching me to trust Him through it. He is showing me that I truly cannot find my way alone --I need my Shepherd desperately. It is only by following hard on His heels that I can hope to through the gloom. It is He who lights the path, and if I take my eyes off Him even for a moment, it is easy for this foolish sheep to lose my way and be swallowed up in the shadows. Pain stalks me relentlessly here, but when my concentration is bent on following my Shepherd, I find that it can fully engulf me but it cannot destroy me. Even if the rest of my life is spent battling various headaches and the resulting fatigue, at least I know I do not fight alone. He is with me. His rod and staff are a comfort to me. He, too, has walked through the Valley of Pain--and come out alive on the other side. Because He has trod this path already, I know that He knows the way through. And so I will gladly follow, no matter how long and grueling the journey is. He is worth it, and what's more: He understands.
For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.2 Corinthians 4:6-11