Waking up in the darkness, I feel the weight of corona fatigue. Longing for the brightness of the elusive return to normal, I get ready to face the day.
Morning is usually my best time of day. I don’t necessarily spring out of bed all perky and raring to go (actually, that never happens), but my physical and mental energy are at their highest level in the hours before noon. So when a day starts out like this, with gloom and weariness inside, I know I’m in trouble.
Maybe prayer will help. As I turn my thoughts to God, Psalm 23 comes to mind. I’ve treasured this chapter for many years, but haven’t really focused on it for a while. I struggle to remember each line. Maybe that’s a good thing. When I recite it easily word for word I don’t see the big picture. Now I get a better feel for the overall theme: God leads me.
I like that. I need to hear this message during this pandemic. The Lord leads me to green pastures, quiet waters, the paths of righteousness, a prepared table where my cup is so full that it overflows, His anointing and goodness and love. A bright, beautiful life. A life of peace and harmony. What could be better?
And yet, right in the middle of it all is that valley of the shadow of death. Even there, He is with me, comforting me. This is how I’ve always taken it before: even though I happen to occasionally wander into that darkness, His presence will make it bearable.
As I meditate on the theme of the chapter, a new thought occurs to me. I realize that the Lord hasn’t stopped leading me as I enter that low place. He hasn’t stepped aside and left me to roam about on my own. That darkness is part of His plan and His will for me.
I don’t like that. I don’t want a God who deliberately leads me into suffering. I want a God who only leads me to sunny pastures and soothing waters.
Or do I?
I live in a fallen world. I have no choice about that. As a result, I will pass through murky, threatening, scary places. They can’t be avoided, but what if every time I went there, it was always a result of my own leading, not His? Would I know that He is with me even then, or would it feel more like He’s standing at a distance, calling me to return to Him? I wonder, what if my side trip into suffering was simply a result of random chance, with no purpose and no meaning?
On the other hand, if God actually leads me into this valley (as the Spirit led Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the devil in Matthew 4:1), I can be confident that He has a purpose behind it. That I have no reason to fear the evil lurking here. He is with me. His rod and His staff will guide and direct and comfort me. He will prepare a generous table before me even here, even in this place where I’m surrounded by my enemies.
My walk through the dark valley always comes to an end. I often find myself in green pastures and beside quiet waters. And someday He will lead me to my bright eternal home. I will dwell in the house of the Lord. Forever.
Ann O’Malley is the pseudonym of a new author seeking a publisher for her memoir of suicidal depression. Her pen name comes from “anomaly,” that feeling of being different, of not really belonging, which plagues so many of those who suffer from depression. For more of her writing, check out her blog, “Those Who Weep: Not-Quite-Evangelically-Correct Thoughts on Suffering,” at https://thosewhoweep.blogspot.com.