“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4 NIV)
The Apostle Paul knew dark valleys. He had inflicted them upon the church in his former days. Once he was converted, he experienced them (along with great joys) during his ministry.
One episode in particular shows how God’s being with us through our dark valleys comforts us and dispels our fear. He writes about it in 2 Corinthians 12:7b-10.
“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Paul was privy to amazing experiences of God’s power during his ministry. Here he attributes “a thorn in [his] flesh,” which we take to be some sort of physical injury or ailment, to God giving him a tangible way to stay humble. Paul prayed for God to remove this “thorn.” Three times he prayed. I imagine it felt something like enduring a dark valley not only of physical pain, but also the spiritual loneliness of unanswered prayer.
Yet God had a purpose within Paul’s pain, his “thorn in the flesh.” What Paul could have taken as evidence of God’s absence was nothing of the sort. God was still present, speaking to Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
With that word, what had been been a dark valley was illumined with the light of grace. Paul didn’t need his situation to change in order to know the presence of God. In fact, the darkness of his situation provided an opportunity to know the power and grace of God in a deeper way.
Perhaps the same can be true for us.
Prayer: God, I most often pray for delivery from dark valleys. Help me to know that your grace is sufficient for me as I walk through dark valleys. Amen.