A Psalm for giving thanks. Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!
As much as I wish this Psalm described every day of my Christian walk, it does not. Actually, I must confess that it describes a state of mind entirely unlike the one I found myself in yesterday.
In fact, had I been in a more cheerful mood, I may have snickered at the irony of this Psalm coming up, not once or twice, but in three different places throughout my day beginning with my Bible study over — of all seemingly unrelated things — the book of Nehemiah.
But I was not in a cheerful mood. Not at all. And I did not even so much as grin.
Unfortunately for me and everyone else in my home, yesterday found me fully immersed in the first stage of a migraine; a fun little experience known as the prodrome.
While I do not always experience prodrome with my migraines, I typically (although not always) go through it before a particularly persistent one. And if I can be baldly honest with you, I’d rather have the migraine pain any day than the wretched, beastly prodrome.
For me, the prodrome occurs as little as 12 hours before or as long as 72 hours before a migraine attack. Yesterday was Day 2. Ugh.
Indulge me for a moment and allow me an attempt at describing this phenomenon. Sometimes it is sudden, striking while I am sailing along blithely teaching my one remaining homeschool student or cheerily washing the 11,016 cups that my family of five manages to use in a single day. At such times, I become very abruptly and irrationally furious.
Other times I wake up in a funk that I cannot shake no matter what, or I may feel as if every single body part is made of lead and I am trying to maneuver through a space filled with molasses. Or all of the above.
Without fail, the prodrome involves some level of extreme anger and/or depression along with a stimulating variety of physical symptoms such as an absolutely outrageous thirst, difficulty saying words, mixing up my words, crushing fatigue, clumsiness, and inability to concentrate. But the worst part of the prodrome is a terrifying sense of impenetrable spiritual darkness.
Give me pain any day. Seriously.
You see, pain is something I can handle. I’m actually rather well practiced at the management and endurance of physical pain, admittedly sometimes to a fault.
But that darkness, though… It makes me shudder. There’s a particularly horrendous quality to it that I cannot even put into words. At one point or another, every single migraine prodrome I can remember has seen me tearfully crying out to my God, begging Him not to turn His back on me.
At such times, I truly feel as if He is utterly absent from my life and I am entirely alone. Almost equally disturbing is bizarre mental sensation of being gradually crushed by a hideous, palpable blackness.
There are not even words… I think it is something like a private glimpse into hell.
Whether this event is merely a quirk caused by a disturbance in the chemical balance of my brain or whether it is because my enemy takes advantage of the pre-migraine chemical chaos to hurl every accusation he can muster against my God and myself, I do not know. All I know is that I loathe it completely.
My amazing God, my marvelous and awe-inspiring King is using even this unlikely tool to teach me more about Him. Each time it happens, even as I choke out the words, “Where ARE You?!?” some part of me knows that He is still there.
Sometimes, as the accusations fly or despair throttles my ability to reason, I hear a tiny, almost imperceptible whisper, “You know what this is, Heather. Hang in there; you know it will pass.”
And yesterday in the middle of an emotional desolation so powerful it is physically palpable, I came across Psalm 100.
No, the Almighty was not having a go at me in some sadistic sort of fun. He was reminding me of something:
Know that the LORD, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
He is God. He made me, and flaws and all, I am His.
Because I am His sheep, He will never leave me wandering, lost and lonely, without finding me and bringing me back into the fold. He will not leave me desolate. He is the Good Shepherd, and He has already given His life for me. That glimpse of hell is just that: a glimpse, perhaps peeped from a distance on a grueling section of the narrow path.
And because of all that, even in the blackest depths I can give Him thanks. Even in the midst of pain, I can praise Him
Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.