"Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Though preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever." (Psalm 23:4-6)
This year has been, hands down, the hardest of my life. In ways I did not before believe possible, I have literally walked through the valley of the shadow of death. In every instant of those trials, the Lord has sought to help me, has blessed my way, prospered me, and defended me. As I have tried to turn to Him, He has blessed me a hundredfold and more - primarily in blessings I needed, but did not want to receive.
I feel like I am in a sort of personal, ongoing resurrection, where parts of me wither away and die, and then are restored more fully by the Lord. I think death must be that way when we pass according to the Lord's plan: a painful letting go of mortality in preparation for the Savior to renew us into perfect life, but then a sweet realization that it's alright, this is part of the plan, God loves me, and this too will turn to good.
This year has been one of letting go and being reborn. I am no longer an International Relations major, no longer intend to go to Indonesia for the next nine months, no longer have climbing the Seven Summits as a goal, no longer am the man I was before. Now. I openly study sociology, hope to go to England and China, and see new interdependence in my goals and plans. Now, especially, I better understand how much I need the Lord in everything I do - to breathe, to sing, to sleep, to eat, to be happy, to repent.
I have not yet left this "valley of sorrow" (2 Ne. 4:26), but I can see the trail leading upwards ahead, and this nighttime journey is drawing to a close. It has been a dark trail, but even so, "Eternity was [my] covering, and [my] rock and [my] salvation, as [I] journeyed" this year, and now the dawn of a new Sabbath is beginning to tint the Eastern sky.
"We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts" (2 Pet. 1:19).
Even though I haven't yet reached the surpassing joy that I hope will become my daily walk, I have tasted it, and I feel it in Christ as I serve Him and pray in His name to my Heavenly Father. I am greatly comforted by the Book of Mormon passage below, in which a man of God follows Christ through the valley of shadow until the day dawns.
"And it came to pass that as I followed Him, I beheld myself that I was in a dark and dreary waste. And after I had traveled for the space of many hours in darkness, I began to pray unto the Lord that He would have mercy upon me, according to the multitude of His tender mercies. And it came to pass that after I had prayed unto the Lord, ... I beheld a tree whose fruit was desirable to make one happy" (1 Ne. 8:7-10)
"And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree...? And I answered him saying, Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things. And he spake unto me saying: Yea, and the most joyous to the soul" (1 Ne. 11:21-23)
And so, Merry Christmas - my God is my strength and my song, and He also has become my salvation (1 Ne. 22:11, Isaiah 12). This year, I have seen the arm of the Lord revealed in my life through the trials He has given me ands His help in them.
And so, in summation: I know that my Redeemer lives, that his name is Jesus Christ, that He loves me and that He is my Friend, and that He will support me as I follow Him, in every circumstance and emergency.