Psalm 84:5-7, NIV
“Blessed are those whose strength is in you (the Lord), who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. As they pass through the valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs, the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.”
These three verses describe the journey of faith which believers follow as they travel through life. A pilgrimage is not an occasional walk in the country – it’s a determined commitment to keep on walking forward in faith throughout life, until that moment comes when we step into the realms of glory and ‘each appears before God in Zion’. The psalmist states without any hint of compromise that those who set their hearts on pilgrimage will be blessed.
But almost immediately the psalmist anchors this promise of blessing into the context of earthly reality, as he recognises that we are not exempt from the sufferings that are hinted at by reference to passing through ‘the valley of Baca’. The word Baca means a place of tears, or a place of weeping and lamentation. Tears are a godly expression of inner pain – they are also the first step on the road to comfort and healing. We are not, in this life, exempt from the possibility of suffering, as is so graphically illustrated by Job’s experiences, described in the first chapter of his book.
There are many events in life that can be the source of pain and consequential tears. Perhaps the greatest suffering any of us can experience is the untimely loss of a loved one. Such events prompt unanswerable questions – questions that Jesus totally understands. For, in the midst of the pain of bereavement, Jesus himself declares, “blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4).
Our Scripture then moves us on to the place of trusting God for the blessings that can come from God, even in that place of tears – blessings that change ‘the valley of Baca’ into ‘a place of springs’ that strengthen and equip us for the onward journey of faith and encourage us to keep walking forward. My prayer today, therefore, for all those who are walking through their own personal ‘Valley of Baca’, is that in the midst of all the unanswerable questions, they will keep looking up to the Lord in faith, knowing that He is the only source of comfort that can touch the very core of our being and strengthen our hearts for the pilgrimage that lies ahead. The springs that well up in the valley will enable us to go from strength to strength.
Prayer: Thank You, Lord, that You understand the hurts and pains we experience when travelling through our personal ‘Valley of Baca’. Help me today to keep on trusting you on the pilgrimage of faith, even when things happen that I cannot understand. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.