“Why are you not writing?” he asked, “your encouraging voice needs to be heard in this season.”
I’ve been thinking about the gift of the Psalms. ‘How would you advise reading them?’ a student asked Eugene Peterson. ‘Begin at Psalm One, read one each day, then 150 Psalms and days later, start again.’
The Psalms are our guide to the pilgrimage life, expressing all emotions, describing life’s beauty, grit, truth, despair and soul ache.
Timothy Keller describes them as the ‘medicine chest of the heart.’
Ignatius, ‘the balm of salvation.’
Calvin, ‘the anatomy of the soul.’
The Psalms use a walking language, a way, a pilgrimage. They describe a measured pace, where we notice, stop and linger awhile. I’ve heard the Psalms described as sounds and words a symphony held together by pain and joy, the big picture of life. Henri Nouwen wrote, ‘sadness and joy kiss, we have all experienced this. Our life is a short time in expectation, a time in which sadness and joy kiss each other at every moment.’ The Psalms capture this, we can lament, laugh, and make beautiful sounds while the guttural groans are real.
This gift of the Psalms, the language of the heart, is ours.
Here are some verses of Psalm 84 that I have been travelling with this week.
“Blessed is the man whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the ways of them, who passing through the valley of Baca, make it a well; the rain also fills the pools. They go from Strength to Strength—every one of them in Zion appears before God.” Psalm 84:5-7
These verses describe a pilgrimage to Jerusalem; the weary pilgrims would pass through Baca, a perilous pass. The scorching sun, the parched ground, the dry air, thorns lacerating, and the beasts lurking. This wouldn’t have been a chosen route, but to reach their destination, they had to travel through. The meaning of Baca is ‘the valley of weeping, tears or mourning.’
This time we’re in is a valley of weeping, tears, of parched ground. What is your Baca in this season? How is the ground under your feet? I speak daily to those who have lost jobs, are despairing, facing sickness in their family, grieving, estranged from loved ones, frustration, disappointment. We see pain and anger on our screens.
Please be encouraged today that God is in your midst; the Holy Spirit is alongside your journey, counselling and comforting.
Psalm 84 advises three aspects to connect with on the journey, strength. Wells. Destination.
Strengthen yourself in the Lord. Scriptures repeatedly speak of renewing strength; there is health and growth as we wait and bind ourselves to the Lord. Verse 5 speaks of our hearts set on the pilgrimage. Let’s remember that in this season, where we feel bounced from pillar to post, it is not our final destination; we are not staying in Baca.
While this is true, there is always a question we can ask of the Lord in prayer,
“What do you want to teach me here? This season of self-isolation – this struggle?“
Verse 6 speaks of wells and pools. Even though we are tired and weary, there is time to dig a well. To make room in this tough situation. Through prayer, worship, through changing our perspective, seeing the problem solved in a new way. Notice the verse the pilgrims dig the well, and the well fills from the top – we dig, and heaven’s rain falls and fills. As we partner with the fountain of living water, we will see our landscape changing. Let’s give out of our struggle, and find a place of refreshment for ourselves in the desert, leaving a garden of grace for those following behind.
The Passion version translates the verse this way, ‘even when their paths wind through the dark valley of tears, they dig deep to find a pleasant pool where others find only pain.’
My prayer for you is that you will know God is with you; that you will know Him as your strength. He promises that he is both with you and ahead of you. Be encouraged that you will leave the valley of Baca, this season, with a testimony of all that God did and said. He is faithful.
You are loved, Michelle ♡
Isa. 41:17, 18, “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue fails for thirst, I the Lord will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.”