5Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
6 As they go through the Valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
A little over a month ago I came across this verse. As I read it, a sudden curiosity came over me, “what’s the Valley of Baca?” Normally I would just assume it was some place back in the time of Jesus, shrug my shoulders, and move on. But this time I decided to investigate, and what I found was amazing!
The Valley of Baca has frequently been translated to “The Valley of Weeping.” Often commentators speculate that there was an actual valley on the way to Jerusalem that was dry and desolate, maybe even dangerous.*
Just imagine, trudging through the hot dessert, the sun beating on your back as sweat is pouring down your face. What you would give for just one sip of water, a small pool to take a drink from.
However, as the Psalm explains, those that go through the Valley of Weeping are blessed. How can this be? Aren’t they desperate for water? Aren’t they tired and dirty? They are blessed because their strength is in God.
They aren’t focusing on their current suffering, they are focusing ahead to Jerusalem where they can join in communion with God and praise and worship Him.
While I was pregnant with Audrey, Justin and I went to a labor and delivery class. The teacher handed each of us an ice cube and we had to stand there quietly squeezing the ice in our hand for a whole minute. I at first thought, “it’s just a little ice cube,” but before that minute was up my hand was HURTING. Then the teacher handed us another cube and for the next minute as we held it we were to do the various exercises we had just learned. We focused on breathing patterns, we moved around, and we talked to each other. Once the minute was up, I felt like I could go longer! When we weren’t focused on the pain, the pain eased.
The same thing is happening in the Psalm. In fact, the people are so focused on God and not on their current suffering that they make the dry desolate valley into “a place of springs.” They made the dry desolate valley into an oasis of green pastures and fertile lands.
Friends, God was leading me to this verse to remind me to find my strength in Him. As I continue to walk through my “Valley of Weeping”, I fervently pursue God— at least I try to. Some days I let the menial tasks of the world take my focus away. Those days are dark, emotional, and painful. I feel like I will burst into tears at any moment, I’m often in a bad mood and exhausted. However, the days where I successfully put my strength in God and focus on Him, I am joyful! I may still cry, but usually those are tears that come with a smile as I think about how cute Audrey was or the color of her beautiful hair. On those days I am kinder, and I feel energized.
A few months after Audrey had died, I had figured out that Wednesdays and Fridays were the hardest for me because Audrey was born on a Wednesday and died on a Friday. For some reason, even when I didn’t realize it was one of those days I would be sad and on edge. But, one Sunday I was feeling extremely emotional, like I would burst into tears, in fact, I was crying. I did not want to go to church; I just wanted to stay in bed. But, thank the Lord for my husband who encouraged me to go. As I walked into the building heading to the class we were taking, I was about to burst into tears. I took a deep breath and prayed, “God please give me strength, please give me comfort.” Immediately, I felt warmth run through my body and my heart was calm and I felt strong. We then went to the service after our class and I again started to feel sad and weak. Again, I prayed “God please give me strength, please give me comfort.” And for a second time I felt peace. Hallelujah! We have a God that hears our prayers!
The Devil tries his hardest to move my focus from God. But I continue to seek God because I know the amazing joy there is when I seek Him.
Some could be wondering, “what does it look like to find your strength in God?” For me, I find my strength first and foremost in prayer. When I feel weak and emotional I immediately pray, and just knowing that God is listening to me gives me comfort. I search the Bible seeking His words to encourage me. I listen to praise music because when I do, I remember how great of a Heavenly Father I have who watches over me. I listen to God-focused podcasts, or I read books by others who have found hope through suffering. Anything that gets my mind focused on God and not in the pain will help me.
Just the act of turning my eyes to God brings me comfort. It is my daily prayer that I will turn to Him and not get distracted by the world. This comfort and joy I feel doesn’t remove the pain that I feel in losing Audrey, but it stops the pain from taking over. Focusing on God pulls me out of the pit of darkness and into a place of hope and a peace that surpasses all understanding (see Philippians 4:7).
I pray for you too, my friends, that as you walk through your Valley of Baca that you will lift your head up to God and focus on Him. Because with Him you can find strength, joy, and a place of springs.
*I used multiple commentaries from http://biblehub.com/commentaries/psalms/84-6.htm