Our journey in life will inevitably bring us to some mountaintops and some valleys. When we come to know the Lord, He doesn’t take away all of the pain, heartache, confusion, and disappointment in the world. He teaches us how to look to Him and depend on Him for our strength. In this world we will face both joy and sorrow, pain and comfort, ups and downs; that is the natural cycle of things. But if we learn to live in the presence of God, we can rise above the thoughts and emotions that overwhelm us.
What does it mean to live in the presence of God?
“How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young–a place near your altar, O Lord Almighty, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you” (Psalm 84:1-4, NIV).
The Psalmist wrote this during the time when God’s presence dwelt only in the temple. He had been barred from access to the temple and yearned with all his heart to be able to worship. He longed to be able to go and enjoy the sweet fellowship that he had known there with the Lord. Even the birds longed to be in God’s presence and make their home near His altar.
Thank God, we don’t have to go to a temple or a building to be in God’s presence. How much more, then, should we desire to seek the Lord!
I think the problem we face is that we are so consumed with the world that we don’t make time to spend in His presence. Then when the valleys come, we look for worldly comfort rather than God. We struggle with why? and how? and what now? rather than resting in the presence of the only One who can truly comfort us.
This next part of the Psalm is my favorite.
Blessed are those whose strength is in you, 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” (Psalm 84:5-7).
You see, the Psalmist knew that his strength came from the Lord’s presence. He knew that blessings would come for those who set their hearts on seeking God. “Who have set their hearts on pilgrimage” is literally translated “in whose hearts are the highways…” The highways to what?
The place of worship.
My friend, in times of despair, if we will just set our heart on the highways to worship, God will bring us the comfort and peace that we long for. The Valley of Baca is an interesting name. No place is known to have had that name, but the word baca means “weeping” or “balsam tree,” which is a type of tree that grows in dry, arid places. So as these pilgrims set their hearts on worship, even as they passed through times of sorrow or despair, their worship turned it into a place of springs! Hallelujah! Springs of water bring life, refreshment, and sustaining power.
The Hebrew for pools also means “blessing.” Blessings come to those who hope in the Lord, even through their tears. Though the valley of weeping may come, if we will set our hearts on worshiping our God, He will turn our place of weeping into a valley of praise. We will go “from strength to strength” as we journey through this life–not our strength, but God’s.
Do you need strength today in your valley of weeping?
“Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. O Lord almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you” (Psalm 84:10-12).
Enter the courts of the Lord and worship through your weeping. Wait on Him and times of refreshing will come.