Good Grief (7)
Blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
Whose heart is set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
They make it a spring;
The rain also covers it with pools.
They go from strength to strength;
Each one appears before God in Zion. Psalm 84.5-7
A journey toward glory
Psalm 84 is a song for the journey of life. Its purpose is to provide focus and bolstering for taking on the immediate evils and daily travails of our earthly existence. Psalm 84 teaches us how to turn all our sorrows to strength and joy by helping us keep our eyes on the Lord.
The Valley of Baca, mentioned in verse 6, may have been an actual place in ancient Israel. However, more important is what it symbolizes. “Baca” in Hebrew means “weeping.” The true believer must pass through a good deal of weeping and grieving in this life. As we have seen, it is good to grieve when the circumstances call for grieving. However, it is not good to let grief get the best of us. Christians do not sorrow like unbelievers do, who have no hope. Because we have hope, we are able to turn our Valleys of Weeping into places of refreshment and renewal, so that we progress from strength to strength as we travel our journey toward the heavenly Zion.
Psalm 84 teaches us how to make our lives such a journey of victory and rejoicing, even in the midst of suffering and trials.
This is a psalm to meditate on frequently. Indeed, we should learn to sing this psalm and take it as a companion with us into every day of our lives. To that end, at the end of this article, I’m attaching a version of Psalm 84 set to a familiar hymn tune. I encourage you to learn and sing it frequently, so that whatever may be the grief and sorrow you endure, you’ll know how to turn your Valleys of Weeping into refreshing springs of hope, joy, and peace in the Lord. The times of weeping and grief cannot be avoided, but we do not need to succumb to or wallow in them, and Psalm 84 shows us how to turn our good grief into hope and renewal.
The vision of the end
Psalm 84 begins where it’s going to end – focused on our heavenly destination: “How lovely is your tabernacle, O LORD of hosts!” At the end of the psalm the sons of Korah – who were themselves gatekeepers in the temple at Jerusalem – declare, “For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand” (v. 10). They insist, “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.”
We are bound for an eternal dwelling place of glory, light, beauty, holiness, rejoicing, and wonder. That unseen destination is even now being prepared for us by our victorious Savior and King, and He will surely come again to receive us into His eternal glory. As we set our minds and hearts on that glorious City to Come, we will be in a position to be renewed, no matter the grief that comes our way.
We must train our souls to long for that glory – to hope in the glory of God, then and there, so that we may live in it here and now as well (v. 2). The way to do this is to present ourselves each day as living sacrifices to God, like birds offered up on the altar for His pleasure (v. 3; cf. Rom. 12.1, 2). If we fill our journey with sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving, whatever we encounter along the way, we will be able to tackle and bear up under every evil, because our true focus and joy lie beyond our temporal circumstances in the presence of the unchanging Lord of glory (vv. 4, 5). In the midst of our trials, sufferings, disappointments, and losses, we do not compound our grief by separating from the Lord; instead, we seek Him earnestly in prayer and hide within Him as our Shield and Comfort (vv. 8, 9).
Our daily walk
Our daily walk follows the path of righteousness and uprightness, for we know that, whatever grief we must endure in this life, this path is the one along which we may expect to know every good blessing of God (v. 11).
This is what it means to trust in the Lord throughout our earthly sojourn (v. 12). We do not expect to avoid all sorrow and grief, but we prepare for it daily by focusing on our heavenly King and His eternal glory, singing His praises and seeking Him in prayer, living in obedience to His Word, come what may, and finding our comfort in His presence and promises. The art of life consists in tackling each immediate evil as best we can, accepting the good grief that comes our way, but overcoming it with renewed hope and joy in the Lord.
The course of our lives must go through the valley of grief, but all sorrow can be good grief if we know how to endure it as children of our heavenly King.
1. Do you agree that this psalm is a good one to keep with us in our journey through life? Why or why not?
2. How would you describe your own vision of the destination of our lives? How do you keep that vision alive and nurture it? How does it affect your daily life?
3. In what ways can you see that this psalm brings forward many of the lessons we’ve gone over in this study?
Next steps – Transformation: Try singing Psalm 84. Learn it and sing it over and over, until it becomes a framework for thinking about your life and the various trials you must endure along the way. Share this psalm with some friends, and encourage them to learn it with you.
Tune: Holy Manna – Brethren, We Have Met to Worship
Lord of hosts, how sweet Your dwelling; how my soul longs for Your courts!
Let my soul with joy keep telling of Your grace forever more.
Like a bird upon the altar let my life to You belong.
Blest are they who never falter as they praise Your grace with song!
Blest are they whose strength is founded in Your strength, O Lord above.
All whose hearts in You are grounded journey in Your strength and love.
Though they weep with tears of sadness, grace shall all their way sustain.
In Your presence, filled with gladness, they shall conquer all their pain.
Lord of hosts, my prayer receiving, hear me, help me by Your grace!
In Your courts I stand believing; turn to me Your glorious face!
Lord, our sun, our shield, our glory, no good thing will You deny
To those who proclaim Your story, and who on Your grace rely.
T. M. Moore
This is part 7 of a multi-part series on Keeping the Heart. To download this week’s study as a free PDF, click here.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.