THE CHRISTIAN PILGRIM
IN THE VALLEY OF BACA
"Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also
fills the pools." Psalm 84:6
"When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place
of refreshing springs, where pools of blessing collect after the rains!"
"God, in Israel sows the seed
Of affliction, pain, and toil;
These spring up and choke the weeds
Which would else o'erspread the soil.
Trials make the promise sweet,
Trials give new life to prayer;
Trials bring me to his feet,
Lay me low, and keep me there."
Our pilgrimage to the Heavenly Canaan lies through a valley of weeping. This
earth is a valley of tears: and it is a path which all of Zion's pilgrims
must tread until they come to that place where the voice of weeping shall no
more be heard. "We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of
God." Of God's own chosen people, it is said, "You have fed us with sorrow,
and made us drink tears by the bucketful." The followers of Jesus must not,
therefore, expect try find a smooth road to glory. "You have tested us, O
God; you have purified us like silver melted in a crucible. You sent troops
to ride across our broken bodies. We went through fire and flood. But you
brought us to a place of great abundance."
"Our path is strewed with piercing thorns;
Each step is gained by arduous fight,
Yet wait, till hope's bright morning dawns,
Till darkness changes into light."
Some of the trials which render this world a valley of tears, and which the
Christian pilgrim is called to suffer, are, bodily sickness, mental anguish,
adversity, and bereavement. Who has not experienced some of these
afflictions? Our limits will permit us to notice only the last mentioned-
that of BEREAVEMENT. And whose cheeks have not been moistened by the tears
shed for the loss of some dear companion? Who has not, in this land of
death, been called to take the last look of some loved associate in his
toilsome pilgrimage? To see, perhaps, his dearest friends lowered in the
cold, dark grave? O how trying to flesh and blood, is bereavement!
"This is the bitterest of all earthly sorrows. It is the sharpest arrow in
the quiver of God. To love tenderly and deeply, and then to have to meet
together for the last time or earth; to bid farewell for time; to have all
remembrances of home and kindred broken up– this is the reality of sorrow.
To look upon that face that shall smile on us no more; to close those eyes
that shall see us no more; to kiss those lips that shall speak to us no
more; to stand by the cold side of father, mother, brother, sister, friend,
yet hear no sound and receive no greeting; to carry to the tomb the beloved
of our hearts, and then to return to a desolate home with a blank in one
region of our souls which shall never again be filled until Jesus comes with
all his saints– this is the bitterness of grief; this is the wormwood and
This is what the saints of God, as well as the men of the world, are daily
called to endure; and this is what renders earth such a valley of tears.
But we would also notice the DESIGN which God has in afflicting the
righteous. It is to prepare them for that better land, where there is
fullness of joy. It is to draw their affections from earth to heaven- from
the wilderness to Canaan. It is to make us mindful of our inheritance above-
to make us feel that we are strangers and pilgrims on the earth- to make us
cleave to Jesus by faith- to make us meditate on the wonders of his
redeeming love- to qualify us for a participation of the joys of the
redeemed before the Throne. Our light, momentary affliction works for us a
far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
"Affliction," says one, "not only profits us much just now, but it will
serve us much in eternity. Then we shall discover how much we owe it. All
that it is doing for us, we know not now, but we shall know hereafter. It is
preparing for us a 'more abundant entrance,' a weightier crown, a whiter
robe, a sweeter rest, a home made doubly precious by a long exile and many
sufferings here below."
"I wonder," says that godly man of other days, Samuel Rutherford, "I wonder
many times that ever a child of God should have a sad heart, considering
what the Lord is preparing for them." Says one, "When we shall come home,
and enter into the possession of our brother's fair kingdom, and when our
heads shall feel the weight of the eternal crown of glory, and when we shall
look back to pain and sufferings, then shall we see life and sorrow, to be
less than one step or stride from a prison to a glory, and that our little
inch of temporal-suffering is not worthy of our first night's welcome home
to heaven. However matters go, the worst shall be a tired traveler, and a
joyful and sweet welcome home."
But amid all our affliction here we are not without strong consolation. The
most precious promises are extended to the mourning pilgrims of Zion. There
is One who speaks to them in the tenderest love and compassion. "Sing for
joy, O heavens! Rejoice, O earth! Burst into song, O mountains! For the Lord
has comforted his people and will have compassion on them in their sorrow."
"I, even I, am the one who comforts you" There is an eye that watches over
suffering pilgrims. There is a hand that smoothes the rugged passage to the
realms of day. There is a Friend in Heaven, who feels for his sorrowful
disciples in this valley of tears. Jesus is that Friend who sticks closer
than a brother; and his encouraging language to his afflicted followers is,
"Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in me. In
my Father's house are many mansions." "He that goes forth and weeps, bearing
precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his
sheaves with Him"
"Beloved, it is well. It is good to he afflicted. Our days of suffering here
we call days of darkness; hereafter they will seem our brightest and
fairest. In eternity we shall praise Jehovah, most of all for our sorrows
and tears. So blessed shall they then seem to us, that we shall wonder how
we could ever have wept and sighed." (Horatius Bonar)
There is a joyful 'harvest-home' for weeping pilgrims in New Jerusalem. In
that happy home, no tears shall ever flow, through the glorious ages of vast
"There purity with love appears,
And bliss without alloy;
There those who oft had sown in tears
Shall reap again in joy."
Of those who are marching through this valley of tears to Immanuel's land,
our gracious Heavenly Father has said: "They will come home and sing songs
of joy on the heights of Jerusalem. They will be radiant because of the many
gifts the Lord has given them—the good crops of wheat, wine, and oil, and
the healthy flocks and herds. Their life will be like a watered garden, and
all their sorrows will be gone." Then shall every tear be wiped away from
the faces of all the redeemed before the throne of God.
A consideration of THE BREVITY OF THEIR EARTHLY TRIALS ought to afford
relief to weary pilgrims who are looking to Jesus for eternal life. They
will not be long in the valley of Baca. They will soon have reached the
heights of Mount Zion. Our light affliction is but for a moment. "His anger
lasts for a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may go on all
night, but joy comes with the morning." How pleasing is the thought that our
redemption is every moment drawing nearer. We may well lift up our heads
with joy, for the coming of the Lord draws near.
Our journey to the skies is but a short one. We are rapidly advancing to the
tearless region. "Every hour that strikes- every morning that dawns, and
every evening that darkens around us, brings us nearer to the end of our
pilgrimage." A few more tears of sorrow; a few more days of darkness, and
nights of weeping, and we shall forever be with the Lord in that better
country, where we shall find fullness of joy in the presence of Him who has
loved us with an everlasting love- who has washed us from our sins in his
own most precious blood, and who will wipe away all tears from our eyes.
Then the Lord will be our everlasting light, and the days of our mourning be
ended. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!