5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
6 As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion.
8 Hear my prayer, Lord God Almighty;
listen to me, God of Jacob.
9 Look on our shield, O God;
look with favour on your anointed one.
I find this verse to be so heartening and such an encouragement. This is partly because it is the exact opposite of normal life! As we travel on most journeys, we get more and more tired the further we go – that is natural. But for the pilgrims, as they journey towards Jerusalem, they go from strength to strength, or get ‘stronger as they go’ (Good News Version).
This must be because they are getting closer to their goal of fellowship with God. It’s true of us too: the closer we get to God, the stronger we will be. Hour by hour, the more I focus on God, the more I pray, the more I acknowledge his presence, the more I forget myself and see the world as His, and the stronger I will be as a result.
Feeling weak ourselves may be a very good thing if it reminds us of our need to draw our strength from God. Although we don’t like it, there is nothing like feeling helpless to turn us to God, and that learnt dependency on him is invaluable as we journey.
Our strength lies in Him: when we are weak, then we are strong because we have learnt to lean on Him, the source of all strength. This is true on a daily basis, but also when we view the whole of our lives as a journey of faith.
It would be impossible to keep going as a follower of Jesus throughout our whole lives if we had to do it on our own. But our strength for the pilgrimage does not lie in ourselves, but in God himself. Isaiah 40:29-31 reminds us that God gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak:
Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
They will run and not grow weary,
They will walk and not be faint.
I find the joy in these verses to be completely infectious! They are realistic, acknowledging that we may sometimes feel weary and weak, but packed into these few verses are eight amazing promises:
God gives the weary strength,
God increases the power of the weak,
Our strength will be renewed,
We will soar like eagles,
We will run,
We will not grow weary,
We will walk,
We will not be faint.
We have so much to be joyful about!
Margaret is the mother of our regular contributor, Emma. She lives in Cambridge and is a member of Christ Church. She teaches English in one of the Cambridge schools.