From strength to strength

The mom of my friend died the other afternoon. We talked together a few hours before.

He knew it was coming. He was anticipating the arrangements, the conversations, the travel. He was feeling weary. I knew the feeling. Some of you do, too.

A couple hours before we met, I had been reading a prayer. I came across it, I confess, by opening my Bible to Psalms. No reading pattern, no plan.

“Blessed are those whose strength is in You, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.”

That’s us, you and me, those of us who are on this journey, this pilgrimage, this process of learning about following Jesus. That’s us, you and me, driven by our weakness.

“As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
    they make it a place of springs;
    the autumn rains also cover it with pools.”

It’s a valley near Jerusalem, a valley of dryness. People on pilgrimage bring water to dry places.

They go from strength to strength,
    till each appears before God in Zion.

This is the sentence that stopped me, that made me reflect. Because on my pilgrimage there are many moments that don’t feel like strength. Moments like the one sitting with my friend.

But what if this is us, you and me, though we often don’t realize it. That’s us moving from oasis to oasis, with long stretches between. That’s us, moving from time of healing to time of healing, with need of healing between. What if the moments of strength are what sustains us in the in-between? What if the walk of faith is characterized, as Paul wrote by “striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.” What if the strength is a series of texts in the moments we need it for when we need it rather than the whole book, a drip rather than a reservoir.

 

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About Jon Swanson

Social media chaplain. Author of "Lent For Non-Lent People" and "A Great Work: A Conversation With Nehemiah For People (Who Want To Be) Doing Great Works." Writer of 300wordsaday.com. I help people understand. Understand some of the Bible. Understand what Lent can be about. Understand what it means to follow.

6 thoughts on “From strength to strength

  1. What if it’s like filling water bags at an oasis? Nobody leaves the oasis and heads into the desert without carrying water…maybe faith and Jesus are kind of like that. They replenish us in the times of strength and travel with us so we can draw on them when we’re most thirsty. If so, that’s why we need to lean into Him when we don’t feel the need. We’re filling the water bags.

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  2. The 1962 Anglican Book of Common Prayer has Psalm 84 more richly worded: “Blessed are the men whose strength is in thee, in whose heart are the pilgrim ways; Who going through the Vale of Misery use it for a well; yea, the early rain covereth it with blessings.” Enough said. 🙂

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  3. I have always loved this verse. I just read yesterday morning, in fact. I like how you described it’s interpretation for you at this point in time. I thought of something else, though, while reading your message… maybe WE are the strength after strength for some people? Like you were for your friend’s mom? I’ve never looked at this verse that way before. I’m always looking for MY strength… where it’s coming from next to help ME. I rarely stop to consider that maybe somebody else may be looking for the same thing, when all along, I’m supposed to be the strength for them. But I’ve not been quiet enough to hear God’s prompting….

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    1. Interesting thought. Because you are very much right that we are the strength for others. When we talk about “praying for someone”, the for is often “in place of” rather than “about”. I’m praying on your behalf or in place of you because you can’t at the moment.

      Hmm. and the image of the pilgrims watering the dry valley, their presence giving life, that fits as well with what you are suggesting.

      There is a community sense to this part of the psalm. You are capturing.

      And yes, very much do we have tremendous opportunity to give other people strength.

      Thanks for helping me think!

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