Where we live in Perth, Western Australia, many people have just had a difficult week in the middle of what has been a very hot dry summer, with no rain since about early December last year. Then, the real difficulties began last Sunday when, due an occurrence of Covid-19, the State Government announced an almost total lockdown for 5 days commencing that night at 6.00pm, impacting about 2 million people. Now I recognize that we have had it very easy as compared to many people in other places worldwide, but it was still a shock to many. Then on top of this, Monday brought with it devastating bush fires in the areas just north east of Perth, causing loss of houses, property and animals. Over 80 houses were destroyed by the out-of-control fires. There were a lot of tears as shocked and grieving home owners were interviewed on the news. Life can be tough sometimes!
As I read Psalm 84 again today, I realised just how relevant it is to our situation. Read the Passion Translation of verses 5-7 below:
5 How enriched are they who find their strength in the Lord;
within their hearts are the highways of holiness!
6 Even when their paths wind through the dark valley of tears,
they dig deep to find a pleasant pool where others find only pain.
He gives to them a brook of blessing
filled from the rain of an outpouring.
7 They grow stronger and stronger with every step forward,
and the God of all gods will appear before them in Zion.
The context of the psalm seems to be of one on a journey (or pilgrimage) to worship God in the temple in Jerusalem. Last time (verses 1-4) we saw his expectation of what it would be like arriving at his destination and the longing in his heart for the Living God. In verses 4-7 we return to the journey and the psalmist is grateful to God for his strength to press on no matter what comes. In fact, he is not just enduring the journey, but says, 5 How enriched are they who find their strength in the Lord; within their hearts are the highways of holiness!
Our journey of life though, just like those who have recently lost homes and property in Perth, have times of weeping as our paths wind through the dark valley of tears (84:6)
Verse 6 reminds us of the well-known truth of Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…
Thankfully though, there is hope in the Lord being with us, and strength to go through these valleys and come out the other side. The promise here is, as we trust Him, that we grow stronger and stronger with every step forward.
Our lives, and there are few exceptions, are full of joys and sadness, laughter and tears, pleasures and pain, and, I for one, cannot imagine how I would have not only survived but actually thrived because of God’s presence and intervention in my life.
I have kept a journal for about 40 years and recently I read an excerpt from 1993 as follows:
“It’s 10 years today since we came to Pakistan…now what next?… looks like it could be Australia…a different direction with different challenges and different opportunities. But follow Him we must!”
I added later, “I was thinking as I was writing, ‘Oh God, no matter what the next decades hold, may I always respond as Peter did [in John 6:68-69, Lord, to whom [else] shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God].
I then became aware of the words of a song in the background [which went], ‘He who began a good work in you …will be faithful to complete it in you’ [based on Philippians 1:6]. Sung by Steve Green. The song continues, ‘…you can be sure that the Lord has His hand on you, safe and secure, He will never abandon you. You are His treasure and he finds his pleasure in you.’”
I then wrote, “I don’t want to be a great man, but I do want to look back when I’m old and say, ‘God kept me!’” (31.03.1993)
Well, almost 24 years later, I am now 70, and I can honestly say, “God kept me!”
Father, what an incredible privilege to have known you for so long, to have known your provision, your protection, your strength, your grace sufficient – even in some really difficult and painful experiences. Thanks for keeping us for yourself. Amen.
Postscript: The lockdown is now over (with no further cases of Covid-19) and it has rained over the last couple of days to the relief of the firefighters and people living in the affected areas. PTL.