Valley Winnats Pass

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose hearts are the highways. As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion. —Psalm 84:5-7 (ESV)

That was my teaching text. “On the Adventure Together” was our theme. For one whole weekend, three whole sessions, I got to speak on those three verses from the middle of Psalm 84. For this self-dubbed “spiritual strength trainer” words the first and last came easy—lots of strength—but not that middle verse about the Valley of Baca.

Talking adventure with the Crossway Women.

Psalm 84 is a pilgrim psalm. The Jews traveling to Zion had to go through an arid valley. Baca could refer to “tears” or to the “balsam tree” – a species that grows in extremely dry places and seemed to cry, or distill drops of sap resembling tears. Either meaning fits, as the context indicates the valley was arid, not lush.

Their highway to Mount Zion passed through the Valley of Baca. Our journey to heavenly Zion does too.

Living these four truths from Psalm 84:6 have sharpened my vision and refreshed my soul.


Expect the valley. Expect your spiritual pilgrimagage to go through lows. Plan on dry and parched. God the Father leads his beloved children into the wilderness. The last verse of Matthew 3 and the first verse in Matthew 4 say, A voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 

God loves us to much to leave us as we were when he found us. He will refine his own, and he does a lot of refining in the valley.

I love how Paul Tripp explains this theology:

God will take you where you haven’t intended to go in order to produce in you what you could not achieve on your own.

Count on it. You will go through a hard valley.

But I said through. That’s joyful truth #2.


I did a little word study to find out how the Hebrew word “through” was used in other places in the Bible.

Guess what?

Through means through. In other words, our valley time is temporary. This is not our final destination. It’s not our home.

Through means through.
The Valley is not your destination. Zion is.

I don’t know a lot of Latin. But I know one phrase: Solvitur ambulando.

It is solved by walking. So keep walking. Because through means through. For me this week it looked like distracting myself by doing a kind thing for a good friend when I felt discouraged by a prickly relationship that has been prickly for years. That was solvitur ambulando—walking through, not giving way to despair.

But I see two more joy-making truths in Psalm 84:6.

As they go through the Valley of Baca
    they make it a place of springs;
    the early rain also covers it with pools.

Psalm 84:6 (ESV)


“They make it,” is active. This is not a call to “let go and let God.” It is no license to wallow.

Psalm 84:6, like Habakkuk 3 is a call to take joy. We must talk back to ourselves and preach to ourselves and defy ourselves to hope in God, as prescribed by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones.

Through means through, but the Hebrew for springs (in Psalm 84:6) is often translated wells. That made me think of Isaiah 12:3, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

Isaiah 12:3

God’s Word and his promises are wells of salvation. The Bible is full of them.

Matthew Henry is direct: “It is our duty by faith to draw water out of them and take the benefit and comfort treasured up in them.” This is how we turn the desert into a place of springs.

To be clear, the “you” in Isaiah 12:3 is plural and the “they” in Psalm 84:6 obviously is too. This means that we help each other take joy. “We work with you,” Paul wrote, “for joy.”

We dig wells together and draw joy together and encourage one another as long as it’s called today. And we sing with the psalmist, “All my springs are in you.”

It’s our duty.

But there’s one more valley-transforming truth in Psalm 84:6.


Blessings come in valleys. God sends rain. He showers blessings. But we must have eyes to see.

Because the word for pools in Psalm 84:6 is baraca, but in 64 of 69 Old Testament uses, it’s translated “blessing.” Only in Psalm 84 is it translated “pools.” Typically it’s blessing, like in Ezekiel 24:26, “I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing.”

God showers down blessings when we are in the valley. Showers of blessings are pleasant inns along the way.

“The settled happiness and security we all desire, God withholds from us: but joy, pleasure, and merriment He has scattered broadcast. It is not hard to see why. The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with friends, a bathe or a football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.”

C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

So enjoy the inns. They are showers of blessing. But they won’t last. But God means them to refresh. A brilliant sunset, a walk with a friend or 10 minutes of Thera-Gun do that for me.

How Jill Drew Joy

I met Jill at the retreat. She told me how she took joy in her year-long valley. I wish you could have heard her tell it, how she dropped shattered her foot so badly at work that took surgery after surgery after surgery to heal. In the meanwhile, she was in pain, and couldn’t walk or worship at church or work.

Jill told how she drew water, how she made springs, how she wrote God’s promises like Isaiah 41:10 on notecards and taped them around her house. She told how, even when she felt depressed, she made herself listen to Christian songs and attend virtual worship and welcomed her friends.

Then, on the last day of the retreat, Jill choked up as she told us how, the day before on those grounds, a friend had come along as she had walked her longest since before the accident.

Solvitur ambulando.

Jill kept walking, digging and drawing water. And Jesus Jill gave joy.

Psalm 84:6 is another biblical both-and. We do it and God does it. We dig joy and God showers blessing. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you.

Valley View

In a stirring message on Habakkuk 3, my other favorite “take joy” passage, Pastor Kevin DeYoung said of a very hard-pressed Habakkuk, that his circumstances were worse but his view of God is better.

Which reminds me of the title prayer from The Valley of Vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter
Thy stars shine;

Let me find Thy light in my darkness,
Thy life in my death,
Thy joy in my sorrow,
Thy grace in my sin,
Thy riches in my poverty
Thy glory in my valley.

Grace always flows down.

And remember, through means through. Solvitur ambulando.

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