They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.
Going from strength to strength is unnatural. Natural is strength to weakness, or strength to weariness. I’ve run three marathons and without fail I start strong and finish weak. The 26.2 takes it out of me. Physically, I always move from fresh to fatigued.
The pattern is mental too. I start the day sharp and clear-minded. By 10 p.m., I’m dull and fuzzy. Strong to weak is natural
Moving from strength to strength is supernatural, a singular feat.
It is what saints on pilgrimage do.
Strength To Strength
There’s so much this spiritual strength trainer would love to unpack from Psalm 84, a psalm for pilgrims. You’ll see why in these three middle verses:
Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart 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.
But I won’t. I’ll just snatch a wee bit to explain how.
Don’t you want to know how? I mean, how can anyone possibly go from strength to strength in this wasting, weakening, wearying life?
Strength In The Valley Of Baca
“Suffering is having what you don’t want or wanting what you don’t have,” Elisabeth Elliot wrote. Pilgrims press through suffering. They go through the Valleys of Baca, the dry places in life, and the places of tears.
And they come out strong.
But how? How do they go from strength to strength? What makes the dry, arid, sad places places of refreshment, blessing and strength? How exactly does that miracle happen?
Trials → God → God’s Strength → Our Strength (Repeat)
Our hardship, our deep valleys and dark forests can drive us to Christ. He is the the source of all strength and joy. Knowing Christ is the goal. Because strength is found in Him. Knowing Christ makes us strong.
Since our trials and pressures can push us to Christ, we can actually gain strength in dark forests and deep valleys.
With You In The Valley
What valley of Baca, what trial and difficulty, do you face today? I’m guessing there is a valley.
Because I have heard you, friends, and I pray. I pray for children who won’t speak to parents, and for friends wondering if spots on scans mean cancer is back. For your joyless marriage and for the son married three years and now divorced, sharing a sweet, sweet baby. I pray for you whose “to have and to hold” death did finally part. And for long, long valleys with too few spoons, with barely the strength to shower and dress.
I feel Baca in my bones.
God’s word is true. I know that no matter what your valley, it can become a place of springs. It can. I know it can. Because I have tasted and seen. I drink living water there.
That is how I know that spiritually we can go from strength to strength. Outwardly wasting away, Paul wrote, but inwardly renewed.
It Only Matters Where The Pressure Lies
The missionary Hudson Taylor said,
It doesn’t matter, really, how great the pressure is; it only matters where the pressure lies. See that it never comes between you and the Lord—then, the greater the pressure, the more it presses you to His breast.
I’m learning. I’m learning to let my trials drive me to the Good Shepherd who is with me in the valley and who went through a far, darker one than any of us who know Him will ever go through.
Because “God is the strength of his people” (Psalm 28:8a). The closer we press into Him, the stronger we become. Because His strength rubs off on us like cat’s fur on corduroys.
Meek Not Weak
That’s how, friends. That’s how we go from strength to strength. It’s how we are more than conquerors. And it just so happens to be an apt thumbnail of my brand new book, Meek Not Weak: A 12-Week Guide to the Gentle Strength of Meekness. You can get your copy here.
Meekness is simply seeking strength in God when we’re in the valley. It is going to God with our pain, saying with the Psalmist, “I believed, therefore I spoke, and said, ‘I am greatly afflicted'” (Psalm 116:10). Meekness is learning to let the pressures of this life press us into Christ.
In God’s upside-down kingdom where the first will be last, and the last will be first, and the meek shall inherit the earth, this is how the saints transform the valleys into places of springs.
This is how they move from strength to strength.
Oh friend, will you pilgrim on with me and learn to dig blessings from trials? Will you press on to know God?
“The people who know their God will be strong.”