This time of year is always a little bittersweet. The end of all the summer fun, the closing of the local swimming pool, the completion of summer vacations and return to the real work of life. Yet it’s also the start of a new school year, with all its opportunities to learn new things, join new groups, and meet new friends. Even if we’re not going back to school (or have kids who are), the fall is still a season of new. Organizations begin new programming and people turn their focus from vacations back to the business of life.
Blessed are those… whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. ~Psalm 84:5 (NIV)
As I read Psalm 84 in my prayer time yesterday, this verse grabbed my heart and called me to ponder pilgrimage. Psalm 84 is the perfect encouragement for each of us as we turn the corner on the next segment of whatever journey we’re walking, whether it’s back-to-school, retirement, a job change, or anything else.
Pilgrimage… a journey to a sacred place… the course of life on earth… a long journey or search, especially one of purpose and moral significance…
More than simply a physical journey we may make to visit a sacred place (such as making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land), pilgrimage also refers to our journey of faith as we seek to live into our calling and grow closer to God.
The GOD’s WORD translation uses the phrase “their hearts are set on the road that leads to you” to describe pilgrimage. What a beautiful definition of pilgrimage!
Blessed are those who find strength in you. Their hearts are set on the road that leads to you. ~Psalm 84:5 (GOD’s WORD translation)
Pilgrimage is setting our hearts on the road that leads to God.
Let’s look deeper at four characteristics of the pilgrims praised in this psalm and how we can take encouragement from them in our own journeys.
Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. ~Psalm 84:4 (NIV)
1) They long to dwell in the house of God
We all may be on a different journey in our pilgrimage, with different stops and detours, but we all have the same ultimate destination – God’s house. If we’re going to embark on a journey of faith and follow God’s will for our life, we need to know where we’re going. The intermediate stops will fall into place if we set our eyes and hearts on the end goal of dwelling in God’s house.
2) They are ever praising God
Journeys are difficult. Each stage of the trip, each turn of the road, brings a new set of challenges and obstacles. Yet, these pilgrims are ever praising God. They aren’t praising God because the road is easy, but simply because their hearts dwell in God. They are so filled with God’s Spirit they can do nothing but praise Him. What an incredible way to live! In our own journeys, even through all the struggles we face as we walk through life, let’s also remember to be ever praising God. Continually praising God should be our life’s attitude.
Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you. ~Psalm 84:12 (NIV)
3) They put their trust in God
How often do we talk about wanting a map for our journey? An outline of where we’re going next? Well, for these pilgrims, trust is their map. When you put your trust in God fully, you don’t need a map for you know God will guide you. Trust is perhaps the hardest one of these characteristics to live into, yet it’s the best way to stay on the path and remain focused on the destination, despite the obstacles and struggles that will inevitably come your way.
Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose heart is set on pilgrimage. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion. ~Psalm 84:5,7 (NIV)
4) They know their strength comes from God
God’s strength is our energy and endurance for this marathon journey of faith. We are not strong enough on our own to reach the goal. We will not achieve God’s calling for our lives without His help. Once we accept our own weaknesses and shortcomings, then only can we learn to rely on God’s strength for this journey. In those moments when we feel we cannot go one step further, when we feel we cannot bear these burdens a minute longer, remember our strength comes from God and He will carry us from strength to strength until we reach Him.
As you embark on each new chapter in your pilgrimage of life, keep your heart set on following the road that leads to God.
Remember the goal of your pilgrimage is to dwell in God and all the rest are just stops along the way.
Use trust as your map and allow God to guide you.
Continually praise should be your attitude and outlook, even when the journey becomes difficult.
Lean into God’s strength for your energy and endurance, for you can only complete the pilgrimage with His help.
This post is part of the “Imagine God’s Possible” series. For more information or to read other posts in the series, click here: Dream the Impossible… Imagine God’s Possible