We have been keeping tabs on the US news from rural Kenya and worrying, not primarily for the safety, health or financial burdens of our friends and family members. No, it is for a purer thing that we fret about our brothers and sisters these days. We fear these constant trials may cause some to lose the hope we should all carry, like an unflickering candle deep inside us that isn’t supposed to be extinguished, even beyond our last breaths. Having traveled a tough road ourselves for these past 12 years in Africa, we understand how that can happen.

We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. – Heb 6:11

After all the disruptions and new realities foisted upon Americans by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, it seemed reasonable that some cosmic page might turn in January 2021, restoring fairness and order. If not by magic, maybe sanity would return through vaccines, regime change or herd immunity. Or perhaps we’d find an escape or two during the Super Bowl, March Madness, or the reopening of more schools and restaurants.

Yet as each fresh week grinds by, reality settles in.  Much like the chain reaction 130-vehicle accident that recently killed 6 on an ice-shellacked interstate near Fort Worth, tribulations seemingly pile up so fast that it’s impossible to recover from one before the next one hits. It can be hard to maintain hope when the news tells us otherwise. We begin feeling clueless about tomorrow, as if waiting for the next shoe to drop.

How are His children to walk through such difficult times, according to God?

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,

whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.

As they pass through the Valley of Baca,

they make it a place of springs;

the autumn rains also cover it with pools.

They go from strength to strength,

till each appears before God in Zion.

Ps. 84:5-7

According to the great theologian Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, the word “Baca” (בכא bâkâ’) means properly “weeping, lamentation” …and it may have reference to some lonely valley in Palestine – where there was no water – a gloomy way – through which those commonly passed who went up to the place of worship.

Our hearts are to be set on pilgrimage (not a place and a time to be realized here). We move intentionally, as those aware of a better destination ahead. This place is not Home and was never meant to feel completely comfortable to us. What substantiates us can only be found in Him and the upward call of His glory. God says that is our blessing.

As we pass through dry seasons, the hardest of times, even death, somehow we make them places of joyful prosperity for ourselves and others. He says we get stronger and stronger until that Day when we each see His face in Zion. Trials do not defeat us. They fuel us, adding muscle and clarifying our spiritual eyesight for the ongoing days ahead.

So, let 2021 wash over you just like 2020 did, with all of its heartaches and disappointments, and yes, even the death that is rearing its ugly head all around. Don’t ever fear being tested, broken, remade, or bonded in stronger ways to those around you. Stand in the middle of it all, head up and ready for what you have been told by God to do in this life, however short it may be. Walk on through Baca, my friends. Keep being a blessing to the heartbroken and needy all around. There are surely better days ahead.

By Bob Mendonsa