“What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord,
who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
When they walk through the Valley of Weeping,
it will become a place of refreshing springs.
The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings.
They will continue to grow stronger,
and each of them will appear before God in Jerusalem.” (Psalm 84:5-7)
Just today, I was talking with a friend over coffee. We were actually talking about marriage, about which I have no personal experience, but about which I have observed some interesting things. One of those things came out in our conversation. It seems that whenever I have seen interviews of older couples or spoken with older couples about what has kept their relationship strong, and even what their fondest memories are of, there is an element in the reply that has to do with struggling together. Struggling with finances, struggling with choices, struggling with children, struggling in any number of different ways.
Whether single or married, no one gets to Jerusalem on their own. God designed us for relationships of all kinds. Relationship with Him, relationships with friends, spouses, children, neighbors, co-workers, etc. Anyone who has set their mind on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem will meet and experience relationships with others going toward, as well as going away from, that ultimate destination.
Relationships require sacrifice. To be in relationship with God, a sacrifice of personal desires that would eat up all of our time must be made. Prayer requires a mind set on Jerusalem and a sacrifice of time. As other enjoyable distractions are sacrificed, it may seem like a real struggle to begin with, and we may weep internally for the loss we perceive. But the strength gained through the suffering and loss is invaluable as we move forward.
As we develop relationships with others, in whatever capacity, conflicts arise within those relationships. Perhaps a husband will want to go back to school and his wife will have to return to work, for instance, and she would rather not. At least one of these two will have to sacrifice their own personal desires in order to move forward in a healthy way. And as that sacrifice is made, the loss is wept over. But again, the relationship is strengthened.
As God calls us to give more and more of ourselves away to others, as Christ Himself did, and others see Christ living in us, we grieve the losses over once treasured possessions, years long addictions and habits, distracting activities, pride of accomplishment, etc. As each one is struggled with, tears are shed. Our “Valley of Weeping” – I fancy that to be our low times when we are shedding tears over our losses – becomes a place of refreshment once the grief is fully experienced and we receive new blessings of strengthened relationships and personal character.
With each sacrifice and/or struggle of whatever sort, though painful and grieved, we become stronger and stronger as we make our way together homeward to see God in Jerusalem.