I remember the first time Psalm 84 truly landed in my heart. It was the day some dear friends asked me to offer words of comfort at the funeral of their daughter who died tragically during childbirth. These words came alive for me in a new way, and they would become the text from which I would speak at the funeral.
One of the great questions that emerges when we are in the valley of grief and loss is something like, “If God is all-knowing, and if he knew this was coming, and if he knew what it would do to me, then how could he let this happen?” There is a longing in our hearts to be known, to be understood, and to be truly seen, especially in moments of deep suffering.
Psalm 84 is not the song one would sing on the mountaintops, as it were. It is, somehow, the cry of worship sustained even in the wilderness of unexplained suffering. It is as if God is saying to humanity “I know you. I get it. I know what your pain is like. So here is a song to sing when you long for relief.”
In verse 6, the psalmist mentions the Valley of Baca, sometimes translated as the Valley of Tears. The psalm describes a valley that is a desertland with no springs of water. The image of this stanza is of those who came upon this wilderness and through their tears decided to fix their gaze on God while also considering those who would come behind them. They dug out wells and cisterns to collect both their tears (poetically) and the rain waters so that those who came behind them would be comforted and cared for.
See, those who make their home in the presence of God will see their tears become a source of renewal for those who come after them. This is true even in the Valley of Tears because God is with them and because He cares for them.
When we walk into the wilderness of suffering, who we are and what we love will be revealed and refined. We need a kind of depth with God that can sustain the cries of worship in the midst of suffering, even when the world around us crumbles. Because surface-level religion won’t sustain us in the Valley of Tears. Cheap platitudes won’t help us when the earth gives way.
This is the place where Psalm 84 lands—“Better a day in your courts than a thousand anywhere else. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God than live in the tents of wicked people” (v.10). This is to say: The things I thought mattered and I used to long for now seem so thin to me. Loss has a way of setting our attention on those things that truly matter. So, “I long and yearn for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh cry out for the living God” (v.2). Nothing else will do.