The Valley Of Baca: The Doctrine of Suffering
“Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them. Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools. They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.” —Psalm 84:5-7
Why does God require or allow some Christians to go through great tribulation, sickness, and trials and others are healed and delivered?
On Thanksgiving weekend in November of 1999, I received a very emotional phone call from one of our dear former members who lived in Mobile, Alabama. At that time, we were pastoring in the Dallas area. It was Sister Margie Maples. With much sadness and heartache, she told me that her teenage son, Tom, had been in a swimming accident at their river camp on the Tombigbee River. Quickly, she told me what had happened. On Thanksgiving Day, while relaxing at their river camp, Tom and his friends saw that his boat had detached from the shoreline and was floating down river. Without much thought, Tom dove into the river to reach the boat before the current took it away. When he did that, Tom’s head slammed into an underwater ledge, and his neck snapped. His friends pulled his body from the river, and Tom was care-flighted to USA Hospital in Mobile.
Tom survived the accident but had no physical feeling from his neck down. He had experienced a serious cervical spinal injury involving the C4 and C5 vertebrae. The Maples got the best doctors in Alabama to do everything they knew to help restore the use of Tom’s hands and legs, but to no avail. Down through the years, Donna and I have visited several times to pray for Tom. Many other pastors and anointed, Spirit-filled believers have prayed for Tom, but he is still not healed.
Gerald and Margie Maples and their son were allowed or required by God to suffer much these past twenty-two years. They experienced great tribulation and trial. I prayed for them often as they had to live—not walk—through the valley of Baca.
Gerald and Margie Maples are now passed on and in heaven, but Tom still lives in Mobile. And he is still living in the valley of Baca—the place of weeping and suffering. I continue to pray for Tom, and I believe that someday he will be healed.
Job Experienced Great Pain And Suffering
In the Old Testament, the story of Job stands out as a story of a dear man of God who experienced much pain, much loss, and much suffering. Scripture declares that Job “was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.” (Job 1:1) It also says that Job “offered burnt offerings” continually to cover the sins of his sons (Job 1:5).
In this incredible story, God allows Satan to assault Job so that he loses sons, daughters, servants, and much livestock.
In Job 2:9, we read where Job’s wife barks at him and says, “Dost thou still retain thine integrity? curse God, and die.” Despite his suffering, Job refused to do it.
In Job 3:3, Job regrets his birth and declares, “Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived.” In this same chapter, Job reveals his misery and bitterness of soul. Yet, in the midst of his suffering, Job declares, “For I know that my redeemer liveth” (Job 19:25).
Job was required by God to experience Satan’s attack involving the death of his children and great loss of his livestock and wealth.
But, in Job 42:10, we read, “And the LORD turned the captivity of Job, when he prayed for his friends: also the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before.”
Job 42:13 tells us that God gave him seven sons and three daughters. Eventually, God restored all that Job lost and added much, much more. Job survived the valley of Baca. He went through it to a place of great victory.
Understanding What The Valley Of Baca Really Means
The valley of Baca is only mentioned once in the Old Testament, in Psalm 84:6. The Hebrew word baca translates to mean “weeping,” which refers to a literal place in Israel called the “valley of the balsam trees,” or the “valley of weeping.”
Some Bible scholars believe that the valley of Baca is the same area referred to in II Samuel 5:22 as the valley of Rephaim —a literal dry desert place located many miles southwest of Jerusalem.
This area was designated as the valley of Baca due to the dryness of the land and the forest of balsam trees. The balsam tree, called the mulberry tree (II Sam. 5:23; I Chron. 14:14), would distill or drip a resin or gum-like substance. These were called weeping trees or trees with tears.
It seems to me that Psalm 84:4-7 refers to a particular man, a blessed man; likely, a man of God who is strong, determined, and committed to visit a place called Mount Zion.
Some believe that this is in reference to Jerusalem or to heaven. On this awesome journey, this man of God who strongly trusts in God is required to pass through a particular place called the valley of Baca, also known as the valley of the weeping trees. His experience in the valley of Baca is, in many ways, life-changing.
The larger picture I get is of a tired, thirsty traveler who is traveling perhaps with an entourage on his way to Jerusalem and arrives at this place called the valley of Baca. After searching diligently for water, he determines that there is none nearby, and this is a huge problem. The people with him need water, as do their animals.
After much thought, the traveler decides that water must be hidden somewhere underground. With much tenacity, he digs deep into the sand and dirt near the balsam trees until he finds the hidden source of water. After much labor and perseverance, he digs and forms a well of spring water now flowing into a larger pool of water.
According to this psalm, this blessed man of God on his pilgrimage to Mount Zion is being led by God to visit this place called the valley of Baca, the valley of weeping. By the grace of God, not only does he survive this valley, but also leaves it as springs of living water with pools of refreshment and strength for those who will come later.
Many believers are allowed or required by God to go through the valley of Baca, the valley of tears, and experience much suffering and pain due to various situations and circumstances. It does happen to many people—to many godly and good people. My question is, what will you do when you are forced to visit and stay for a period of time in the valley of Baca? Will you die there? Will you grow mean and bitter? Or will you turn your tears into wells of living water for others who need to drink and live?
The great apostle Peter wrote, “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 1:7).
This article continues in the November issue of The Evangelist.