Psalm 84: 6 As they pass through the Valley of Baca, they make it a place of springs;
When the average person hears the words “athletes’ off-season”, they probably think of a time of rest and relaxation. When it comes to professional athletes they probably think that those athletes are spending their off-season lying around a pool drinking Mai Tai’s. While there are such athletes (they usually arrive at training camp 20lbs. overweight), the majority of serious athletes understand that their off-season is much more than that. While a period of rest is critical, particularly at the end of a grueling season, after this period the work begins. An athlete wanting to maintain or improve their competitive level will tell you that a common theme in their off-season is pain & suffering. I read an article in Cycling Weekly entitled The Science of Suffering (http://www.cyclingweekly.co.uk/fitness/training/science-suffering-121058). In this article, they quoted many studies including one by King’s College in London, UK, which found that genetically identical twins experienced differing pain thresholds. This showed that pain tolerance could be changed through factors such as training. They also showed that athletes experience the same pain as the general population, but they have simply trained themselves to better tolerate it for longer periods and higher levels. By increasing their pain tolerance, elite athletes can perform at a higher level in competition.
You see a common theme in the Bible when God calls a person to a significant task; he often sends them to the desert. Joseph, Moses, Elijah, David, Job, John the Baptist, Jesus, Paul – all had to spend time in the desert. And while there is certainly a time of rest in this place of seclusion, there is certainly significant pain and suffering in this place as well.
There is a place in the Bible referred to as the Valley of Baca. “Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts 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” (Psalm 84: 5-7). While no one knows the exact ancient location, this Valley of Baca (which literally means “Valley of Weeping”) was apparently the only passageway into the high hills where Israel’s Cities of Refuge were located (see Numbers 35: 6-8). The Valley of Baca was part of the desert and would have been filled with thorns, wild animals, pitfalls, vipers and all sorts of danger. We read in this passage in Psalms that there were wells of water, but they were apparently far apart and hard to get to. The bottom line is that it was nearly impossible to travel in this valley without facing extreme hardship and suffering.
God is unchanging and I believe strongly that even today, He will bring all his leaders through the Valley of Baca. While it may not be a physical valley, it is necessary that we go through time of hardship, pain and suffering to become the leaders God intends us to be. Just like in the Valley of Baca, however, He will also provide springs to bring us “from strength to strength”. If you are in such a place, embrace the pain for you are blessed to be chosen by God to be his holy leader. Remember where this tough road is leading you to; you are being led to “God in Zion”.