“Those who put their strength in you are truly happy; pilgrimage is in their hearts. As they pass through the Baca Valley, they make it a spring of water. Yes, the early rain covers it with blessings.”
Psalm 84:5, 6 (Common English Bible)
Recently the crew of the Caribbean Princess cruise ship produced a music video, You’re Not Alone Princess Cruise Family. As the cruise industry continues to navigate a difficult environment brought on by this worldwide pandemic, crewmembers – particularly those still onboard their ships – are growing increasingly discouraged. My daughter, Rachael, is among those who have been onboard for over fifty days now. The discouragement is deepen by the vitriolic coverage the press has given the cruise business. True, passengers and crewmembers of cruise ships have become ill from this virus, but so have residents of Detroit, New York City, and Rome. Pain and discouragement is felt wherever this virus has set-up residence.
The music video produced by the crew of the Caribbean Princess seeks to change the emotional and spiritual tone that is swiftly moving through the Princess Cruise family – and, indeed, throughout the industry. Swamped by discouragement, pain, and considerable dislocation from home and family, this video creatively joins the family of those who cruise, both passengers and crew, together with hope. Everyone is reminded that though they are separated by sea, each one belongs to a family. More, there is encouragement that if each person holds onto one another through this storm, they will emerge wiser and stronger. The pointed message of the video – simply stated – is, let’s make something positive emerge from this.
Psalm 84 captures the moment when the people of Israel are similarly discouraged, wandering in an arid place between Egypt and the Promised Land. Forty years is a long time to have a promise of returning home, yet, day after day, they wake-up in a sea of wilderness. “Baca Valley” refers to a poplar or balsam tree (2 Sam 5:23-24), which is known to grow in arid places. It is easy to imagine that the women and men and children who are in this arid and inhospitable place would have their spirits shot to pieces, their faith wrecked, their morale broken, and lives unraveled by cynicism. Over time, personal deterioration is inevitable.
But notice that this description fails. Rather, the people of God are “truly happy.” That is because they have chosen not to focus on their present circumstances, which are dire. They choose to keep their focus on God. That change of focus strengthens them and the arid place becomes as though it is covered with springs of water. By a change of focus, they have determined not to be a casualty of an inhospitable environment. It is as though they are singing the lyric of the Princess music video: “You will never feel like you’re alone. You are never sailing on your own. We are in this together from the day we left our homes. We will stick together, fight through every storm.”