In our 21st century American context, it seems counter-cultural to call ourselves strangers, pilgrims, and sojourners. Even in the church, we’ve idolized the image of middle-class ease and comfortable lifestyle. And when difficulties, trials, and afflictions arise, we think something has gone wrong. Maybe we’ve done something to deserve this. Maybe we didn’t do something we should have. Or maybe God is displeased with us.
Yet Scripture presents a different view of our lives. In Psalm 119:54, the Psalmist says –
“Your statutes are my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.”
A simple line, but so profound. I’m speaking primarily of that last phrase: “house of my pilgrimage.” Sounds almost oxymoronic, doesn’t it? But it isn’t. That simple phrase is so rich, and it helps us make sense of the struggles and trials we face. Let’s dig into the expression.
We do live in this physical realm, as indicated by the use of “house” in the verse While living here, God does indeed want us to take care of our families and work (cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12; 1 Timothy 5:8). There is nothing wrong with owning a house, holding a job, or spending time with family and friends. Those are all more permanent aspects of living here below.
Then we get to “pilgrimage,” and we see a different perspective. This time, it’s from the viewpoint of eternity. This world is not where we belong, for we have an eternal home waiting for us. When we remember this, we do truly acknowledge that we are “strangers and exiles on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13; 1 Peter 2:11, 12). This gives us hope and expectation. Remembering this truth also helps us keep the right perspective and not get entangled in cares of this life (2 Timothy 2:4; Hebrews 12:1, 2).
But this acknowledgement of our true home is not just theoretical. It’s not just something to help us bring balance to our lives. Rather, the juxtaposition of “house” and “pilgrimage” helps us make sense of the difficulties, trials, and struggles we face. We are indeed only on a journey home, but it’s a journey that takes a lifetime. While on this journey, we live in a sin-cursed world opposed to God…and to His people. Consequently, we are going to face opposition. We are going to face heartache. We are going to face affliction. Yet we do not loose heart. We have an eternal home, and our God is with us every step of the way. And as we face difficulties on this journey, He comforts us.
That’s what the Psalmist testifies to in Psalm 119:49-56. He was “afflicted,” derided, surrounded by “the wicked,” and woke “in the night” (vv. 50, 51, 53, 55). Yet He did not turn from God’s Word. In fact, he ran to it, drawing “comfort” from who God is, how God had acted in the past, and what God had spoken through the Scriptures (vv. 50, 52). His circumstances did not change immediately, but he drew comfort and strength for the road.
We ought to do the same. When we face difficulties and opposition from the world, we shouldn’t automatically assume we did something wrong. Rather, we remember that while we do live on earth, this is not our home. And as we remember this, we seek the Lord through His Word and draw comfort. Like the Psalmist, we can read, meditate, and even sing God’s Word as we draw closer to Him (vv. 50, 52). We have a hope for the future, and a comfort as we follow Him each day.
For a brief discussion about singing God’s Word, check out the “Monday Encouragement” video this week here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wc_uZH46uto