Pilgrimage with God this Year

By Michaela O’Donnell

January 3, 2021

Scripture – Psalm 84:5-7 (NIV)

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
+++whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
 As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
+++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.


What if God is inviting you on a holy journey in 2021? Think about it; you really don’t know what this year will hold in your life or your work. So, why not, consider the unknown as an opportunity to follow God on the path of pilgrimage—to wrestle and wonder, build trust in God, and hope for all the good grace that might be?



Yesterday, we looked at the earlier verses in this Psalm that encouraged us that blessed are those who dwell in the house of Lord. Blessed are those who get comfy and make nests and settle in with the Lord. Today, the text talks about what at first might appear like a really different charge—pilgrimage. The psalm teaches us to sing: Blessed are those whose hearts are set on a pilgrimage! If you’re unfamiliar with what a pilgrimage is or if it makes you think of colonization, I get it. Know this: a pilgrimage is spiritual journey—like a quest for meaning. The Bible is ripe with pilgrim stories and pilgrimage themes. Consider Abraham leaving his home to search for the land God tells him about or the Israelites wandering in the desert in search of the promised land. In both cases, pilgrimage holds themes of hardships and care, search for promise and an assurance to trust because God is present. There’s even a whole set of Psalms (120-124) thought to be sung as pilgrims made their way up to Jerusalem.

The fact that these verses about pilgrimage come right after Blessed are those who dwell in your house makes me wonder about the connection between our dwelling with God and our capacity to take meaningful journeys. And it makes me wonder about the connection between dwelling, pilgrimage, and home.

What if we are most ready for the quests that matter most to us when we have settled in and gotten comfortable in the house of the Lord? And, what if because we were forced to spend so much time learning to dwell last year, we’re more ready than we’ve ever been for a pilgrimage in 2021?

So many major events happen over the course of a year. Who knows: 2021 could be the year you start a new job or finally launch your business. Or it could be the year God invites you to mature as a leader by undergoing a pruning process. It could be the year you meet new people that will know for the rest of your life. Think about it, you really don’t know what this year will hold in your life or your work. So, why not, consider the unknown as an opportunity to follow God on the path of pilgrimage—to wrestle and wonder, build trust in God, and hope for all the good grace that might be? On any pilgrimage we embark on we are invited to make God’s mission of redemption and restoration in the world our North Star. For a pilgrimage is both about us, but also never about just us. Consider what—or who—God might be asking you to attune to at the start of this near year, this inevitably new in some way journey that will be 2021.

Yesterday, I told you about an opportunity called The Road Ahead, a six-week program that’s especially suited for times of transition. This experience is meant to feel like a pilgrimage—a holy journey of wrestling and questing before God and alongside others. So, if you’re feeling like you could use some explicit space to make spiritual sense of where you’re at and discern next steps on the road ahead, check it out. We’re currently running groups for women professionals, folks entering or in the “third third” of life, creative professionals, and pastoral leaders.


Reflect back on a year in your life in which you felt like you were on a holy journey with God. Recollect what it felt like, who you spent time with, and what you learned.


Make a list or journal about your hopes for 2021. Offer them to God aloud and then make space to listen to God. Sit in silence or go on a walk, asking God to speak to your hopes for this year.


Lord, thank you for a new year and the new life that comes through your son Jesus.  Today, help me to hope for the things you hope for and leave the rest. Help me to orient to you as my North Star as I endeavor to follow you more deeply this year. I pray that this year is indeed a holy journey, one in which I grow to listen and love you and all those you place in my life. Amen.

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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Abraham’s Faithfulness Contrasted with the Faithlessness of Babel (Genesis 12:1-3)

Michaela O’Donnell

Mary and Dale Andringa Executive Director

Michaela is the Mary and Dale Andringa Executive Director Chair at the Max De Pree Center for Leadership. She is also an assistant professor of marketplace leadership and the lead professor for Fuller Seminary’s Doctor of Global Leadership, Redemptive Imagination in the Marketplace progr...

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