To my Sweet One, we’ve talked about many things that are good, bright, and positive, but now it’s time to talk about a more melancholy state, when you will go through dark times. More specifically, when you’re in a Valley of Humiliation.
Right now, in 2019, we’re going through the book Pilgrim’s Progress with your oldest brother, and this was such a good lesson I couldn’t wait to share it with you in here. We will also read this book with you, however I still wanted this lesson to be formally preserved in your book.
What is the Valley of Humiliation?
The Valley of Humiliation in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, is an allegory to when we go through extremely difficult seasons of being humbled. It can be from friends, but most likely the humbling or humiliation comes from people we call enemies. It might not come from a person themselves at all, however, but simply be a time or season in your life when everything seems to be going terribly wrong, or you have no direction or can’t discern anymore from God which way is right to take. Often it is a combination of all these things, which is what Pilgrim’s Progress describes, and is a season of affliction coupled with attacks meant to humiliate. Whatever this Valley may look like at a certain time is not as important compared to the necessity of this being something you need to learn how to handle, and how to handle well.
May you be a lady of wisdom, who when she is rightfully humbled, realizes it and acknowledges it with grace. And may you have the wisdom to see even the slightest bit of Truth in a severely harsh rebuke or criticism, and choose to treasure it, instead of despising the Truth. I will strive to give you many examples of my own (mostly failings) experience with this, and what I wish I had done differently.
I can tell you assuredly though, accepting humiliation with a graceful and humble attitude reveals a beauty in a person like nothing one usually sees in this world. It is very rare, because I believe this is the attitude that most models Christ. Everything in our world today tells you not to accept going through this Valley. That you will look foolish. But the world’s “wisdom,” is not God’s wisdom, and it is foolish to seek to avoid these times of humbling.
And something you need to understand is that everyone eventually goes through a valley, or several valleys of being humbled or humiliated in all kinds of ways. No single person is allowed to avoid this pain, and it is something all of us must learn to “deal,” with in wise and graceful ways.
You can’t run away from a season of being humbled or humiliated, that only seals your fate as someone not strong enough to bear the name of Christ! It is designed this way to test your faith, to see if you’re strong enough to hold steadfast to your anchor in the storms of life.
Also, as we discussed in depth with your oldest brother, Pilgrim’s Progress points out that you don’t have armor for your back. This means that if you flee in terror, or run away not trusting in God’s strength to pull you through (and perfect your character through humiliation), you will be attacked from behind as you are fleeing!
At the Christian school I was in growing up, they always cautioned us that we didn’t have armor for our backs, and that we had to stand firm when facing any kind of spiritual assault or attack. All our spiritual armor is front-facing, there is no allowance for retreat, even in the fiercest battle.
From Pilgrim’s Progress:
Why do people usually respond wrong when going through the Valley of Humiliation?
In one word, it is their pride. Pride and arrogance are what keeps us from seeing our own flaws, or from wanting to acknowledge our own blind spots or mistakes, especially when someone has pointed them out. Doubly so if it is someone we despise. And even more so than that if it is done in public meant to humiliate us. But none of that takes away the true value of humiliation.
For one, it serves to rid us of our pride or pretenses, if we allow it to, by acknowledging that we really aren’t perfect and may even need to go through this valley at this time. If we repent of our pride, we are given grace to endure the season, and hope for what lies ahead (a better character for one thing). But when we respond in pride toward our humbling, we don’t glean the benefits or blessings of learning humility, and our character is left with a glaring defect. Remember: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. It is also foolish to honor an arrogant person, Paul tells us to give honor to those who deserve it because of their service and humility.
So many harmful things come from pride, because it allows us to keep moving in the wrong direction and often toward danger. Unnecessary hardships, shipwrecking of one’s faith or the faith of others, and even important relationships can be destroyed when someone refuses to be humbled or accept rebuke and correction (be humiliated to a lesser or greater extent). When we go through this Valley of Humiliation, we have God’s favor on our life if we keep a humble heart.
Although a person’s pride may make them seem strong, their strength is in their folly, which is why the Bible constantly warns against arrogance and pride, boasting of one’s sins they’ve gotten away with, or having a Pharisaical attitude and legalism. It is a mysterious thing that the last will become first, that the humble will receive honor (and the arrogant, dishonor), but this is the way of our Lord. It takes Strength and Humility to accept rebuke or harsh criticism, to take it in stride, learning how to correct our character for the better, and not holding on to bitterness or resentment. Resisting this Valley is only human and natural, but nothing could be further from our benefit.
Often the truly strong are the humbled people, and those who are acutely aware of their own failings and shortcomings in the flesh.
May you find a man who displays this kind of character, the character of your own father, because a life with him will be easier due to his wisdom and strength, as you’ve seen from witnessing his life and what a great man he is.
There is Unexpected Beauty in the Valley of Humiliation
From the second book written by John Bunyan, the one that chronicle’s the Pilgrim’s wife’s journey with their four sons, we will look at how beautiful this Valley can be when you have gotten the proper perspective.
From Christiana’s journey, on the Valley of Humiliation:
“It is the best and most fruitful piece of ground in all those parts. It is fat ground, and as you see, consisteth much in meadows; and if a man was to come here in the summer-time, as we do now, if he knew not any thing before thereof, and if he also delighted himself in the sight of his eyes, he might see that which would be delightful to him.
Behold how green this valley is; also how beautified with lilies. (Song. 2:1). I have known many laboring men that have got good estates in this Valley of Humiliation; for God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble. (Jas. 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5). Indeed it is a very fruitful soil, and doth bring forth by handfuls. Some also have wished that the next way to their Father’s house were here, that they might be troubled no more with either hills or mountains to go over; but the way is the way, and there is an end.
Now, as they were going along, and talking, they espied a boy feeding his father’s sheep. The boy was in very mean clothes, but of a very fresh and well-favoured countenance; and as he sat by himself, he sung. Hark, said Mr. Great-Heart, to what the shepherd’s boy saith. So they hearkened and he said,
He that is low, no pride:
He that is humble, ever shall
Have God to be his guide.
Little be it or much;
And, Lord, contentment still I crave,
Because thou savest such.
That go on pilgrimage;
Here little, and hereafter bliss,
Is best from Age to Age.”
Then said the guide, Do you hear him? I will dare to say, that this boy lives a merrier life, and wears more of that herb called heart’s-ease in his bosom, than he that is clad in silk and velvet. But we will proceed in our discourse.
In this valley our Lord formerly had his country-house: he loved much to be here. He loved also to walk these meadows, for he found the air was pleasant. Besides, here a man shall be free from the noise, and from the hurryings of this life: all states are full of noise and confusion; only the Valley of Humiliation is that empty and solitary place. Here a man shall not be so let and hindered in his contemplation as in other places he is apt to be.
This is a valley that nobody walks in but those that love a pilgrim’s life. And though Christian had the hard hap to meet here with Apollyon, and to enter with him in a brisk encounter, yet I must tell you, that in former times men have met with angels here, (Hos. 12:4,5), have found pearls here (Matt. 13:46), and have in this place found the words of life. (Prov. 8:36). Did I say our Lord had here in former days his country-house, and that he loved here to walk? I will add-in this place, and to the people that love and trace these grounds, he has left a yearly revenue, to be faithfully paid them at certain seasons, for their maintenance by the way, and for their further encouragement to go on in their pilgrimage.
Samuel: Now, as they went on, Samuel said to Mr. Great-Heart, Sir, I perceive that in this valley my father and Apollyon had their battle; but whereabout was the fight? for I perceive this valley is large.
Great-heart: Your father had the battle with Apollyon at a place yonder before us, in a narrow passage, just beyond Forgetful Green. And indeed that place is the most dangerous place in all these parts. For if at any time pilgrims meet with any brunt, it is when they forget what favours they have received, and how unworthy they are of them. This is the place also where others have been hard put to it. But more of the place when we are come to it; for I persuade myself that to this day there remains either some sign of the battle, or some monument to testify that such a battle there was fought.
Mercy: Then said Mercy, I think I am as well in this valley as I have been anywhere else in all our journey: the place, methinks, suits with my spirit. I love to be in such places, where there is no rattling with coaches, nor rumbling with wheels. Methinks, here one may, without much molestation, be thinking what he is, whence he came, what he has done, and to what the King has called him. Here one may think, and break at heart, and melt in one’s spirit, until one’s eyes become as the fish-pools in Heshbon (Song. 7:4). They that go rightly through this valley of Baca, make it a well; the rain that God sends down from heaven upon them that are here, also filleth the pools. This valley is that from whence also the King will give to his their vineyards; and they that go through it shall sing, as Christian did, for all he met with Apollyon. (Ps. 84:5-7; Hos. 2:15).
Great-heart: ‘Tis true, said their guide; I have gone through this valley many a time, and never was better than when here. I have also been a conduct to several pilgrims, and they have confessed the same. “To this man will I look,” saith the King, “even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.” (Isa. 66:2).
So… even with all we’ve gone over just now, are you surprised that going through times of extreme hardship or testing may be met with such peace and spiritual renewal? 🙂 Again, I can only explain it as the mysteries of our God, and how wonderful He is to have designed our spiritual journey in this way.
So go through these valleys with confidence and assurance that He is faithful and will provide a path for you. If you meet with assault or attack, stand firm in your armor, like Christian, and do not flee. Allow any convictions of your spirit to alter your character to make sure you are right with God. Never underestimate the foolishness of the heart, and how it can deceive us into believing that we are in the right, if you feel conviction you are in the wrong. Accept it, reject pride, and allow your character to be refined in this Valley.
And from James:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.
Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”