Things I Want My Daughter to Know: There’s Beauty in The Valley of Humiliation

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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?

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Christian descending into 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.

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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:

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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 humbleIt 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 down, needs fear no fall;
He that is low, no pride:
He that is humble, ever shall
Have God to be his guide.
I am content with what I have,
Little be it or much;
And, Lord, contentment still I crave,
Because thou savest such.
Fullness to such, a burden is,
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).

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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.”

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The Principle of Sowing & Reaping

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“Do not be deceived:

God will not be mocked,

a man will reap what he sows.”

Galatians 6:7

I love how often God speaks to us in the Bible about the importance of reaping and sowing while we are here on earth.  This is possibly one of the most powerful spiritual principles to understand, because it impacts almost every area of our life and even into eternity!

And side note: I’m currently reading these books pictured.  Two I’ve read before, but commenter Earl suggested a new one, “Ungodly Rage,” and so I picked it up ASAP.  All three have to do with this principle of reaping and sowing – very interesting to see it applied to our modern day.

Here is the rest of the passage in Galatians 6:7-10:

“Do not be deceived: God will not be mocked, a man will reap what he sows, because the one who sows to his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit.

So we must not get tired or weary of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we do not give up.”

It amazes me that we are warned here, “God will not be mocked!”  We have to take this principle seriously, and live as though we firmly believe that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction in this life.  When we sow things in the flesh, we are going to, for certain, reap the consequences of that later on in another season of our life.  This is something that has the capacity to be a beautiful opportunity to sow into the hearts of others around us, however, we should also have a healthy fear of the potential for negativity and darkness coming back to us, and conduct ourselves accordingly.

The Bible actually has many examples we can learn from where people sowed sin in another’s life, and then had to reap that same sin coming back onto their own heads later on.  It’s a mysterious Jewish principle from the Old Testament, that God will bring back someone’s actions onto their own heads if they’ve wronged or even planned in their heart to wrong someone.

“Do not enter the gate of My people in the day of their disaster and do not appropriate their possessions in the day of their disaster.

For the Day of the LORD is near, against al the nations.

As you have done, so it will be done to you;

what you deserve will return on your own head.”

Obadiah 13:13b, 15

So we see this in the Old Testament (and in many more places than just Obadiah), as well as in the New Testament in Galatians (the opening verses).  Modern churches, you could even say modern “Christianity,” teaches that this principle of reaping and sowing, especially the negative aspect, is only relegated to Old Testament earning of God’s approval.  In truth, it is more like a timeless Truth, which is why we see it both in the Old and New Testaments, because regardless of whether or not we are saved, we are still bound by earthly (and even spiritual) ramifications for our decisions.

In other words, even if we’re saved, Galatians tells us, “God will not be mocked,” we’re still going to reap what we sow.

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Think about all the biblical examples of traps that so many people in the Scriptures left for others they were trying to harm.  They ended up falling into their own traps, and what was intended to harm others, actually ended up happening in the exact same manner to them!  This is not to say that God-fearing people cannot be harmed by evildoers, though.  Here are just a few examples off the top of my head:

  • Haman in his hatred and envy of Mordecai, Esther’s cousin, ending in being hanged on the very same gallows he had built for Mordecai to hang on!
  • Nabal in his treatment of David, ending in Nabal’s death because of his insults!
  • Daniel’s accusers getting him thrown into the lions’ den, then being thrown in themselves after the truth is finally outed!
  • Hagar treating Sarah (her mistress) with contempt when she thought she had the upper hand, then being subject to Sarah disciplining her extremely harshly (and God commanding Hagar to go back and submit to that mistreatment as part of her reaping what she had sown in Sarah’s heart).
  • Saul’s treatment of David, his envy and trying to kill him, ending up losing everything he was trying to keep – his kingdom and his life – being killed himself, but not at David’s hand.

And many many more.  God has an extremely accurate measure of justice.  He admits this several times to us in His Word, and that He cares very much about seeing that justice is done.  This simple, yet profound principle of reaping and sowing, is a way He carries out His justice here on earth.

There’s also a extremely important point we should be aware of and that is that: we will often reap MORE than what we have sown!  This is both good thing and a bad thing, depending on if you’ve sowed good or bad things in life!

If you’ve sowed good in the way of giving and generosity, the Bible does tell us that you will reap more.  I should note that doesn’t necessarily mean you will reap more financially, more in the way that you will be lifted out of living under a curse, and will reap more blessings in your life because of your faithfulness to sow.

“By not making the payments of 10 percent and the contributions, you are suffering under a curse, yet you – the whole nation – are still robbing Me.  Bring the full 10 percent into the storehouse so that there may be food in My house.

Test Me in this way,” says the LORD of Hosts.

See if I will not open the floodgates of heaven and pour out a blessing for you without measure.

I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not ruin the produce of your ground, and your vine in your field will not be barren,” says the LORD of Hosts.”

Malachi 3:8b-12

And from the Parable of the Sower –

“Consider the sower who went out to sow seed….

other seed fell on good ground, and produced a crop: some 100 times, some 60 times, and some 30 times what was sown.  Anyone who has ears should listen!”

Matthew 13:8

But if you sow bad things (sin), the Bible also says that, when the time is right, you will reap MORE of that sin than what you actually sowed.

“Sow righteousness for yourselves and reap faithful love;

break up your untilled ground.

It is time to seek the LORD until He comes and sends righteousness on you like the rain.

You who have sowed wickedness and reaped injustice;

you have eaten the fruit of lies.

Because you trusted in your own way, and in your large number of soldiers,

the roar of battle will rise against your people, and all your fortifications will be demolished in a day of war.”

Hosea 10:13-14

In the book Earl suggested, Ungodly Rage, which is about the “hidden face of Catholic feminism,” it is clear that “you have eaten the fruit of lies,” is directly linked with these Catholics in the book sowing wickedness.  The truly unfortunate fact of this spiritual principle is this reaping more of what has been sown, especially in this case.  They sow wickedness and eat the fruit of lies, and reap an entire war.

“Indeed, they sow wind and reap the whirlwind.

There is no standing grain; and what does sprout fails to yield flour.”

Hosea 8:7

Wind may be annoying (and in truth, is sowing literally nothing), but look how much more was reaped!  A whirlwind came back on them, increasing dramatically the force and consequences of what they sowed.

And we also know that when we sow sin, the end result, the final reaping, is death.

“Then after desire is conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.”

James 1:15

 

So what should we do?

Sow in righteousness, sow in mercy, sow in good deeds, sow in repentance, sow in Bible reading and prayer.  Sow goodness and gentleness into the hearts of family, friends, and enemies.

And always remember that bad things can be sowed… lusts, sins of all kinds, fear, envy, pride, etc. and when you sow something, you WILL reap it later on, and with a terrible increase of more than the sin that you sowed.

Every person is actually a sower and a reaper!  Whether you want to be or not, your actions are extremely powerful spiritually, and they not only have real life consequences, but spiritual consequences that are deep and mysterious and hard to comprehend.  You do not have control over those consequences and what they’ll be or look like!  So this is a critical warning about how important it is to understand this and avoid sowing sin into the lives of others.

What is often sowed in tears, will be reaped in joy-

Sometimes doing the work of sowing good things faithfully, is hard and tempting to give up.  Raising children could be a good example of just how hard it can be sometimes to see our end result.

Nevertheless, we need to sow in faithfulness, trusting in God’s will and ultimate decision on what to do with what we sow.

Those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy.

Though one goes along weeping, carrying the bag of seed,

he will surely come back with shouts of joy,

carrying his sheaves he’s gleaned.”

Psalm 126:5-6

I’ve personally found that this is true.  What is sown in tears, will be reaped in a later season (sometimes years after the fact) in joy, as you’ve been given the gift of seeing it redeemed.  Sometimes this is doing a work God’s given you to do, sometimes it is finally seeing vindication.

The Reaping of Your Righteousness Shining like the Dawn-

For me personally, standing on God’s promises remind me of how powerful He is, and how trustworthy He is.  We can faithfully sow, and never worry that He doesn’t notice.

Do not be agitated by evildoers; do not envy those who do wrong.

For they wither quickly like grass

and wilt like tender plants.

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Commit your way to the LORD;

trust in Him, and He will act,

making your righteousness shine like the dawn, 

your vindication like the noonday.”

Psalm 37:1-2,5

Stephanie

I Wish My Husband Was More Like Hers (& Other Comparisons)

When I was growing up, my mother distinctly taught me that when dating, you should never make comparison statements to your man about other men and how great they are – including even your father.  Comparisons are interesting… I’ve thought for a long time that they only serve to bring about two things: pride or dissatisfaction, and never EVER contentment, happiness, or joy.  You cannot be content or joyful when you are looking over at someone else’s possessions/house/wife/kids, and are coveting them.

When I was working, I’d listen to radio talk shows in the mornings while on my drive to work – I learned some incredible lessons from greats like Chuck Swindoll (Pastor and founder of Insight for Living) & Chip Ingram (Pastor and founder of Living on the Edge) – both great men that gave such amazing advice and knowledge to me daily that I came to view them as friendly guides in my life.  I’ll never forget a series Chip did on how Comparisons lead to sin.  [You can read a great short post he did on it at his website here.]  It was expounding on the same point that whether you compare up or down, it only leads to something negative and unhelpful in the long run.

The effect on a husband when he’s compared to someone else’s is not pretty, how is he supposed to take that she wishes he’d be like someone else?  For women who do this, think about if the situation was turned around and he was suddenly comparing you to someone else’s wife and the way she takes care of her husband, or the way she cleans her house, or another couple’s sex life (oooOOOoooo).  If a wife insists on reminding him that he’s failing her in being like someone else, he might try harder for awhile, but will eventually give up depressed and angry at the injustice of being compared.

It only creates distrust, discontentment, and resentment, in the marriage and in life in general.  The secret to being content is a topic for another post, but I can tell you now that the first thing it begins with is getting rid of all comparisons.

Another detrimental comparison is when we look at other couples and covet their standard of living – the house they have, the cars, or how they can afford to have their kids in every sport imaginable under the sun, or in private school.  This is definitely a marriage stressor – especially again, for the husband who feels the societal pressure of providing the family’s standard of living.

I know it seems to go against the norm of our society, but living simplistically and frugally produces so much contentment!  This I can say with undoubted assurance from my personal experience!  Stressing your marriage out with unnecessary loans and a huge looming mortgage, all the while coveting more and more the standard of living of those around you is a recipe for discontentment.

Here are some helpful tips in reminding us to avoid these pitfalls:

  • Get rid of all comparisons of others you make during the course of your day, be mindful of when you are making those judgments and keep track of what circumstances bring those feelings & thoughts up
  • Don’t compare yourself to others either!  Be the best you can personally be, but avoid comparing your body, personality, or life to others around you… like I stated earlier it either makes you feel prideful (to compare down) or less self-assured (to compare up) – either of which are bad roads to take
  • Work on being accepting and finding peace and contentment in your life – no one’s life is perfect, no matter how much it may appear that way on the outside.  Everyone has bad days, bad feelings at times, or gets sick (had to add that, I’m sick with a cold right now!).
  • Accept your life and embrace what God’s given you – embrace your husband in all his human qualities, if he is willing and able to provide for your family, embrace his ability to provide for you and your family at whatever level that is
  • Practice gratitude for everything you are given.  If you are feeling discontent with your life, you need to focus on the gifts God’s surrounded you with.  Make a thankfulness journal and write 10 things in it each day that you are grateful for!  You’ll be amazed at the change in your attitude in just one month.  Try it for a year and you will never quite be same person you were!

Embrace your life, your marriage, your spouse!  And if you have good health, food in your pantry, and are blessed with friends or family you have it all my friend!