Home > Pilgrim's Progress, The > The Valley of Humiliation

The Valley of Humiliation

The reason the Valley of Humiliation carries that name, is because it is in this valley that Apollyon tries to humiliate you for not following God perfectly.

On the surface of it, this seems like a counter-intuitive way for the devil to act. Surely God is the one who is concerned about us following his laws, isn’t it? Shouldn’t it be him who scolds us for not doing things right? Why does the devil care? Instead of this, perhaps Bunyan should have tried to get Apollyon to make Christian hate God and feel good about himself. This seems like it would be more appropriate.

But Bunyan hasn’t written it that way, and rightly so. God is not the one who tries to make us feel bad for not acting perfectly all the time. That’s what the devil always does. Contrary to popular thought, the devil doesn’t want you to feel good about yourself, he wants you to feel as terrible about yourself as he can. And he goes about this by showing you everything you’ve ever done wrong. He humiliates you.

Humiliation is his great weapon he uses to achieve his ultimate goal. His hope is that you will become sick and tired of feeling unworthy and judged all the time, and come to hate God and all his stupid rules. He does this by making God nothing but an overbearing killjoy.

The reality though, is just about the exact opposite of this. It is our acknowledgment that we haven’t done good works that God desires. Christian’s response in the face of Apollyon’s accusations is about as close to perfect as you could get. After hearing the laundry list of things that Christian has gotten wrong throughout his life, he says to Apollyon:

“All this is true, and much more which thou hast left out.”

Christian takes his cue from St. Paul, who referred to himself as the chief of all sinners. No condemnation can be heaped upon the believer who understands what Christ has accomplished on the cross.

It is for good reason that both the word and name ‘Satan’ in the text of the Bible means ‘the accuser’. In fact he is sometimes referred to specifically as either that, or ‘the accuser of the brethren’. That’s what Satan does best.

It is reassuring to read in the text of St. John’s Revelation that since the ascension of Christ into heaven, the accuser has been cast out. The meaning seems clear enough to me: Satan can no longer accuse us of anything before God, because God himself has taken care of it. He can no longer bring our faults and shortcomings to him in order to accuse us, because the price has been paid. There’s nothing to be settled.

That’s not to say there’s nothing for Satan to do, though. In that same passage, it speaks of him being thrown down to earth, were he rages there. And he takes up his post in the Valley of Humiliation, screaming out “I am an enemy to this Prince (Christ); I hate his person, his laws, and his people!”

If he can’t accuse you before God, he can at least cripple you by making you needlessly judge yourself. We should always keep Christian’s response at hand during such times:

“All this is true, and much more which thou hast left out.”

  1. Brynn
    April 12, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    This is really amazing. It makes perfect sense when you say it, but I think it can be one of those things that we don’t realize is happening at the time. For instance, take yesterday for example:
    I get to work early on Mondays because it is report day. I have two hours with the office completely to myself to focus and I leave early to avoid overtime. Everything was going very smoothly and then I received a call from a manager (not my manager, but a manager) requesting my help in making award certificates for the awards ceremony the following day. This was not a problem, so I walked to his office – only 6 blocks away and had with me the deposit for the bank that I would make on the way back after I picked up cash from him which Reception had forgot to give me to deposit. I got to his office and he had the list of award certificates for me to make on his computer. He said we have to make sure that everyone gets one, so please make sure everyone was on the list. Everyone was. So we had a fun time and made some beautiful certificates. Then he says, “Oh… did you want one?” The thing is, I did. But I certainly did not want to give myself an award, so I said without a pause, “No, I don’t want one.” So anyway, I finished up and walked to the bank and was at the door when I realized I had forgotten to get the money from him to make the deposit. So I walked back to my office and called him with a plan of shuffling the money around so he wouldn’t have to bring me the money and I would just go to the bank. Now I’m in overtime (which is not allowed so I’ll just have to pretend I left on time) and I see that our dispatcher has left me a number of things that need to be entered in the computer. You see, she couldn’t do it herself because her computer is over in Asheville, NC at our IT office. The reason that it is there is because I crashed it. It was requested that I add anti-virus software on her computer because the computer is very old, and runs very slow and she is constantly downloading things onto it that she shouldn’t be. Over a week ago, I complied and added AVG. However, the computer completely crashed in the process. IT suspects it is because the computer had the Conflicker (sp?) virus. All anyone at work knows, though, is that I messed with it and it broke. Back to yesterday: so I couldn’t very well not enter this data for this girl, or even be frustrated with her for asking me too since I broke her computer. So I entered the information, took the deposit and went to the bank and the post office and then left for the day after staying after for two hours and knowing I wasn’t getting paid for it and I wasn’t even going to get an award certificate at the banquet. In fact, I would be the only person at the entire award ceremony to receive nothing.
    So where is this story going? With me, driving home with a list about how mad I was at myself in my head.
    1. I forgot to get the money from my manager
    2. I broke the computer
    3. I said I didn’t want an award
    4. I got in an argument with Steve the previous night
    Mondays after work are my day to stop at the grocery. And we had no food, not even milk or eggs. And here I am sitting at a red light and knowing that I need to stop at the grocery but wanting to just go and crawl into a hole. I kept thinking I had already screwed up so much and Steve was already mad at me for nagging him last night I might as well just not come home or come home without groceries. But thank God for that red light. It gave me the time I needed to ask God to guide me and to give me the strength to move on. To ask him to forgive me for lying to and resenting my co-workers and for nagging my husband instead of talking to him. So I stopped at the grocery and tonight I will go to the awards ceremony and have a great time. In your face, Satan!

    I know this story seems entirely trivial, but sometimes I think it’s those small demons (like Complacency in Peretti’s “This Present Darkness”) that can hurt us just as much as a full fledged attack.

  2. April 19, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    I’m sorry to have to not read your comment until just now.

    I know exactly how you feel. I get to points where one thing just piles on top of another, and it continues that way until I’m completely bogged down to the point of being nearly catatonic. Thankfully it doesn’t last that long for me, because I hear people can stay in that state for a long time.

  1. April 18, 2011 at 10:58 pm

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