“Down in the valley” is one way to describe our life in the bad times— when we are experiencing diverse difficulties, hardships, trials, afflictions, sufferings, and temptations.

For example, when the doctor says to a patient with a dreadful disease like cancer “you have only 4 months to live.” It means that person is now treading through the valley of the shadow of death (Psa. 23:4); and now s/he is about to go to the land of darkness, or the grave (Job 10:21).

Likewise, we are down in the valley when we are going through long seasons of darkness, desolation, desert of our life; and they seem to flood and overwhelm us with melancholy, a condition of constitutional tendency to gloominess or depression, pensiveness, and discouragement.

When Pharaoh asked Jacob, “How many are the days of the years of your life?” Jacob answeredThe days of the years of my sojourning are 130 years. Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojourning.”  (Gen. 47:8, 9).

Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible has to say on this verse: “Much bitterness also had been mingled in his cup from the time that he beguiled his brother of the birthright and the blessing, which would have come to him in a lawful way if he had only waited in patience. Obliged to flee for his life from his father’s house, serving seven years for a beloved wife, and balked in his expected recompense by a deceitful father-in-law, serving seven long years more for the object of his affections, having his wages changed ten times during the six years of his further toil for a maintenance, afflicted by the dishonor of his only daughter, the reckless revenge taken by Simon and Levi,the death of his beloved wife in childbirth, the disgraceful incest of Reuben, the loss of Joseph himself for twenty-two years, and the present famine with all its anxieties – Jacob, it must be confessed, has become acquainted with no small share of the ills of life.”

Likewise, my earthly pilgrimage of 68 years which is but few in number compared to my father who is now gone into heaven at 82 years old, I now confess also I have my share of evils.  I have experienced (and still experiencing) seasons of darkness and melancholy.  All along I have deserts in my life wherein I have experienced desolation and dryness of spirit.  On those times I feel very much discouraged; openly expressed my disillusionment with God for giving me trials and expressed my disappointment on him for not lifting the darkness that hovers over my life.

Now, I want to relate some of the major highlights of my life’s journey down through the valley of bad times.  My purpose of sharing my experiences down in the valley of darkness is to for you to understand the struggle I am in with the hope, peradventure that you may pray for me.  Indeed “A true friend is the one who comes in when the whole world has gone out.” — Grace Pulpit.

In the year 1970 because the company I worked for retrenched and downsized its workforce, I was part of the more than 10 employees who were laid off from work.  According to Holmes and Rahe’s Social Readjustment Rating Scale, the stress of a person losing her/his job is level 7 on the rating scale with 50 life-change units.  The death of a close family member is level 1 with 100 life-change units.  At that time we have already three small children to provide for their basic needs.  On top of that we were renting an apartment and the owner was a shrewd businessman.  Imagine the stress the loss of job was impacting to my mental and physical well-being.

Thankfully God provided me a much better job wherein it offered me a chance to travel throughout the Philippines, to places I only read about in my geography class at school.   Yet the new job also had its own challenges and stressors.  For one it was loneliness because I was away from my family for as long as a month every other month.  My children were then young and my wife had to take care of them full-time.  She had a degree in Home Economics but we’ve come to an agreement that she doesn’t need to work but to devote her time for our children and to keep the home.  With God’s help she did all these things satisfactorily.  Solomon testified he who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord. The Septuagint (Old Testament in Greek) added “He who casts out a good wife, casts away that which is good: but he that kept an adulteress is foolish and ungodly.”

Map of Northern Mindanao

          

Cagayan de Oro City’s Tourist Spots

The other major valley of trial that I have plodded happened in the year 1995, March 17 to be exact.  I’ve suffered a stroke.  I was pastoring then all of northern Mindanao, based at Cagayan de Oro City.  The lady doctor upon learning that I am a pastor suggested to my wife that I had to change employment because the job is too stressful.  Understandably she thought my job as a pastor is like any other profession that you just can change it.  The stroke made me partially disabled on the left portion of my body from head to toe.  Movements are painful and impede greatly my activities.  I had another stroke on May 2004.  I was pastoring then our local church in Baguio City and at the same time I was the area superintendent for our northern Luzon churches.  I thought I was going to die.  I can’t stand and go to the bathroom.  I have to use my knees and hands like a pig.

And then in August 30, 2010, I had my third stroke after I visited our outreach church in Brgy. Curva, Munoz, Nueva Ecija.  The stroke literally took my speech away.  Hindi lang nag-curva ang boses ko nawala pa. The doctor who attended to me confided to my brother that it was doubtful that I would ever speak again.  By default my ministry had come to an end.  As you know preaching was a major part of my pastoral ministry.

Some of my friends, acquaintances and brethren in the church worldwide, upon learning  the news (through emails, text messages and Facebook) that I suffered a third stroke, rallied to pray for me.  God faithfully answered the intercessory prayers offered for my healing.  That’s why the doctor was amazed when I could already speak and syllabicate the names of my 10 grandchildren, being confined only for three days.  So he allowed me to vacate the hospital on the fourth day and go home.  Since then I have slowly but painstakingly recover my speech.  Though at times I still stutter and stammer, and my words are slow and halting and repeat them frequently in attempting to pronounce them correctly.

May I take a backward step into time?  As I am already incapacitated, my four children with their spouses in United Arab Emirates unanimously decided to take my wife and me to be with them.  So in September 15, 2010 we set foot at Dubai International Airport.

Dubai International Airport

Our life in U.A.E. is relatively better yet not without valleys.  Recently my wife was diagnosed that she had grade 2 cancers and was operated to remove the suspected cancer in her left breast.  The physician who is from India was very kind and accommodating to us.  Yet the hospital bill including all charges for pre-operation check-ups and tests, amounted to about AED20, 000.00, about 228,000.00 PHP.

My wife and Dr. Qurban Hatim Pamina, who is the owner and managing director of Al Nakheel Hospital in Sharjah, Arab Emirates.

At the heel of my wife’s operation and recovery, a bombshell exploded on my already beaten and downtrodden valley of trial.  A family member is languishing in jail right now.  She had committed a series of bad mistakes and decisions in her life.  Her sins finally found her out and caught up with her.

Woman Languishing In Prison

Our prayer to God is that by this trial her eyes maybe opened and see the error of her ways, repent and to turn her life around from darkness to light, be freed from the power of Satan who hold her in his clutches, and that she may receive forgiveness of her sins.  Right now our decision is to deliver her to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that her spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.   We are more concerned with her soul and her eternal destiny.  We do not yet post the bail required to release her from the jail’s custody.  Spending time in jail would perhaps is good for her at this time that she be broken up and would come to grips with repentance.  That is tough love.

The stress level of a person in jail is 63. It’s higher level than losing one’s job.  Probably the amount of stress this incident is causing us is the same level of 63.

A colleague of mine upon knowing this incident sent us very encouraging words:  “I am sorry to hear about this, really… I know that you as parents and family are hurting right now.  But God loves her still anyway. We do too. Things and people can change, and we hope that this will only be for a time. Who knows this may be better as she may be harmed somehow by the people who suffered too. We will keep praying about it.”   My friend even offered to visit her in the prison.

Quotable quotes on Friendship

“In prosperity, your friends know you; in adversity you know your friends.”  Author unknown

True friendship multiplies the good in life and divides its evils. Strive to have friends, for life without friends is like life on a desert island… to find one real friend in a lifetime is good fortune; to keep him is a blessing.” — Baltasar Gracian

“One of the most beautiful qualities of true friendship is to understand and to be understood.” — Lucius Annaeus Seneca

In conclusion I want you to hear one of the songs that it has been instrumental in lifting me out of melancholy brought about by my rough journey in the valley of trials and sufferings, entitled “God on the Mountain.”  To hear the song, just click the link below.

A beautiful Mountain scene with wild flowers on the foreground

God on the Mountain

Life is easy, when you’re up on the mountain

And you’ve got peace of mind

Like you’ve never known

But then things change and you’re down in the valley

Don’t lose hope for your never alone

[Chorus]

For the God on the mountain is still God in the valley

When things go wrong He’ll make them right

And the God of the good times, is still God of the bad times

And the God of the day is still God in the night

Verse 2

You talk of faith when you’re up on the mountain

Oh, but the talk comes so easy

When life’s at its best

But it’s down in the valley of trials and temptations

That’s where your faith is really put to the test

Repeat Chorus 2 times and then:

And the God of the day is still God in the night

I wrote somewhere in this blog Simply Ordinary that Christians are not immune to sufferings.  It will be of great advantage to us when we are struggling in the valley of trials and temptations to remember that seasons of darkness are normal in the Christian life.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel.   He will never leave us or forsake us when we are going through the difficult and bad times of our lives.

Remember God’s eyes are on the sparrows, not allowing a sparrow to fall to the ground.   Jesus said in Mat_10:29  Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.   Mat_10:31  Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.

His Eye is on the Sparrow

Why should I feel discouraged,
Why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart feel lonely
And long for Heav’n and home,
When Jesus is my portion?
A constant Friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches over me;
His eye is on the sparrow,
And I know He watches me.

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