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Pastor reflects on walk ‘Through the Valleys’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–There is a good chance things aren’t going too well for you if the local funeral director takes you to lunch to recruit your business. After being diagnosed with cancer, Ernest Easley learned how to cope with difficult situations like that one — but he learned more about trusting God.

In 1998, Easley, who at the time was pastor of First Baptist Church in Odessa, Texas, was diagnosed with a fast-growing throat cancer called squamous cell carcinoma. After a knot was discovered on his lymph node, the 40-year-old pastor tumbled into what he describes as “the valleys.”

Easley’s struggle with cancer and his eventual healing inspired his new book, “Through the Valleys,” from Broadman & Holman Publishers of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The 44 radiation treatments and six months on a feeding tube gave Easley plenty of material to work with in this personal look at how the trials of life impact us and the ones we love. Despite the emotional and physical pain, Easley recounts how God blessed him through the cancer and allowed him to share his testimony with others. Easley now is pastor of Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga.

“The mountaintop experiences are good,” he writes. “But the valleys are where we grow. The valleys deepen our roots of faith. The valleys drive us to God.”

Each chapter explores a different valley that Easley encountered in his battle with cancer. The valleys included uncertainty, fear, detours, suffering, storms, discouragement, confusion, correction and sickness.

“If you live long enough,” he writes, “sooner or later, you will find yourself in a valley…. The valley of depression. The valley of financial ruin. The valley of divorce … and the list goes on.”

The book includes numerous references to biblical characters — such as Job and Jonah — who encountered major challenges in their lives. But Easley also shares how God restores, heals and helps His people to become stronger through difficult times.

“Victory comes through the valleys,” he writes. “Though it is often difficult to realize when you are there, every valley has value. God teaches us things in the valleys that we would never learn on the mountaintops.”

Easley admits he didn’t always see things this way. As he fought through the physical pain, all of the medicine and radiation treatments, he sometimes struggled with questions of why the Lord allowed him and his family to carry this burden for so many months.

“I wondered why God did not step in and do something about my cancer,” Easley writes. “Why wouldn’t He touch me like He touched the leper who was instantly cured? I knew that He could do it.”

Though God is capable of healing, Easley writes, the Lord is not obligated to heal in every situation. He learned to depend more on the faithful prayers of friends and family. His wife, Julie, sent out routine e-mails to keep prayer supporters informed of her husband’s progress and setbacks.

The true healing began when Easley learned to trust the Lord no matter what the outcome. He knows the cancer could return at any time but is thankful he hasn’t had to take any funeral directors up on offers for a free service just yet.

“Will God heal Ernest Easley if his cancer returns?” he asks in the book. “Perhaps, if it will bring Him the most glory, He will…. Will I trust Him with the outcome? Absolutely.”
Easley’s book is available at LifeWay Christian Stores or online at lifewaystores.com.

    About the Author

  • Shawn Hendricks