08 January 2013

Pilgrim's Progress: The Slough of Despond

As they headed along the way, Christian and Pliable came upon the Slough of Despond and became hopelessly stuck.  Bunyan described this as a bog, though I always thought of it like quicksand, where the more they struggled, the more hopeless they became.  Regardless, the leisurely walk they were having was suddenly interrupted. Their ease was no longer.

As I read this section, a few things stuck out to me. First, the Christian journey is not always easy, but is sometimes fraught with great difficulty, as we will most assuredly see as the tale progresses.  Second, many people expect that Christianity will be free of suffering.

When they became stuck, it became clear that Pliable was upset with their predicament and that Christian did not have easy answers for him.  This burden was not what Pliable expected. He says to Christian, "Is this the happiness you have told me all this while of? If we have such ill speed at our first setting out, what may we expect between this and our journey's end? May I get out again with my life, you shall possess the brave country alone for me!" He does get out and he disappears.

God never promised that the Christian journey would be easy.  Certainly Bunyan saw that in his time.  He was repeatedly imprisoned for preaching the gospel and refusing to recant.  Throughout the world today, Christians also face significant persecution and it will continue to be so if scripture is to be believed.  Regrettably, too many preachers throughout the world today preach a health and wealth gospel--if you name it and claim it, it shall be yours.  If you believe strongly enough, you can have your best life now.  These are damnable lies designed to detract from the true gospel.  Bunyan understood this very well.  Pray that more Christians would understand it today.

    I waited patiently for the LORD;
        he inclined to me and heard my cry.
    He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
        out of the miry bog,
    and set my feet upon a rock,
        making my steps secure.
    He put a new song in my mouth,
        a song of praise to our God.
    Many will see and fear,
        and put their trust in the LORD.

-Psalm 40:1-3

Have you ever found yourself thinking that following Christ must mean that you will be healthy or wealthy?

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