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Pilgrim’s Progress Discussion, March 27

Categories: Library Blog

I would venture a guess that most of us reading Bunyan together have finished Part 1 and are into Part 2 (if not, don’t worry, still lots of time to finish before the movie and the ACG on April 28th).

Aside from portions of the Bible, Bunyan’s description of crossing the River and entering into the King’s City may be the most powerful description of heaven I have ever read. It may be healthy to read it monthly, even weekly, and so ‘set our minds on things above’.

Today I was reading in the Gospel of John, sixteenth chapter. Jesus says, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.”

True to form, the disciples proceed to debate what he meant by all of this (much like Jesus’ modern day disciples). Jesus continued, “Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.

Surely this is most directly about the cross – the disciples will mourn at the death of their Master while the world rejoices. But these words apply to the Christian life too, as Pilgrim’s take up their cross and follow Christ, often enduring grief, anguish of heart, suffering, and loss along the way. This passage and Pilgrim’s Progress remind us that a) This world’s pleasures are temporary and should be treated as such, and b) This world’s griefs are temporary too and should be endured as such.

Throughout Bunyan’s work, Christian’s vision of the eternal joy sustains him. It helps him endure the Slough of Despond, Doubting Castle, the Valley of Humiliation and more. And, his eternal vision helps him say no to the pleasures of Vanity Fair. Having persevered through these trials, he enter’s into the joy he had previously enviosioned by faith.

In the beginning of Part two, we get more. Christiana, is convicted of her sin and commits to become a pilgrim herself. Considering the difficulties that lie ahead, she says says, “The bitter must come before the sweet, and that also will make the sweet the sweeter.”

This may be my new favorite line from the book. It brings to mind a metaphor: As we endure grief and anguish of heart, suffering and pain we’re digging a deep well. Living in the well is hard, especially the deeper we dig. But in the kingdom these wells are filled with eternal joys – the deeper the well, the deeper the joy.

Which do you find harder, recognizing the temporary nature of trials, grief, heartache or recognizing the temporary nature of worldly pleasures? How does Christian’s and Christiana’s mindset help you face today more resolutely?