Get A Foothold
The Slough of Despond (or the depressing swamp)
I highly recommend Kindle Fire, now I can buy books on Amazon that I couldn't find in the bookstore (and actually keep track of everything). On the recommended booklist I found John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. Since I've only read the children's version, I bought it and read the first few chapters. The book is a rich allegory about a man named Christian who embarks on a journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. Each character and destination on the way symbolizes aspects of the Christian walk and I'm positive that for every one connection I made, there were two that I missed. One passage that I did pick up on symbolized a familiar theme in my life. As Christian begins his journey to the Celestial City, he encounters the Slough of Despond. Christian nears the end of the mire but can't pull himself out because of the burden on his back. A man named Help (the book stays true to its allegorical nature) pulls him out of the pit and asks why he couldn't escape. Christian tells him of the burden that weighs him down.
What Are We to Do?
Some scholars believe Bunyan meant the burden to be the weight of sin in terms of guilt over forgiven sin, others the weight of unforgiven sin itself. There is more than one English version and Charles Spurgeon himself has an opinion on it, but for our sake, we'll address the burden as guilt over sin already forgiven. Mr. Help knows that many Christians go through the Slough of Despond one way or another, in fact, there might be a few sloughs on the way to the Celestial City. Often, the guilt of sin can weigh a Christian down. Even though sin is forgiven in the regenerate, issues of guilt, shame, and fear can still plague us. Help asks Christian if he used the footholds in the slough. Apparently there were footholds throughout the mire, but one had to know beforehand where they were or they might sink.
You're probably guessing by now what the footholds are and if you guessed the promises of God, pat yourself on the back you literary scholar. The best way to make it through is by calling to mind the promises of God. It's important to remind ourselves of these promises frequently so they stay with us when we enter the slough. It's called Despond for a reason, and we can't always tell when we're approaching the muck, but for whatever reason we end up there, the promises are just as true when we're in the middle of it. A common theme in the Old Testament is remembrance. Israel is told time and time again to remember the promises and the works of God toward them. This helped them stay on the right path. When I'm dealing with guilt, trials, or battling anxiety and depression, I fight through despondency with promises like these:
- There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. -Romans 8:1-2
- There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. - 1 Corinthians 10:13
- If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. - 1 John 1:9
- For I am confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will continue to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. -Phillipians 1:6
If you want, post some of your favorite promises in the comment section, you might come across one you haven't seen yet!