By The Revd Dr Peter Sanlon
On his journey to the Celestial City, Christian faced problems and difficulties. Some of these were his own fault – when he was not paying attention to the Word’s directions, he fell into the ‘Slough of Despond.’ Despite the problem of wallowing about in the quicksand being the consequence of his carelessness, God did not leave the pilgrim there to perish. God sent a character called ‘Help’ – to grant what his name suggests.
After asking Christian to recall the goal of his pilgrimage, Help suggests he look more carefully at his surroundings and his heart:
HELP. But why did not you look for the steps?
CHRISTIAN. Fear followed me so hard, that I fled the next way, and fell in.
This is often the kind of help struggling pilgrims need. Help to look more carefully at the provision of strength and escape God has granted – but which fear blinds us to. We easily get so caught up in situations, stresses and struggles, that we cannot even see the steps out of the mire which God has left for us. Is there a provision God has granted you, which right now your struggles blind you to? The Bible. The Church family. A loved hymn. The steps back to spiritual vitality are there – but sometimes our fears blind us to them.
Once Christian could see the way out of the Slough of Despond, Help offered practical assistance:
“HELP. Then said he, Give me thy hand; so he gave him his hand, and he drew him out, and set him upon sound ground, and bid him go on his way.”
We can be in such dire straits in our journey to heaven, that we need the help of others in the Church family to assist us in practically making use of the means God provides to strengthen us.
This brief scene in Pilgrim’s Progress reminds us that we ought never look down upon or despise the struggling Christian. Even if the trials are self inflicted — God would send Help and we may be the ones he sends to Help!
As we look around our church family — is there somebody who might be struggling? Wallowing about as it were, in the Slough of Despond. Pray that you could be sensitive to those who need Help, and courageous enough to offer it. And if you are the one in the Slough of Despond — be willing to ask for God’s Help and look for it in the people God sends you in your Church. God sent His Son to save us, and continually sends us his Church members to Help us to rely on His Son. We all need Help sometimes and we can all offer somebody Help.
Rev. Dr. Peter Sanlon is minister of Emmanuel Anglican Church, Tunbridge Wells: www.emmanuelanglican.uk