In chapter one of Pilgrim’s Progress we met Christian who started out on a journey after reading a book that opened his eyes to the impending destruction of his town. A man named Evangelist comes to guide him towards a narrow gate.
However, as he is running towards the narrow gate, he and his traveling companion fall into the Swamp of Despondence. The swamp is described by Helper in this way:
“This muddy swamp is the kind of place that cannot be mended. It’s the low place into which the scum and filth that accompanies the conviction of sin run continually. It is therefore called the Swamp of Despondence; for commonly as the sinner is awaked about his lost condition there will rise up in his soul many fears, doubts and discouraging apprehensions, which all flow together and settle in this place. and that’s the reason for the worthlessness of this ground.”
Help goes on to explain that the King of the place does not wish for the patch to be around so he has dispatched his workers here to fix it, and they have worked on it for over 2,000 years! He claims that millions of wholesome instructions have been swallowed up in it. Yet it remains because of the continual flowing of despondency from people.
It is easy to fall into this swamp as believers. Bunyan even wrote later in this chapter that ‘every time the weather changes’ more despondency flows into the swamp. Isaiah remind us that we have a God who will save us from such things.
Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” (Isa 35:4)
Hebrews reminds us that while we run this race called faith, we are going to get tangled up by many things of this world.
Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses let us throw off everything that hinders, and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Heb 12:1)
I know I find myself in this swamp. There are many times that I allow my circumstances to overshadow my faith and thankfully there are passages all over Psalms to help me find the firm footing I need to continue in my journey of faith.
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. (Psa 40:1-2)
Have you struggled through the swamp of despondency? What verse from the bible helped you find your firm footing again? Do you feel like you are currently wading in the swamp? Join in the discussion and, I pray, be blessed.
The version of Pilgrim’s Progress that I am currently reading is published by Bridge-Logos 1998, ISBN 9780882707570.