The Progress of the Pilgrim: The Swamp of Despond.

“Now I saw in my dream, that just as they had ended this talk, they drew near to a very miry swamp, which was in the midst of the plain; and they, not paying attention, fell suddenly into the bog. The name of the swamp was Despond. Here, therefore, they wallowed for a time, being greatly smeared with filth. Christian, because of the burden which was on his back—began to sink in the mire.”

Then Pliable cried out, “Ah! Christian, where are we now?” “Truly,” said Christian, “I do not know!” Being offended, Pliable angrily said to his companion, “Is this the happiness you have told me of? If we have such trouble at our first setting out—what may we expect before our journey’s end? If I can get out of here with my life—you can have your noble country without me!” And with that, Pliable, after a desperate struggle—got out of the mire on that side of the swamp which was nearest to his own house. So away he went—and Christian saw him no more. So, Christian was left in the Swamp of Despond alone; but he still struggled toward that side of the swamp which was furthest from his own house, and closest to the narrow-gate. But he could not get out, because of the heavy burden which was upon his back.” – John Bunyan

What is a swamp? It is wetland, bog or mire. It may also be called a moor.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in his story The Hound of the Baskervilles, used the Devonshire County moor as a metaphor for man’s untamed, sinful, human nature. “The moor is described as the ‘God-forsaken corner of the world.’ In other words, it lacks the heavenly brightness and instead is hellish and dark. It is mysterious territory that circulates fear,” explains one commentator.

What is Bunyan’s Swamp of Despond? It is the spiritual conviction of personal sin and the accompanying guilt. Like a swamp, moor, or bog, it drags the sinner downward into despair.

“It is where the scum and filth of the conviction of sin collects, and therefore it is called the Swamp of Despond; for as the sinner becomes aware of his lost condition, many fears and doubts and discouraging apprehensions arise in his soul. All of them together settle in the depths of this place,” explains Dr. Warren Wiersbe.

It is God alone who provides Help. Help draws Christian out of the mire, sets him on solid ground and encourages him to continue on his way. The only lasting relief from the Swamp of Despond is the Way of Holiness (Isaiah 35:8). The Way of Holiness is literally Jesus Christ (John 14:1-6).

Trusting in Christ as Savior and Lord prevents the believer from falling into the Swamp of Despond. In Christ, there are the steps of forgiveness and acceptance (I John 1:8-10).

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God,” (Psalm 42:11 ESV).

Soli deo Gloria!

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