Then Christian and Hopeful outwent them again, and went till they came to a delicate plain called Ease, where they went with much content; but that plain was but narrow, so they were quickly got over it.
Have you ever wondered: Why does life have to be so hard? Admittedly, we are sinners living in a fallen world. But we have come to Christ whose “yoke is easy” and whose “burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). So why does “the way which leads to life” have to be “difficult” (Matthew 7:14)? Why do we have to walk through so many troubles and trials in this world?
Many times in The Pilgrim’s Progress Bunyan has made it clear that the life of a Christian is not easy. Already Christian has faced many difficulties. We have seen him weighed down with his burden, mired in the Slough of Despond, diverted by Worldly Wiseman, slowed by Hill Difficulty, confronted by Apollyon, confounded in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and tried in the town of Vanity. Now Christian and Hopeful come to the Plain of Ease. Here the Way is simple and they walk “with much content.” At this place in the allegory Bunyan emphasizes his point through brevity. All too quickly the pilgrims cross the plain and it is past.
The Plain of Ease represents times in life when all seems well and troubles are few. Spiritual warfare is at an ebb and peace and contentment abound. God grants such times for our rest and refreshment, but even with ease there is attending danger. Bunyan identifies this danger in his description of the plain.
The plain of Ease is delicate. In other words, it is subtle, not prominent. When crossing the plain, the plain itself is hardly perceptible. Unlike trials and troubles that disrupt our lives and demand our attention, ease doesn’t intrude or interrupt. Ease leaves us alone to settle in and relax in our comforts.
The plain is also narrow. It is short-lived and quickly traversed. Days of ease are fleeting—gone before we really notice them or appreciate them. It is easy to drift through days of ease. Our determination wanes, our guard comes down, and too easily we begin to forget just how much we need God.
Scripture exhorts us to remember:
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits.
Remember His marvelous works which He has done,
His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth,
In Deuteronomy Moses warned Israel not to forget God when they enjoyed the ease and comforts of the Promised Land.
“So it shall be, when the Lord your God brings you into the land of which He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give you large and beautiful cities which you did not build, houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, hewn-out wells which you did not dig, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant—when you have eaten and are full—then beware, lest you forget the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage” (Deuteronomy 6:10–12).
We are always desperately dependent upon God for His grace and mercy. But in times of ease we can too easily forget our dependence on God and fail to thank Him for His mercies as we should. In times of trouble when the way is steep and hard, our need is more evident. Because the Plain of Ease is delicate, God, in His mercy, often makes it narrow.
The subtlety of ease is a danger. But there is another danger that lies close to ease. In the next post, we will examine a second hazard that threatens the pilgrims: a little hill at the further side of the plain called Lucre.
A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
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The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary ©2017 Ken Puls
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.