Tag Archives: sorrow

Christiana Prepares for Her Journey

Christiana and her children

Now I saw in my dream, that this old gentleman, as he told me this story, did himself seem to be greatly affected therewith. He moreover, proceeded and said, “So Christiana called her sons together, and began thus to address herself unto them, “My sons, I have, as you may perceive, been of late under much exercise in my soul about the death of your father; not for that I doubt at all of his happiness for I am satisfied now that he is well. I have also been much affected with the thoughts of mine own state and yours, which I verily believe is by nature miserable. My carriages also to your father in his distress is a great load to my conscience; for I hardened both my own heart and yours against him, and refused to go with him on pilgrimage.”

“The thoughts of these things would now kill me outright, but that for a dream which I had last night, and but that for the encouragement that this stranger has given me this morning. Come, my children, let us pack up, and be gone to the gate that leads to the celestial country; that we may see your father, and be with him and his companions in peace, according to the laws of that land.”

Then did her children burst out into tears for joy that the heart of their mother was so inclined. So their visitor bade them farewell: and they began to prepare to set out for their journey.

Notes and Commentary

In Part 1 of The Pilgrim’s Progress, Christiana made a foolish decision to remain in the City of Destruction. She hardened her heart (as well as the hearts of her children) against her husband and refused to follow him on his pilgrimage to the Celestial City. But now in Part 2 her heart is fearful and broken. She fears judgment if she stays. She fears danger if she leaves her home to embark on a journey. Yet she has a persistent hope that she will one day share the same heavenly reward that Christian has attained. Her hope has been strengthened by a visit from Secret (the hidden work of the Spirit upon the heart). And now she holds a Letter close to her heart (assurance that she will be received at the gates to the Celestial City with joy).

Christiana’s sorrows, fears, and hopes are encouraging evidence that grace is stirring in her heart. But sorrows, fears, and hopes are all for naught if she remains in Destruction. In themselves, they provide no refuge from the coming judgment. If she and her family are to be saved, they must “pack up and be gone.” They must find “the gate that leads to the celestial country.” They must find Christ!

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The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress and images used are public domain.

Notes and Commentary for Part II ©2014, 2021 Ken Puls

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from 
the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Return to A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress Part 2

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Stirrings of Grace in a Time of Sorrow

Christiana's Sorrow

This Christiana (for that was her name from the day that she, with her children, betook themselves to a pilgrim’s life), after her husband was gone over the river, and she could hear of him no more, her thoughts began to work in her mind.

First, for that she had lost her husband, and for that the loving bond of that relation was utterly broken between them; for you know, said he to me, nature can do no less but entertain the living with many a heavy cogitation in the remembrance of the loss of loving relations. 

This, therefore, of her husband did cost her many a tear. But this was not all; for Christiana did also begin to consider with herself, whether her unbecoming behavior towards her husband was not one cause that she saw him no more, and that in such sort he was taken away from her. 

And upon this, came into her mind by swarms, all her unkind, unnatural, and ungodly carriages to her dear friend, which also clogged her conscience, and did load her with guilt. 

She was, moreover, much broken with calling to remembrance the restless groans, brinish tears, and self-bemoanings of her husband; and how she did harden her heart against all his entreaties and loving persuasions, of her and her sons, to go with him; yea, there was not anything that Christian either said to her, or did before her, all the while that his burden did hang on his back, but it returned upon her like a flash of lightning, and rent her heart in sunder. Specially, that bitter outcry of his, ‘What must I do to be saved?’ did ring in her ears most dolefully.

Then said she to her children, “Sons, we are all undone. I have sinned away your father, and he is gone; he would have had us with him, but I would not go myself. I also have hindered you of life.” With that the boys fell all into tears, and cried out to go after their father. “Oh,” said Christiana, “that it had been but our lot to go with him; then had it fared well with us beyond what it is like to do now! For though I formerly foolishly imagined concerning the troubles of your father, that they proceeded of a foolish fancy that he had, or for that he was overrun with melancholy humors; yet now it will not out of my mind, but that they sprang from another cause, to wit, for that the Light of life was given him; by the help of which, as I perceive, he has escaped the snares of death.”

Then they all wept again, and cried out, “Oh, woe worth the day!”

Notes and Commentary

Mr. Sagacity’s account of Christiana’s story begins with a salient turn of fortune. In Part 1 of The Pilgrim’s Progress, when Christian spoke of his wife and children, it was with a broken heart. At House Beautiful he shared with Charity his attempts to convince his family to flee Destruction and go with him on his journey. But, he lamented, “my wife was afraid of losing this world, and my children were given to the foolish delights of youth.” Now, following Christian’s death, as Christiana remembers her husband, it is likewise with a broken heart. Though she “did harden her heart against all his entreaties and loving persuasions,” all that he did and said has “returned upon her like a flash of lightning, and rent her heart in sunder [i.e. laid bare her heart].” She had refused to leave the City of Destruction, yet now she betakes (commits) to embark on a “pilgrim’s life.”

Continue reading Notes and Commentary

The text for The Pilgrim’s Progress
and images used are public domain
Notes and Commentary for Part II ©2014, 2021 Ken Puls

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from 
the New King James Version (NKJV) ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Return to A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress Part 2

Return to A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress Main Page

Christian’s Repentance

Christian: Good brother, be not offended; I am sorry I have brought you out of the way, and that I have put you into such imminent danger; pray, my brother, forgive me; I did not do it of an evil intent.

Hopeful: Be comforted, my brother, for I forgive you; and believe, too, that this shall be for our good.

Christian: I am glad I have with me a merciful brother; but we must not stand thus: let us try to go back again.

Hopeful: But, good brother, let me go before.

Christian: No, if you please, let me go first, that if there be any danger, I may be first therein, because by my means we are both gone out of the way.

Hopeful: No, said Hopeful, you shall not go first; for your mind being troubled may lead you out of the way again. Then, for their encouragement, they heard the voice of one saying, “Set your heart toward the highway, even the way which you went; turn again.” But by this time the waters were greatly risen, by reason of which the way of going back was very dangerous. (Then I thought that it is easier going out of the way, when we are in, than going in when we are out.) Yet they adventured to go back, but it was so dark, and the flood was so high, that in their going back they had like to have been drowned nine or ten times.

flooded meadow

When Christian realizes that he has sinned and put his brother in danger by straying from the way, he quickly repents. He owns his sin, confesses his sorrow to Hopeful, and seeks forgiveness. Though Christian had no “evil intent,” his error has brought them “out of the way” and placed them in “imminent danger.” Hopeful responds to Christian with words of comfort. He willingly offers forgiveness and encourages Christian that “this shall be for our good.”

Christian here demonstrates true repentance—a repentance born of godly grief. Paul describes such repentance in 2 Corinthians:

For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death. For observe this very thing, that you sorrowed in a godly manner: What diligence it produced in you, what clearing of yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what vehement desire, what zeal, what vindication! In all things you proved yourselves to be clear in this matter (2 Corinthians 7:10–11).

Worldly grief leads to death; godly grief leads to repentance. Worldly grief sorrows over getting caught and facing consequences; godly grief sorrows over offending God and wronging others. Worldly grief blames others and harbors bitterness; godly grief owns sin and seeks reconciliation. Worldly grief rationalizes sin and makes excuses; godly grief willingly confesses sin and is eager to make things right. Christian is quick to acknowledge and confess his sin. And he is zealous to make things right. He is not content to stand still, but desires that they get back to the right path.

As they prepare to turn back, Hopeful offers to take the lead. But Christian is eager to clear himself. He feels the weight of his mistake. He is responsible for leading them astray and so he insists on leading them back. Hopeful, however, is wary that Christian’s zeal might lead to rashness. And so, Hopeful argues that Christian should not go first.

In the midst of their dispute over leadership they hear a voice encouraging their repentance and directing them to return to the Way. The voice speaks God’s Word.

Set up signposts,
Make landmarks;
Set your heart toward the highway,
The way in which you went.
Turn back, O virgin of Israel,
Turn back to these your cities.
(Jeremiah 31:21)

The voice of Scripture is significant. If we are to know the right way to walk, we must look to God’s Word. If we are to recognize when we stray from the right way, we must look to God’s Word. If we are to faithfully lead others to find and follow the right way, we must point them to God’s Word.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16–17).

God’s Word lays out a clear path for us when we stray. We need to be quick to acknowledge and own our sins.

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8–9).

We need to be quick to confess and seek forgiveness when we sin against others.

Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (James 5:16).

We need to be willing to lovingly rebuke one another when we see sin, and even more willing to forgive one another and be reconciled.

Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him (Luke 17:3).

And we need to humble ourselves and turn away from pride that would hinder us from owning our sin and offering forgiveness.

When pride comes, then comes shame;
But with the humble is wisdom.
(Proverbs 11:2)

Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up (1 John 4:10).

Though Christian and Hopeful attempt to return to the Way, they are not able.  It is still dark, so they are unable to see. And now the floods are rising up and covering the meadow, so they are nearly drowned. The floods represent the sorrows, distress and anguish that often accompanies the consequences of our sin, even when we confess our sin and seek forgiveness. Though Christian is blessed with a “merciful brother,” they still must face the reality that they are “out of the way” and in “immanent danger.” The way back will not be easy. Bunyan notes here: “it is easier going out of the way, when we are in, than going in when we are out.”

In the next post we will see the great danger that now looms near the pilgrims.

A Guide to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress
See TOC for more posts from this commentary

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.