A Guide to John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress

Notes and Commentary

by Ken Puls

on John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress

Part Two

Christiana's Sorrow

5. Stirrings of Grace in a Time of 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.”

Christiana’s new commitment is highlighted by her name. Christiana, identifies her, like her husband, as a follower of Christ.

And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts 11:24).

In Part 1, Christian told the Porter at House Beautiful that his name was once Graceless. His old name had identified him with his natural state—one born in sin (Psalm 51:5) and alienated from God (Ephesians 4:17–18). His name was changed when he set out to be a pilgrim. Graceless was also the name of, “a town about two miles off Honesty” in Part 1, home to Temporary and Turnback. To be without grace is to be “without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). But to find grace is to find Christ!

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:13).

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

As Christiana wrestles with the news of Christian’s death, we see the first stirrings of grace in her life. We learn that “after her husband was gone over the river, and she could hear of him no more, her thoughts began to work in her mind.”

At first her life is flooded with sorrows:

1) She experiences loss and loneliness. The loving bond that she and Christian shared in their marriage is now “utterly broken,” severed by Christian’s death, and made more unbearable by discord over his pilgrimage that was left unresolved.

2) She is weighed down with guilt. She remembers “her unbecoming behavior towards her husband.” All the “unkind, unnatural, and ungodly” words she has spoken begin to swarm in her mind and clog her conscience so she can think of nothing else.

3) She feels real remorse. She does not see a way to repair the breach left over from her marriage. She believes that she has “sinned away” her husband, hindered the lives of her children, and squandered their best prospect for happiness. She remembers Christian’s sorrow over his sin, especially his crying out: “What must I do to be saved?” She remembers also Christian’s tears and sorrow on her behalf and she regrets closing her heart to him and remaining behind.

Christiana has come to the end of herself and confesses that she is undone. But it is here in the midst of the deepest of sorrows that God meets her with grace. Consider how she responds to her sorrows:

1) She gives evidence of true repentance. She does not harden her heart against God or blame God for Christian’s death. She doesn’t blame Christian for her present struggles or make excuses for her sin. She admits that she was foolish in her assessment of Christian’s troubles and that she misrepresented him to her children. She readily owns and confesses her sins. Where she has wronged her family, she acknowledges her sin before her children.

2) She has genuine hope. She now believes that what Christian told her is true. His journey to escape Destruction was not in vain. He did indeed reach his eternal destination—the Celestial City.

3) She looks to the Light of life. Just as Evangelist pointed Christian to the Shining Light in Part 1, the memory of Christian now points Christiana to the Light of Life. As in Part 1, the Light represents the Word of God as it lights our path.

Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.
(Psalm 119:105)

It is that light of life that points the Way to Christ.

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Christian looked to God’s perfect Word to find the Way. He “escaped the snares of death” and attained eternal life.

The law of the wise is a fountain of life,
To turn one away from the snares of death.
(Proverbs 13:14)

He was a “doer of the word” who heard the warnings and fled from Destruction.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does (James 1:22-25). 

Now it is Christiana’s turn to do likewise. She and her children must now hear and heed the Word of God.

Continue reading 06. Christiana's Dreams

Return to 04. News About Christian's Wife and Children


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.

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