Friday, March 10

When Progress is Slow

"I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world! " --John 16:33

"Did not I direct thee the way to the little Wicketgate?"
"Yes, dear Sir," said Christian.
"How is it then that thou art so quickly turned aside? For thou art now out of the way."
"I met with a Gentleman so soon as I had got over the Slough of Despond, who pursuaded me that I might...find a man that could take off my burden."

From John Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress

Not unlike Christian in the Classic allegory, each of us finds that at one time or another, we are trudging through the Slough of Despond. And, just as Christian is informed by Help, we know that it is not the Maker's desire that the Slough should even exist. However, just because we are God's beloved children, does not mean that we get to escape the perils and trials of this fallen world in which we must temporarily dwell.

Right now I find myself looking at the steep slopes of the "Hill of Difficulty". My heart is filled with trepidation as I realize that there are no shortcuts. There are no easy outs. Yet even in those moments where my heart catches in my throat and my stomach starts to sink, I am comforted to know that the same One who enables the deer to scale the heights (as the Psalmist says) is the same One who who be my ever-present strength in times of trouble.

Trouble comes in many forms. For me it often manifests itself as a battle not only against my physical health, but my emotional stability as well. My physical resources and stamina are not that far removed from my spiritual/emotional stamina. When one suffers, they both suffer. The same is true for everyone. God did not create us to be only physical creatures, nor did he desire that we live an ethereal, solely spiritual (no pun intended) existence. Because of this, our physical selves are deeply connected to our emotional and spiritual parts as well. An imbalance in one of those areas can affect the others.

The harder we try to fix one of those aspects while disregarding the others, the more difficult it becomes to feel "centered" or "whole". Furthermore, when we think we can fix something on our own without God's help, we deceive ourselves. In my own life, God has provided direct help, but more often he uses the gifts and talents of others to lend a hand. I am surrounded by a tremendous support system made up of my family, friends, doctors and even co-workers who genuinely want what is best for me. On the days when I am too mired in the Slough of Despond to keep my eyes focused on the light that lies beyond yonder Wicketgate, God sends me help in any variety of forms. For this I am grateful.

Even when we go through patches where progress is slow, it is important that we continue to move forward. The life of a Christian is truly a pilgrimage, and a challenging one at that. This pilgrimage gives me purpose, for it is only in serving something or Someone greater than myself that I find meaning and happiness in life; it's just not always an instantaneous thing. I have a feeling that that's just how God intended it to be. There is much joy to be found in the journey.



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