Can you imagine who? John Bunyan! Gracious! I was reading his spiritual autobiography, Grace Abounding, the true story behind the allegory in Pilgrim’s Progress. The two books are natural companions. According to W.R. Owen in the introduction, “Conversion, according to Bunyan’s view of it (unlike that of some later evangelicals) was no instantaneous event or abrupt redirection of the spiritual life but a long and arduous progression.”
Arduous, indeed! His pilgrimage to grace was a tortured, tormented, harrowing, distressing, despairing, vexing, perplexing, troubled, tossed, afflicted, wringing, gnashing, twining, twisting, trembling, pining, grievous, groaning and moaning journey [descriptive words taken from the text].
Dotted among trials and temptations of the soul were a few moments of relief, some words of comfort which assuaged his fears, a sprinkled punctuation of hope. But did they last? No, no, no – back to the miry bog we went. I laughed aloud (in sympathy) when after one of those moments of sweet relief Bunyan wrote,
Reading this book felt like reading and watching The Two Towers. A year of dark nights, a constant battle with darkness, a weary, dreary struggle. I came to the point where, I admit, I wanted to slap him and say, “Stop It!” Bunyan did eventually come to the point where the chains fell off, temptations fled away and he had assurance in the work of Christ to keep his soul.
And you know what? His great struggles made him a better pastor. The section about his ministry (265 – 339 – the paragraphs are numbered) should be required reading for every pastor, really for every serious Christian. Bunyan writes that one of the causes of his protracted struggle with assurance was
Compare that to this to a reflection from Christiana:
* Grace Abounding is available to read on the internet here.*