In our last Post 1920 article, we reviewed that moment in The Pilgrim’s Progress where Christian encountered the two men who sought to defect from the King’s highway, that they might return to the City of Destruction. It was from here that Christian, with his sword drawn, proceeded into the darkness before him – the very darkness which led to the flight of those two false witnesses. In that post we examined the following purposes for trials: 1. To strengthen and purify the children of God by them, and 2. To separate out the chaff of worldly men from the true wheat of Christ’s church. Of course there are other great purposes that God has in sending His children through the difficult valleys of life. One very important reason is so that we would better comprehend God’s goodness as well as surpassing glory of His kingdom. This is yet another important lesson that was set before Christian, when he approached the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Overall, the Valley of the Shadow of Death represents all forms of trials, tribulations and stumbling blocks present in this world, and when Christian came to this dark valley, he made this very simple but important confession: “…this is my way to the desired haven.”
Chr. But what have you seen? said Christian.
Men. Seen! why the valley itself, which is as dark as pitch: we also saw there the hobgoblins, satyrs, and dragons of the pit: we heard also in that valley a continual howling and yelling, as of a people under unutterable misery, who there sat bound in affliction and irons: and over that valley hang the discouraging clouds of confusion: Death also doth always spread his wings over it. In a word, it is every whit dreadful, being utterly without order. Job 3:5; 10:22.
Chr. Then, said Christian, I perceive not yet, by what you have said, but that this is my way to the desired haven. Psalm 44:18,19; Jer. 2:6.
Men. Be it thy way; we will not choose it for ours.
Bunyan, who wrote Pilgrim’s Progress from the Bedford county jail, was no stranger to the truth that “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). He wholly embraced the truth that all of the children of God must hold dear: that Christ and His kingdom are of far greater worth than any trials that we might face in this life.
It is very much a part of our natural weakness to focus on difficulties and trials when they come, rather than considering the the loving purposes of God in it all (Hebrews 12) or even the riches of Christ that await us in future glory. Yes, this is our tendency, however the antidote is to be so convinced of the goodness of what awaits us in future glory, that we are convinced that earthly trials cannot even compare:
Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Every time that I read this verse, I must confess that the saying of such words is much easier than their application. The Apostle’s language is quite profound. He said that he did consider [logizomai – to think carefully or reason] that future glory was so wonderful, so glorious and so incalculable that the act of comparing it to present sufferings is – simply not worth it. It is as if Paul had said (paraphrastically): “I won’t even waste my time trying to compare the two.” His emphatic negation of the value of present suffering is made clear when he says ouk axia [without value]. The primitive concept of the word axios is that of weighing something so as to determine its value. In a sense, Paul tells us this: “don’t bother getting out the scales.” Obviously his point is not that we should forsake our contemplation of the precious value of Christ and His kingdom (may it never be), but what he is saying is that our present suffering in this world is so relatively small that it would be like placing a feather on one end of the scale in opposition to an M1 tank on the other.
In other words, don’t bother.
His statement wonderfully illustrates for us the truth that our precious Savior; His eternal love; His riches; His redemption and His eternal kingdom are of such surpassing value that nothing that this world can throw at us is even worthy to be compared to our Lord and His kingdom. We cannot know what trials await us as the disciples of Jesus Christ. We will all face the Valley of the Shadow of Death to varying degrees in life because “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” But in it all, let this be our clear resolve through it all: this is our way to the desired haven.