The rescue from drowning in despair

Now I saw in my dream, that just as they had ended this talk, they drew nigh to a very miry slough that was in the midst of the plain: and they being heedless, did both fall suddenly into the bog. The name of the slough was Despond. Here, therefore, they wallowed for a time, being grievously bedaubed with the dirt; and Christian, because of the burden that was on his back, began to sink in the mire. — Pilgrim’s Progress, by Paul Bunyan

A long time ago I made the commitment to memorize scripture on a daily basis — either to memorize some new passage or to review those I had already memorized. That led to memorizing chapters, psalms, and NT books. Am I glad that I did this! After hearing the words, “You have a fatal illness (ALS) and you’re going to die,” it at first takes your breath away. It is stunning. That’s the human response. The spiritual response in my case has come from reciting and meditating on the scriptures. They speak what is true and dependable.

I have concluded that had I not practiced memorizing scripture long before, I could have sunk low into despair. I also believe that in the days and hours after learning of one’s pending death, a person does not have the energy or singleness of mind to begin attempting to memorize and meditate.

And much of this has not to do with me being a super saint. God blessed me with the opportunity to spend much of my adult life teaching high school students and encouraging them to memorize scripture. For over 25 years I learned and reviewed the important passages year after year with new classes of students as they arrived.

Psalm 1 has it all right — “Blessed is the man — who meditates on his law day and night. Whatever he does prospers. . .”

I have been reviewing memorized portions of the Bible each day. And review many of them as I go to sleep each night.

One that keeps coming to me is John 14:1-6. “Do not let your heart be troubled. You trust in God. Trust also in me. In my Father’s house there are many rooms. If it were not so I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go there to prepare a place for you, I will come back for you to take you with me so that you may also be where I am. . . .I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Another is Romans 8 — that astounding statement by Paul. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Because what the law was powerless to do, in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own son in the likeness of sinful man, to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, so the the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who live not according to the sinful nature but according the the Spirit.”

Just imagine. All the righteous requirements of the law have been fully met in me — as though I fully kept them all, from the day of my birth until now!

Just imagine also! God ordained his son to become a sin offering, so much so that it is said that he condemned sin in sinful man (Jesus). This coincides with 2 Corinthians 2:15: “God made him to become sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

(Graphic, “Slough of Despond,” ID 79973 is used via license from The Florida Center for Instructional Technology at

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