A formidable character in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Giant Despair is the terrifying owner of Doubting Castle and its infamous dungeon where many a poor pilgrim has been trapped. Christian and Hopeful lay in the stinking darkness where the Giant beats them regularly and fills their minds with all manner of doubts. “Why should you choose life,” he scolds, “seeing it is attended by so much bitterness?”
Giant Despair whispers all kinds of things in our ears too, doesn’t he? “You’ll never amount to anything,” he hisses. “You’re messing up your family.” “God doesn’t really love you that much.” “It’s not worth it to get up this morning.” The more the lies penetrate, the deeper the darkness becomes, and the heavier the chains that shackle us to that cell in Doubting Castle.
Christian is almost fainting when he suddenly remembers,
“I have in my pocket, he said, an old key called Promise. It might just fit the lock. Try it, said Hopeful, hopefully.”
As Christian tries the dungeon door with the old key, we’re told,
“The lock went damnable hard; weak as he was, he had to work at it. But at last the key began to turn. There was a creaking and groaning, and the door swung open, and in came the light of dawn.”
Oh, the old key called Promise that we forget we have in our pocket. What hope in that remembrance! It’s too often rusty from disuse or completely forgotten, as in Christian’s case, but Christ gives all his followers this key. It’s certainly easier to lie on the dungeon floor listening to the lies than to work with that key in the terrible lock, but what fools would we be to not take advantage of this great way of escape?
This Monday morning, if we find ourselves wallowing in Doubting Castle or even hanging around its walls, let’s remember that we have a key called Promise, and though it may feel “damnable hard” at times, it will open the lock and we will breathe the fresh air.
God’s promises are true for us, Christian. I’m not sure which promise would open your lock most effectively–there are many words spoken about God’s steadfast love, his promise never to forsake us, his commitment to his church, his fulfillment of his purposes in our lives. But certainly, the best of God’s promises is Jesus himself, who conquered sin and death and threw open the doors to grace and hope and love.
“For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.” 2 Cor. 1:20
He IS the key.
The predictions you hear about your future misery and hopelessness–they’re all lies. I know you feel weak, but fumble in your pocket for that old key called Promise. And let in the dawn.