I’ve been reading Little Pilgrim’s Progress to the children. Today we reached the end of Christian’s journey and the description of dying was so meaningful to me. John Bunyan compares the process of death to crossing a river, an analogy he drew from Isaiah 43:2, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you.” Here are some excerpts from the book, describing Christian and Hopeful’s last stage of the pilgrimage.
“Come, Christian, ” he [Hopeful] said, “this is our very last trouble, and it will soon be over. Let us go together, and I am sure the King will take care of us.”
So the little pilgrims went slowly down the bank and stepped into the water.
Little Christian clasped his hands together as he felt the cold waters of the Dark River rushing around his body. Hopeful kept close to him and tried to hold him up, but the little pilgrim soon lost his footing and cried out, “I am sinking! The water is all going over me!”
“No, it is only rough,” said Hopeful. “Do not be so frightened. I can feel the ground at the bottom of the river, and it is quite firm. We shall cross safely, and then we shall have no more trouble.”
“Perhaps you will cross,” whispered Christian faintly, “but I am sure I cannot. I shall never see the King, and I did so wish to live with Him always!”
“You will live with Him. Look up, Christian, and don’t think about the water. We can see everything quite clearly now. The City is full of light, and the Shining Ones are waiting for us at the gates.”
Presently little Christian opened his eyes, and as the light from the Celestial City fell upon his face he cried out suddenly, “Oh, I can see it all now! It shines like the sun, and I heard the voice of the Prince. He said, ‘I will be with you in the waters.’ “
“Then I am sure we need not be frightened,” said Hopeful. “Take hold of my hand again. The Prince will never break His promise.”
So Little Christian’s courage came back to him, and he did not faint or tremble anymore. Hand in hand the little pilgrims made their way across the Dark River, and after a time its bed seemed to grow firmer, and its waters were less rough. Then they saw that the two Shining Ones who had brought them down to the river were waiting to receive them. In a few moments the dreadful passage was over. Gentle hands drew them out of the water, and they stood safely upon the shore.
The whole time I was reading aloud, I had to stop and take deep breaths to keep myself from crying. All I could think of was Cora. She recently passed from life to death. But, then I became thankful. Thankful that she never knew the fear of dying. The pain of dying. That for her, passing through the waters was pleasant because her whole life was spent in waters. She passed from warm waters into the Living Water.
Tomorrow is one month since her birth. If for those who are dying it is like passing through the waters, then for their loved ones it is like passing through fire. I love this quote by Alana Sheeran, “What grief does is it puts us squarely in the middle of a fire, and it burns away everything that is not essential to our lives.” I guess that is why reading silly novels and listening to the radio hold no interest for me. I often wonder what was the last thing Cora heard before her heart stopped beating. Was it a senseless pop music song? My raised voice at the kids? The weather report on TV? Or me singing hymns to Jacob at bedtime?
I am being refined by fire.
1 Peter 1:7 “…so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”