Saturday, September 10

Slough, Great Thou Art

During one episode in John Bunyan's classic, Pilgrim's Progress, Christian seems to be hopelessly mired in a "Slough of Despond.” No amount of effort seems sufficient to redeem him from such a perilous plight, so Christian resigns himself to a sad, sedentary demise. Suddenly, though, out of nowhere, a fellow pilgrim named Help comes to the rescue. With a single reach of the hand and a hearty tug, Help pulls Christian out of the slough and onto safe ground once again. In short order, both pilgrims are off and on their way, their destination now one trial closer than before.

If for no other reason than for clarity's sake, it is a good thing Bunyan set this scene in the early seventeenth century. Had he written it in contemporary America, the scenario would have to have been substantially more complex. Help would not have been able to just walk right up to the edge of the slough and yank Christian out. Oh, my, no!

Instead, Help would probably have been required to submit an environmental impact statement on pilgrim removal. In triplicate, of course. Upon receipt of Environmental Protection Agency approval, Help then would have been required to conduct a sectional opinion survey or, perhaps, call for a community-wide referendum, thus securing permission from the citizenry to undertake such a bold course of action. He would have had to gain approval from local, state, and federal FEMA officials, received disaster management instruction and certification from the Red Cross, and have undergone special psychological counseling and gender-specific sensitivity training. Next, he would have had to retain a lawyer, to protect him from criminal and/or civil liabilities; a press secretary, to schedule all future media appearances; and a literary agent, to find the best market for this “life story,” tentatively entitled Slough, Great Thou Art.

Finally, since he was a devout man, he would have had to return to his prayer closet in order to ascertain rightfully “God’s will” in the matter.

Meanwhile, of course, Christian would have expired in the slough, thus writing a premature and an entirely unsatisfactory ending to the tale.

Somehow we have complicated even the simplest of human transactions. Deals are no longer sealed with a handshake. They are dependent upon clause after clause of legalese. Marriages are no longer bound by vows. They are consummated by bilateral prenuptial property contracts. Helping is no longer a matter of neighborly concern. It is stipulated, conditioned, and administered by legislation and litigation. Humanism's grand scheme has backfired and, as a result, our society is less human than ever before.

All the finger-pointing, political-posturing, and blame-shifting we’re now seeing in the aftermath of Katrina is a stark reminder of that. On the other hand, the remarkable mobilization of churches all across America to help those who have suffered great loss begin to dig out, rebuild, and recover, is a beautiful study in contrast.

Biblical charity acts as an immutable humanizing force in the midst of such modern inhumanity. Biblical charity reaches across all barriers and defies all odds to rescue, without any delay, those caught in the sloughs of despond and deprivation. Biblical charity extends a steady, ready hand in times of need.


Nate Shurden said...

Dr. Grant,

I want to thank you, the Nashville presbytery, and everyone in the Franklin/Nashville area who have been faithful to pray for us and assist us as we attempt to rebuild our lives after Hurricane Katrina. The work, I'm afraid, has only just begun.

To give a quick update, my family in Laurel, MS, (about 100 miles from the coast) is fine. Though they experienced sustained winds of 110mph and gusts upwards to 130mph, they sustained only roof damage and water damage to a portion of their house. They are still without power and probably will be for another week.

I have relatives and friends who were not so fortunate, however. Many have lost their homes entirely and will have to start from scratch. Many more have lost their jobs and will have no source of income for a while. Driving around with different relief efforts last week, I can tell you that the extent of the damage is hardly describable. And I for sure have not seen the worst.

The latest news is that roughly 1,000 homes in the Laurel area were completely destroyed and upwards to 5,000 (70%) sustained some damage and will require substantial rebuilding. As you can imagine, much of the town is still without power, and gas (as even you know) is very difficult to find.

There are many stories I could tell you of the Lord's work through all this, and when time permits, I will. But until then, please continue to pray for us in the days to come, that God would grant us the grace to trust Him when we do not understand what He is doing--things "too wonderful" for us.

I will attempt to keep you and the rest of our friends in Franklin/Nashville informed.

Blessings to you.


gileskirk said...


We have been and we will continue to pray. But, we're also committed to putting feet to our prayers. We have one team of 60 volunteers in Mississippi this week and we'll have additional teams going out the next three weeks. This is the time for the church to be the church!

Dorothy Marner said...

Hi Nate,

We've been trying to track you down. Kelly, Rachel, Kathryn, and Elisabeth are in Oklahoma right now spending time together. We have been thinking of you and are so glad to hear that you and your family are okay. How are Christy and the babies?

My church (Kathryn's) is raising support to send relief and workers down to help. Can you e-mail with your numbers so that I can call you and find out how we can help? (

We love you!
The girls.