Living By Faith Blog


Biblical, battle-tested, real-life help for "living by faith in the Son of God" (Galatians 2:20). — Steve Fuller

How You Can Escape The Giant Of Despair (from John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress”)

The Giant of Despair

From time to time every believer faces this Giant — when the future looks hopeless, the present is worse, and we feel like failures.

So when we find ourselves facing this Giant — how can we escape?

John Bunyan to the rescue

In 1678 a cobbler named John Bunyan wrote “Pilgrim’s Progress,” which describes how a man named Christian comes to faith in Christ and travels to the Celestial City.

Friday night at my home group someone mentioned a section in this book where Christian finds himself in Doubting Castle as a prisoner of the Giant Despair.  It was so encouraging I thought I’d share it here.

Turning off God’s path

The problem started when Christian and Hopeful saw that God’s path was becoming rocky and steep with trials.  So they turned from God’s path into the lush grass of Bypath Meadow.

Before they knew it night had fallen, and because they could not find their way back to God’s path, they decided to stop and sleep.

Doubting Castle

But early the next morning the Giant Despair walked by and saw that they were asleep on his property.

So he grabbed them, threw them into the dungeon of Doubting Castle, beat them mercilessly, and left them suffering in the cold, wet, dark dungeon.

Then next day he returned and said they might as well kill themselves, because otherwise they would continue suffering terribly in the dungeon.  And again he brutally beat them — and left them to suffer.

That happened again the next day.  And the next day.

So there they were.  Thick dungeon walls.  Locked cell door.  Powerless before a sadistic Giant.

They were without hope.


That’s what despair feels like.

We face problems and see no way out —

  • Maybe it’s an area of sin that brings constant defeat.
  • Maybe it’s unemployment during an economic downturn.
  • Maybe it’s wayward children who are breaking your heart.
  • Maybe it’s — ________________ (you fill in the blank).

When we face the Giant Despair we feel like there’s no hope — no way out.

So what did Christian and Hopeful do?

They prayed

They prayed from midnight almost until daybreak.

They prayed — and God answered.

Christian suddenly remembered —

What a fool am I, thus to lie in a stinking dungeon, when I may as well walk at liberty!

I have a key in my bosom called Promise, that will, I am persuaded, open any lock in Doubting Castle.

The Key of Promise

So they tried the key in the dungeon door — it opened!

They went out and tried the key in the castle door — it opened, too!

So they escaped from Doubting Castle and the Giant Despair — by using the Key of Promise.

Bunyan’s comment

Here’s a note John Bunyan included at the bottom of the page —

Precious promise!  The promises of God in Christ are the life of faith, and the quickeners of prayer.

Oh how oft do we neglect God’s great and precious promises in Christ Jesus, while doubts and despair keep us prisoners.

Try this

Next time you find yourself in Doubting Castle suffering under Giant Despair —

  • Find a promise in God’s Word that addresses your situation.  I’ve used Psalm 50:15; Isaiah 64:4; Lamentations 3:22-23; Jeremiah 32:40; Romans 8:32; 2Cor 4:16-18; Hebrews 4:16.
  • Ask the Father, in Jesus’ name, for the work of the Holy Spirit in your heart to make this promise real to you.
  • Pray over that promise — preach to yourself that promise — trust that promise — ask God to fulfill that promise.

This might take some effort.  After all, faith is called a fight (1Tim 6:12).

But as you do this — you will feel the Holy Spirit using the Key of Promise to free you from Doubt and Despair.

Remember the Key

For four days Christian and Hopeful languished in Doubting Castle being beaten by Giant Despair — before Christian remembered the Key of Promise.

Don’t make the same mistake.  The moment you find yourself in Doubt and Despair —

Remember the key — use the key — and escape.

Which promises did you use — and what did God do?

I’d love to hear — leave a reply below.  Thanks.

If you know someone suffering in Doubting Castle under the Giant Despair — email this to them using the “share” button below.  Or use the other buttons to share it on your favorite social media.

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And here are some related posts you might find helpful —


(Picture is from by Zela.)

Category: Hopeless or Discouraged?


3 Responses

  1. Ruth Wildermoth says:

    I would like to receive the weekly posts please

    • Steve Fuller says:

      Hi Ruth,

      Unfortunately, I am not able to add your email address to the weekly posts list. But if you could use the button on the right (where it says email/subscribe) that will sign you up.

      If you don’t get the email on Saturday, please let me know.

      In Christ,

      Steve Fuller

  2. Anonymous says:

    I’m not a Christian (indeed, I’m an atheist), but I like Bunyan’s book. I can also empathise with the feelings expressed in Psalm 69. While I don’t share your hope, as a Stoic I recognise that it’s important to address feelings of despair and recognise that they are just that – feelings – and that we can always take control of our feelings.

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