In the famous fictional work Purgatorio, by Dante Alighieri, we find the two central characters of the story, Dante and Virgil, climbing a steep mountain with Heaven’s entrance at it’s peak. As the climbing becomes more and more strenuous for Dante, Virgil tells him to stop and rest every once in a while and look back at his progress. He points out that, “oftentimes, a backward look comforts one on the way forward” (Purgatorio p. 32). Meaning that whenever Dante begins to be discouraged, he ought to have a look back and see just how far he has come.
Virgil’s words really resonate with me when it comes to my walk with Christ. Oftentimes I get discouraged when I mess up and sin, or don’t do the right thing. I “beat myself up” and get frustrated that I’m still not living as godly of a life as I think I should. I’ve been a Christian for so many years, so why do I still wrestle with lying or anger? The reality of the situation is that Christians will always struggle with sin on this side of eternity. Only in Heaven will we be freed. Yet, even with this reality in mind, I still cry out in frustration and grieve over my constant sinning.
Now do not misunderstand, grieving our sin and being frustrated with it is good. It’s called conviction. However, allowing that to cripple or immobilize our walk with the Lord is not good. It is one of the many tools Satan uses against Christians to halt our spiritual growth. That is why many times in my life I have felt the Spirit nudging me to take a look back at the journey of faith that I have walked. Two years ago, I wouldn’t have had a care in the world that I lied to someone, or was hurtful to someone’s feelings, but God has shaped and grown me. I now not only do these things less, but feel convicted and seek forgiveness when I do act in these ways. Virgil’s words help make sense of why the Holy Spirit does this to me so frequently. When I look back on my life, it encourages me when I see how far God has taken me, how deep in sin I was, and where I am now.
Examine your own personal life from before you met Christ to where you are now. Notice the differences? Does that not cause you to want to praise God for His work in your life? Does that not bring you comfort to look back and see the progress you have made? Should we still feel convicted and seek forgiveness when we sin? Yes, absolutely! I implore the reader to read Romans 6, and encourage us all to look back on our lives, and give praise, honor, and glory to God for the work He has done in our lives. It has nothing to do with our strength or works, it is solely the work of God in our lives. Let us humble ourselves and praise Him for taking our heart of stone, and giving us a heart of flesh.