When There Are Lions

I was recently in New York doing work with The Geneva School of Manhattan and The Bowery Mission, and I saw the majestic lions outside the New York City Public Library. Named Patience and Fortitude, these carved marble lions have stood guard for over 100 years, symbolizing the strength and endurance required to face life’s trials. Patience reminds us to endure trials and tribulations with a steady heart, while Fortitude calls us to face difficulties with courage. In our spiritual journey, these qualities are essential.

These lions reminded me of the lions that appear in The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. In that allegory, however, instead of calling to mind virtues, the lions are obstacles to Christian’s journey. They come into view as Christian approaches the Palace Beautiful, and initially, the lions terrify him to the point that he considers turning back. However, the porter named Watchful informs Christian that the lions are chained and placed there to test the faith and courage of pilgrims. The lions cannot harm those who stay on the path. This encounter demonstrates the importance of faith and courage in overcoming obstacles and fears on the spiritual journey.

Like Christian, as we navigate our lives, we encounter our own lions—challenges and fears that seem insurmountable. Yet, these obstacles often serve a greater purpose: testing our faith and resilience. Just as the lions in The Pilgrim’s Progress were chained and unable to harm those who stayed on the path, so too are our challenges manageable when we stay close to Jesus and remain steadfast in our faith.

During the economic downturn in the early 2000s, the ministry I was leading faced a significant challenge. We were on the brink of having to let go of half of our staff due to a lack of funds. Instead of giving in to despair, we decided to take action. First, we gathered to pray daily as a staff at 7 a.m., seeking guidance and strength from God. Second, we made a list of our top 50 donors. Lastly, we met with each of them personally to ask for their partnership. In the end, all the necessary funds came in, but not in the ways we had expected. Through this experience, our faith was strengthened, and we learned to trust in God’s provision and timing. The lions had threatened to undo us, but God proved bigger.

Staying the course in our faith journey means trusting that Jesus walks with us, no matter how daunting the challenges may appear. It’s about growing closer to Him, finding strength in His presence, and drawing courage from His word. Isaiah 41:10 offers a powerful reminder: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

In moments of doubt and fear, when the path ahead seems unclear, let us remember that our faith is not in vain. There are lions along the path, much like those in Bunyan’s allegory, but we need to use them to strengthen our resolve and deepen our dependence on God. By exhibiting patience and fortitude and drawing closer to Jesus, we find the courage and faith needed to overcome any obstacle.

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