Perhaps it isn’t commonly known that Charles Spurgeon suffered from depression. In his book, Spurgeon on the Christian Life, Michael Reeves notes that today he would most certainly be diagnosed as clinically depressed.
At age twenty-two he was the pastor of a large church and the father of twin babies. While he was preaching to thousands of people, some pranksters began yelling “fire.” They created a stampede killing seven people and severely injuring twenty-eight others. Reeves cites his wife Susannah,
My beloved’s anguish was so deep and violent, that reason seemed to totter in her throne, and we sometimes feared that he would never preach again.
According to Mike Reeves Spurgeon also suffered from burning kidney inflammation, gout, rheumatism and neuritis. He was also constantly assailed by opposition preachers who took a liberal view of God’s Word. See The Downgrade Controversy.
It may then surprise us that Spurgeon “was a man who crackled with life.” Apparently he also had a hearty sense of humor. And despite the many trials he bore, he saw them as necessary. Michael Reeves notes that, according to Spurgeon, “Uninterrupted success and unfading joy in it would be more than our weak heads could bear.”
I found this very encouraging – Reeves also notes that,
(Read the whole series.)
Here’s a final look at some of Paul’s exhortations to Timothy when he faced discouragement. You can read Parts 1, 2, and 3 if you haven’t already. These are all taken from 2 Timothy.
The basics don’t change just because ministry is hard. Keep going back to the Word for your own personal encouragement. It is able to give you assurance and equip you to do the work of ministry.
I recently read through 2 Timothy several times and journaled the specific ways Paul instructed Timothy to overcome his discouragement. Last week I shared the first four. Here are some more.
Man up! That’s probably how we would say it today. But Paul wasn’t urging Timothy to be self-confident, relying on his own strength of character, skills, or resolve. He reminded Timothy there is a source of strength available to every Christian—“the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”
Generally, grace is God’s favor that we don’t deserve. Specifically as it is used here, it is God’s personal help for challenging responsibilities. We have access to this help in Jesus because He is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
Pastors experience discouragement. It goes with the territory. Paul wrote his protégé, Timothy, to encourage him at a time when he was down. Paul’s letter is what we call 2 Timothy.
How do we know Timothy was discouraged? Here are some clues. Paul said in 2 Timothy 1:4 that he was aware of Timothy’s tears. He addressed in 2 Timothy 1:7 the fear Timothy was experiencing. In 1:8ff, Paul challenged Timothy to not let suffering for Christ get him down. In 1:13 he tells Timothy to “hold fast,” in 2:1 to “be strong,” in 2:3 to “endure hardship,” in 3:14 to “continue,” and in 4:5 to “fulfill your ministry.” I infer from all this that Timothy was hurting and discouraged. Timothy seems to be a reluctant leader, one who is somewhat timid, subjective, and sensitive to opposition. Paul wanted to encourage him.
I need this kind of encouragement at times, and I’m sure other pastors do too. I read through 2 Timothy several times recently and made a list of “things to do” for a discouraged pastor. I’ll share several of them today and more in future posts.