Suffering

Spurgeon on Suffering Depression and Trials

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,

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Laughing at the Days to Come

"Laughing at the Days to Come is a book about embracing and enduring life’s trials with divine joy. It is about gaining the kind of vision of that Proverbs 31 woman who can look into an unknown future and a long path of suffering and still rejoice. I think it’s fair to say that it’s written primarily for women, but there is no reason a man can’t read it and benefit just as much." - Challies

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From the Archives – He Is God and We Are Not

Casting Crowns popularized a song titled, “In Me.” Some of the lyrics follow:

How refreshing to know You don’t need me.
How amazing to find that You want me.
So I’ll stand on Your truth, and I’ll fight with Your strength
Until You bring the victory, by the power of Christ in me.

I was impressed at the depth of these lyrics. They serve as a jumping board for my topic: He is God and we are not. Hopefully, these thoughts will serve as a tonic to remedy a popular—but weakened—view of God.

Our Need

The first principle suggested by the song is that God does not need us, but we need Him. The Scriptures are clear on this:

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. (ESV, Acts 17:24-25)

God urges us to serve Him, and His love for us is great; but He does not need us. Your church needs you. The Kingdom of God summons you to loyal service, and your absence affects the Body. But God’s throne is assured—with or without your cooperation!

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Power of Problems vs. Power of God

In the mid-1700s Jonathan Edwards was serving as the pastor of a thriving church in Northampton, Massachusetts. He had been a faithful and hardworking pastor for 22 years. Though his gifts were clearly more academic than pastoral, he loved his flock, served them, prayed for them, and preached some of the most influential sermons in history from their pulpit.

Edwards has been credited by historians as having a leading role in starting the Great Awakening in which 10s of 1,000s became genuinely and noticeably converted. His famous sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God was the spark that ignited the movement. And yet he remained the faithful pastor of a relatively small congregation… until 1749, when something made him leave his flock after 22 years.

What happened? Simple: they fired him.

Edwards wanted to insist that communion could only be taken by people who had evidence that they were, in fact, Christians but this was against the church’s tradition of allowing anyone, no matter how blatantly unrepentant they were, to partake in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.

Edwards was dismissed but then agreed to continue on as their pastor until they found a replacement, which took a year.

Can you imagine the hurt and betrayal he must have felt? Most of us would have spiraled into depression, cynicism, or bitterness. But Edwards remained cheerful, content, serene through the whole ordeal. How did Edwards survive the humiliating, unfair, and devastating dismissal?

His happiness was out of the reach of his enemies.

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Two Views of Suffering: Atheist Existentialism and Christianity

Right, But Still Dead Wrong

Sometimes, you can be right about something, and yet still be completely wrong.

When I was a criminal investigator with the Military Police, I had a case involving a Sailor who might have faked his promotion and been receiving extra pay for the past three years. That’s a lot of money. Add to it that your cost of living allowances change depending on your rank, and you’re looking at even more money. This was a good case.

Everything pointed to the conclusion that he had forged paperwork, and somehow gotten it past Personnel. We interviewed the Personnel Officer for several hours, wondering how it could have been done. We had the admin guys calculate a dollar figure. We briefed the Staff Judge Advocate, who began salivating with glee and plotting a general courts-martial. We were just missing the one thing. We needed confirmation from a training school back in Texas that they did not promote the guy.

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