Charles Spurgeon was known as a one of the great preachers in our world and he suffered severe bouts of depression and debilitating painful illness which left him lying in bed sometimes for weeks at a time.
Spurgeon became a spiritual giant for God in the midst of the most human of sufferings and pain, showing the miraculous life of the Christ Spirit who provided His ability to this man of God, to walk this life of faith, enduring all from being inflicted with an unrelenting illness.
It was in the midst of this lifetime of affliction, Spurgeon focused on the cross, speaking some of the wisest words to all people’s, from his personal experience, in offering an understanding in the adversity found in his life and in the lives of the most faithful of men and women, the fact God was with them in it.
Spurgeon was discerning in perceiving an important relationship between our emotions and the body. He suffered intense painful bouts with gout, which is an extremely painful arthritic condition, very debilitating, along with paralyzing despondency of depression.
He did not hide under ‘platitudes’ ‘cliches’ or callousness in his approach to others in their human suffering, but he was able to relate on all levels to painful conditions and suffering, showing forth the tremendous gift of the Spirit to be His power to endure.
In his physical weakness and pain, he often succumbed into the depths of despair, so he knew day by day more than most people, how physical illnesses effected ones emotions and for this reason he was relatable to others as he never hid his responses in some sort of ‘super spirituality’ in being dismissive of the reality he lived.
Spurgeon spoke the truth he discovered in being afflicted and the truth of God being with him in all of it, never leaving his side, never chastising him for it, but entering into his life with all compassion and love known in our Lord’s Saving Grace.
Spurgeon showed a resilience of God’s Spirit in him rather than wilting under the pressures of depression or becoming ridden in guilt over his supposed weakness or sin as many accused him of.
Spurgeon proclaimed the relationship of anguish and prayer when he wrote: “When our prayers are lowely…by reason of our despondency, the Lord will bow down to them, the infinitely exalted Jehovah will have respect unto them. Faith, when she has the loftiest name of God on her tongue…dares to ask from Him the most tender and condescending acts of love.
Great as He is, He loves His children to be bold with Him. Our distress is a forcible reason for our being heard by the Lord God, merciful, and gracious, for misery is ever the master argument with mercy.”
If anyone doubts the ability of God to strengthen our souls, lift our spirits in the midst of all we experience in life, in the midst of all our emotional responses to our life challenges, then perhaps a good reading of the Psalms is in order.
Thoughtful reading through the new testament and all the hardships the disciples lived and experienced would enlighten you also to the plight of their many afflictions, but also to their ability to dig into the Grace granted by God to withstand all difficulties in and by His ability.
Like Spurgeon, the Psalmists cry out in agony, in lament, in the midst of their own despondency and depression, to the God (who also suffered and in it learned obedience), for God’s Spirit to be their strength for the day. They cried out for God’s Mercy, for God’s response to their plight, to come and be with them in it.
Enduring is not dismissing, rebuking, or praying away our emotional responses we are having to life situations, but it is in taking in the strength provided for us, to be able to weather our storms and trials, no matter physical and/or mental in the Spirit’s power and ability.
We often forget that God became man as the Christ child and was subject to all the emotions that we normal human beings feel on a day to day basis and it was He who entered the suffering of our humanity by enduring.
How could Christ enter into our suffering other than having an intimate understanding and a relational experiential knowing of how we response on an emotional level as humans. It was God who created us to be fully expressive, as humans who are able to show varying levels in our emotions in all the experiences in our lives and it was God who become human, so he would be able to identify with us in all our ways.
In my readings this morning in 1 Corinthians I again read about the intense suffering endured and experienced by the disciples.
“We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now.” (1 Corinthians 4:10-13)
So let us offer prayer for healing, but then let us put on the clothes of Christ who is compassion and enter into the suffering of others whether it be manifested physically or mentally or both, as when we are ill, there is an emotional connection to it.
Let us put on the Spirit of love, in which Christ said is the greatest commandment and I am unable to love as needed in this world, so how much more is my dependence and reliance, need be for the Spirit, to so fill me .overflowing from my heart, that my response is to always choose the Christ way, which is loving.
We often selectively choose those scriptures in which to hold fast our foundation, but we need to include the entire concept written in scriptures, that display the intense suffering by faithful men and women, and these are written for our benefit, to know that God remains Faithful and will Always be with us, no matter what we experience.
Spurgeon writes openly about emotional paralysis resulting from having endured horrendous ongoing unrelenting painful condition; “How low the spirits of good and brave persons will sometimes sink. Under the influence of certain disorders everything will wear a somber aspect, and the heart will dive into the profoundest days of misery. It is all very, very, well for those who are in robust health and full of spirits to blame those whose lives are covered in melancholy, but the pain is as real as a gaping wound, and all the more hard to bear because it lies so much in the region of the soul that to the inexperienced it appears to be a mere matter of fancy and imagination.
Reader, never ridicule the nervous and hypochondriacal, their pain is real – not imaginary…The mind can descend far lower than the body…flesh can bear only a certain number of wounds and no more, but the soul can bleed in ten thousand ways and die over and over again each hour. It is grievous to the person to see the Lord whom he lvoes laying him in the sepulcher and desponding…yet if faith could but be allowed to speak she would remind the depressed saint that it is better to fall into the hand of the Lord than into the hands of men, and moreover she would tell the despondent heart that God never placed Joseph in a pit without drawing him up again to fill a throne…”
It is in only in our suffering, in our hardships, in our trials and in the most darkest of our days, where we learn to clothe ourselves with the Christ Spirit of ability in helping us walk through these tough times.
It is during these toughest times lived in human adversity where we learn of the Christ Resurrected Spirit who is alive in us, who is our source for all we need in helping us weather any situation or circumstance in His ability.
How do we learn to endure, persevere, learning to walk by faith, but from hardships?
How do we learn to apply the empowerment granted to us by the Spirit other than learning the art of abiding in the very life blood of Christ who is our source for all the ups and downs we experience as humans, in the very midst of pain and suffering that is at work in this world and in the midst of our humanity.
Spurgeon wrote; “Alas, when under deep depression the mind forgets all this and is only conscious of its unutterable misery…It is an unspeakable consolation that our Lord Jesus knows this experience, right well, having with the exception of the sin of it, felt it all and more than all in Gethsemane when he was exceedingly sorrowful even unto death.”
We will never eradicate our humanness while in these earthen vessels while we are walking as the men, women and children of God upon this earthen realm.
God never fails to hear our prayers as He ‘numbers the hairs on our heads’ and He ‘preserves our tears in bottles’ and He offers compassionate understanding as He enters into our lives in our pain and suffering, no matter what it is resulting from.
Yet, it is in sharing in our humanity and entering into others suffering in the Ability of Christ’s Spirit of love, grace, mercy, and compassion we are called His children, we are called His friends, we are called His Holy Bride.
Spurgeon commented: “Now the writer’s (Psalm 102:3) mind is turned away from his personal and relative troubles to the true source of all consolation, namely the Lord Himself, and His gracious purposes toward His own people. ‘But thou, O Lord, shalt endure forever.’ I perish, but thou wilt not.”
“Christians may find themselves vulnerable to criticism from Christians and non-Christians alike when they are suffering times of depression. Charles Spurgeon was certainly no exception. He was often criticized for his vulnerability to depression. But without the compassion Spurgeon demonstrated in his own affliction, countless others suffering like him would not have been comforted.” (pg. 24 More than Coping – Elizabeth Skoglund)
We need to walk in an awareness and sensitivity when encountering persons living in chronic life long conditions in realizing there is a strong emotional component to experiencing ongoing varying symptoms of any illness state whether is be; cancer, autoimmune conditions, injuries, traumas, mental health conditions, developmental conditions, or some sudden unknown illness, etc.
There is not only a response we have as humans on an emotional level to illnesses, but very often medications cause emotional/physical reactions that are difficult for a person to control, so let us learn to meet people right where they are at, not expecting them to jump through hoops of what we expect them to do or be, but living in the love and mercy our Lord has offered to us, in offering the same to others.
It is in sharing in our human suffering with others we encounter, that we learn to be the compassion of Christ, choosing to love, choosing to be all of who He is in us, touching the suffering in the hearts of those we cross paths with, in His ability to do so, with motivations and intents to offer His embracive love in all sincerity.
This is how we share in the burdens of our brothers and sisters in being present with them, loving, caring and being the Christ Spirit, choosing His way to comfort all those inflicted that walk in human vessels upon this earth; being kind, gentle, understanding, and showing empathy.
We become authentic people when we are able to enter into the suffering and pain with others when we place the balm of healing love in wounded souls, offering a bit of mercy in the often long cold hours spent in adversity.
We give unto all the gifted fragrant offering of Christ’s love, no matter what they are experiencing, for this is choosing to do things the Christ way, in the Christ Spirit, with the genuineness and honesty found in the gospel of truth and in the love infused in us by our union in the Godhead of all love.
Lorraine Taylor – Lay Minister