Charles Spurgeon was known as a one of the great preachers in our world and he suffered severe bouts of depression and an unrelenting, 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 intense of human sufferings and horrific physical and mental pain. In his suffering, He showed forth the miraculous life of the Christ Spirit who provided His ability to this man of God, to walk this life of faith, enduring all he had to in being so inflicted with a life long chronic 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. He offered an understanding that 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 all.
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, which spurred in him, the paralyzing despondency of depression.
He did not hide under ‘platitudes’ ‘clichés’ or callousness in his approach to others in their human suffering, but he was able to relate on all levels to chronic painful conditions and suffering, showing forth the tremendous gift of the Spirit to be His power to persevere.
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.
Spurgeon never hid his responses in some sort of ‘super spirituality’ in being dismissive of the reality he lived. Nor did he scoff at others in their suffering.
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 intimately entering into his suffering, with all the 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.
Perhaps you too are having to endure some sort of life long chronic condition. Perhaps you have come face to face with those who chide, ridicule or otherwise cast some sort of suspicion that you have ‘sin’ in your life and God is punishing you with illness. Perhaps you too have met Christians who tell you to ‘suck it up’ or say ‘you don’t have enough ‘Faith’ and if you did, ‘God would heal you’.
If so, then perhaps you can find solace in knowing that Spurgeon too faced these Christians who threw out scriptures or made statements in their attempts to force their own religious dogma onto him telling him the same sorts of things.
If you read the Psalms and New Testament stories concerning how the disciples endured hardships, perhaps you can find comfort in knowing faithful men and woman also endured endless sufferings that did not go away or were not healed.
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 Psalms, along with the new testament will display writings telling of the extreme hardships the faithful men and woman lived and experienced. These Biblical stories would enlighten you to the plight of trials of afflictions and show you a godly way to live in them.
These stories will also reveal it is a not an ungodly issue to suffer illness, tragedy, or in having to endure immense suffering. These are the reality of living as humans in a fallen world.
It was in the flux of experiencing difficulties, the Bible is full of these true stories of how God’s people, obtained a supernatural ability, to dig into the Grace granted by God, to withstand all they suffered. So can we, when we learn this same art of abiding in the grace that God offers to us each day in our own journey.
In reading many of the Psalms, the Psalmist cry out in agony, like Spurgeon, like we do at times, in lament, in the midst of our own despondency and depression, to the God (who also suffered and in it learned obedience), for God’s Spirit to be our strength for the day.
We can join with those witnesses, asking for God’s Mercy, for God’s response to our plight, to come and be with us in it, helping us to endure tough seasons in our lives.
It is when we can acknowledge where we are in life in learning to accept both our physical and emotional suffering, where we meet God.
Enduring is not dismissing, rebuking, or praying away our emotional responses we are having to life situations. It is when we grab hold of the strength provided for us, where God gives us ability to weather our storms and trials, in the Spirit’s power.
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?
t was God who created us to be fully expressive as humans, having an ability to show varying levels in our emotions in all we experience. 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 the new testament writings found in 1 Corinthians, chapter 4, I 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)
We offer prayer for healing when others are suffering or ill, but then let us put on the clothes of Christ who is compassion and enter into the suffering of others in being present with them, whether it be manifested physically/mentally.
I am unable to love as needed in this world, so how much more is my dependence and reliance be for the Spirit, to so fill me, overflowing from my heart, that my response is to always choose the Christ way of being and relating to others.
We often selectively choose those scriptures in which to hold fast our foundation. When reading scriptures we need to include the entire concept written in passages in regards to suffering of God’s people.
These stories have been 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 loves 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 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.
I had to do this in the aftermath of the sudden and unexpected death of our son. I did not think I could go on living. I could not imagine how I was to continue moving forward in my life without my son in it. The unimaginable happened in the death of my child. I suffered immensely where words are unable to describe the depth of such turmoil.
It was not easy. I experienced the darkest and most tragic emotional responses in my grief. I can tell you in reflecting back, God was with me, in it all, even though at times, I did not feel His presence, or sense His Spirit.
It is during the toughest times lived in human adversity where we learn of the Christ resurrected Spirit who is alive in us, who becomes our internal source for all we need in helping us whether any situation or circumstance through His supernatural empowerment.
How do we learn to endure, persevere, in continuing to walk by faith, but from hardships?
It is in the very midst of experiencing the reality of pain and suffering that is at work in of our humanity, where we discover our strength is found in God, and in Him alone to help.
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, nor will we ever eradicate suffering while walking as the men, women and children of God upon this earthen realm.
I can relate to those emotions Spurgeon speaks of in experiencing my own numbed dazed paralysis in living the hours, days and months following my son’s tragic death. I can remember the heartache that never seemed to go away, the crushing pain of despair in my chest and all the physical and mental emotional responses that left me dulled. I thought my life would be one of deep sorrow pained existence forever.
In my own agony, I cried out to God and although I often did not sense His presence, I knew the truth that God never fails to hear our prayers. Regardless of what I felt or did not sense in regareds to God, I relied on what I knew to be the truth in those moments.
I could recall the scriptures that told me He ‘numbers the hairs on our heads’ and He ‘preserves our tears in bottles’ and He offers a compassionate understanding. It is God’s Spirit who becomes present in our hearts, sustaining our souls when we are suffering, no matter what it is resulting from.
It is in sharing 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, and in the death and loss of loved ones
As humans we respond on an emotional level to life experiences, for this is who God created us to become, fully expressive beings.
There is not only a response we have as humans on an emotional level to illnesses and the many life challenges that come our way, but very often, medications also cause emotional/physical reactions that are difficult for a person to control.
Learning to meet people right where they are at, with a sensitivity in understanding of where they are and what they might be feeling and reaching towards them with the love and mercy our Lord is our role. Allowing ourselves and others to express their sorrow and pain as they are experiencing it, is to be present with them in it.
It is 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, where we become God’s Heart of mercy.
We become agents of God, motivated in a sincere spirit to embrace others by His genuine love, when we simply are being His grace, providing them with an inner strength to continue moving forward, remaining faithful in suffering.
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 afflicted in 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 fragrant offering of Christ’s breath of 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.