SUSIE’S LIFE WORK
Amidst her trials, Susie discovered comfort, delight, and purpose in a ministry that became her “life work.” Yet, there were times that she felt inadequate for her calling due to her severe health challenges. Some days she could lift neither head nor hand, so crippling was her pain. Early in their relationship, Charles had challenged Susie to active service for Christ. During the days of her health she heeded his call by serving the lady baptismal candidates at the New Park Street Chapel. After Susie died, many of them testified to her positive influence.
However, by 1868 Susie’s health had rapidly plunged downhill and from that time forward, it was rare that she was able to leave home to travel even to church. She did what she could, but something was missing, and her body was so gripped by affliction that she was discouraged and felt useless at times.
Charles and Susie’s son Thomas asserted, “The good Lord Himself had, however, in His heart the best alleviation of her woes and pains, and in due time, He put it into Her hands.” The pain relief that God put into her hands was “Mrs. Spurgeon’s Book Fund,” a means by which she ministered to poor pastors throughout the British Isles and in other places by providing books (primarily, though not exclusively, written by her husband Charles) for them.
Books are not luxuries to the under-paid and over-worked pastor, but simply indispensable tools for his labour. Susie
From 1875 when Susie first read volume one of Charles’s book Lectures to my Students and desired to put a copy into the hands of every pastor in England, until her death in 1903 by which time she had given away 200,000 books to poor pastors, Susie considered the Book Fund as “the joy of my life” and as a “sweet service” given by God. It was through this fund that she believed that God led her to “green pastures and beside still waters.”
4 WAYS THE BOOK FUND WAS A PAIN RELIEVER FOR SUSIE
1. It gave her a personal investment in alleviating the pain of others. Susie was well aquainted with the suffering of others. After all, she and Charles ministered to orphans, widows, and the poor of England through the various institutions that were part-and-parcel of their church. However, due to Susie’s sickness, it was difficult for her to be hands-on in any of those works. She needed a ministry that she could do from home. The Book Fund took Susie into the heart of the poor pastor and his family though personal correspondence. The impoverished pastor could barely clothe his family, there was no way that he could purchase a new book. Susie lamented the pastor’s financial burdens, She knew that it was difficult for him to focus on his ministry when bills were stacked up and his wife and children needed clothing and medical care. She felt that she could not stand passively by as they suffered-she had to get involved. And, it was not only books that Susie provided, she sometimes gifted clothes, stationary, money, and food. Charles was convinced that God “directed my beloved wife to a work which has been to her fruitful in unutterable happiness.” He believed that the fund “supplied my dear suffering companion with a happy work which has opened the channels of consolation for her, imported great interest to the otherwise monotonous life of an invalid.” In other words, the Book Fund gave Susie something meaningful to do that honored God, blessed His servants, and comforted Susie.
2. It helped her to be focused and purposeful. How difficult it must have been for Susie, once active in ministry, energetic in travel, and acquainted with some of the most beautiful sites in the world, to then be homebound by affliction. It was difficult for her to focus on something outside of the walls of her house when she was wracked with so much pain and shut up to her memories of better days. However, as Charles said, the Book Fund gave her a “tone and concentration” that helped her to invest in others by doing all that she could with the strength that God had provided her. Through the Book Fund she traveled via her letters and parcels to the scantly supplied tables and studies of poor pastors and their families.
3. It directed her attention heavenward. Already, Susie felt her dependency on God. Not only did the Bible remind her of her neediness for His grace, but her affliction drove her to prayer and Bible reading. The Book Fund, an impossible work for an invalid, required even greater dependency on God and, as Charles testified, “it led her to continual dealings with Himself, and raised her near the center of that religion where other than earthly joy and sorrows reign supreme.” Life was about more than “earthly joys.” So many of those joys had been removed from Susie due to her health. Life was also about more than earthly sorrows. It was easy for Susie, the invalid, to meditate on her struggles and therefore fail to look to “the center of that other region.” However, her affliction and the impossible work of the Book Fund provided her greater communion with God in Heaven.
4. It retuned multiplied blessings to her. Blessings often came in an envelope containing the joyful writing of a poor pastor who had received help at the hands of dear Mrs. Spurgeon. A pastor wrote: “After opening your parcel I could not help kneeling down and thanking Him who is the Giver of every good and perfect gift, and asking Him to bless the books to my soul and future ministry.”
Susie’s message to her fellow Christians was pointed: “Help some poor Pastors yourselves, dear friends, and you will find that the blessings you bestow upon them for the Master’s sake will return to you like richly freighted ships, bringing you a heavenly cargo of spiritual recompense.”
Ray Rhodes is a conference speaker and the author of numerous books and articles. His latest book, Susie: The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon, puiblished by Moody, is the first ever full biography of Charles Spurgeon’s wife. You can order it here. Order Now