Charles Spurgeon knew the withering pains connected to disaster, controversy, depression, and sickness. In the Preface to The Cheque Book of the Bank of Faith, he wrote,
I commenced these daily portions when I was wading in the surf of controversy. Since then I have been cast into ‘waters to swim in’, which, but for God’s upholding hand, would have proved waters to drown in. I have endured tribulation from many flails. Sharp bodily pain succeeded mental depression, and this was accompanied both by bereavement, and affliction in the person of one dear as life [Susie]. The waters rolled in continually, wave upon wave. I do not mention this to exact sympathy, but simply to let the reader see that I am no dry-land sailor. I have traversed those oceans which are not Pacific full many a time: I know the roll of the billows, and the rush of winds. Never were the promises of Jehovah so precious to me as at this hour. Some of them I never understood till now; I had not reached the age at which they matured, for I was not myself mature enough to perceive their meaning.
In this brief section Spurgeon points out various aspects of his sufferings: 1) Theological Controversy 2) Physical affliction 3) Depression 4) Susie’s affliction. He informs his readers that his sufferings were continual, one-after-another and intense; he compared them to rough waters and billows. He also confesses his lack of understanding at times and that he cast himself upon the promises of God.
However, we must not imagine that Spurgeon’s sufferings left him a joyless man. Just the opposite is true. In his book, Till He Come, Spurgeon penned these words:
There are people who seem to think that religion and gloom are married, and must never be divorced. Pull down the blinds on Sunday, and darken the rooms; if you have a garden, or a rose in flower, try to forget there are such beauties: are you not to serve God as dolorously as you can? Put your book under your arm, and crawl to your place of worship in as mournful a manner as if you are being marched ot the whipping-post. Act thus if you will; but give me that religion which cheers my heart, fires my soul, and fills me with enthusiasm and delight,–for that is likely to be the religion of heaven, and it agrees with the experience of the Inspired Song.
For Spurgeon, real joy, in the midst of real pain, was found in delighting in Jesus by resting beneath the shadow of his love and care. It is without doubt that Spurgeon’s sorrows developed within him a greater capacity for appreciating every benefit of God’s grace, so that at the same moment he could weep and sing.
Ray Rhodes is an itinerant teacher, pastor, and author of numerous books and articles. His latest work is Susie: The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon, available from bookstores everywhere, including www.susiespurgeon.com