9781781915387

Did you know that our church has a blog? We’ve entitled it “Overflowing Grace Today: Blogging on News, New Things, and New Life through a Gospel Lens”?

One concrete expression of the vision for the blog is book reviews/summaries. If you’ve read a great book and would like to summarize it through a gospel lens, your contribution to the blog is enthusiastically welcome! To that end, here is the first one.

I’ve shared publicly that I’ve been experiencing depression. The experience has been a learning curve for me. Some of that learning curve has been a “reminder” curve, too. God has reminded me through the church body–the New Community born of the gospel–that he cares for me. One important way I experienced this care was through a good friend’s recommendation of Zach Eswine’s Spurgeon’s Sorrows. This book has given me some language for my depression. What’s more, it has also given me the example of a fellow sufferer in the story of Spurgeon. But most importantly, it has pointed me to Jesus and his gospel as the great bridge between my hopes and my pains.

It’s no secret that Charles Spurgeon, dubbed “the prince of preachers” in the mid 1800s, struggled openly with depression. Spurgeon applied the gospel to depression often in his sermons. Eswine has taken the time to glean Spurgeon’s thoughts and applications of grace from Spurgeon’s sermons to the state of depression. The result is a short but substantive, practical yet theological reflection on what depression is, how to help those who suffer, and how to cope daily as the sufferer. I keenly commend the book to you whether you are a sufferer or have someone in your life who is suffering.

I take inspiration from a blogger on www.gospelcoalition.com. He writes book summaries by providing twenty quotes from the book. So below is my offering of not twenty but twenty-one quotes to you from Spurgeon’s Sorrows (sorry, I couldn’t decide which last quote to put on the chopping block!). The quotes are a mix of Eswine’s and Spurgeon’s thoughts. You can pick up a copy of the book here.

Blessings,

Albert

21 Quotes from Zach Eswine’s Spurgeon’s Sorrows

  1. “His depression came, not only from circumstances, or from questions about whether or not he was consecrated to God, but also from the chemistry of his body. God gave to us a preacher who knew firsthand what it felt like for his reason to totter, not just once, but many times during his life and ministry. And somehow this fellow sufferer named Charles and his dear wife Susannah (who also suffered physically most of her adult life) still made a go of it, insisting to each other and to their generation that the sorrowing have a Savior.”
  2. “On that November morning, in weakness, Charles did what some of us are not yet able to do in our sorrows; he read the Bible. Perhaps it will comfort you to learn that for a while ‘the very sight of the Bible’ made Charles cry.”
  3. “The mind can descend far lower than the body, for in it there are bottomless pits. The 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.”
  4. “There comes a time in most of our lives in which we no longer have the strength to lift ourselves out or to pretend ourselves strong. Sometimes our minds want to break because life stomped on us and God didn’t stop it. Like a family who watches their loved one slip and fall onto the rocks on a mountainside vacation when all was supposed to be beautiful and fun; or like a parent whose child was mistreated or shot while at school. Has a circumstance ever broken your heart? There are several forms of a broken heart,’ Charles tenderly reminds us. Desertion: Neglect or betrayal by a spouse, family member or friend. Bereavement: The ailment or death of one we love. Penury: Job loss, financial strain, poverty of basic needs. Disappointment and Defeat: Dreams unreached, goals blocked, tries that failed, foes that won. Guilt: regrets, pains we’ve caused others, sins against God.”
  5. “Sometimes sadness in response to painful circumstance takes a dark turn. It morphs into something other than itself. Grief doesn’t end and the dark creature we call depression wakens from its lair. ‘There are certain forms of disease,’ Charles observes, ‘which so affect the brain and the whole nervous system that depression is a melancholy symptom of the disease.'”
  6. “Perhaps among the hardest of our painful circumstances are those suffered in childhood. Depression seized its moment in our youth and something core to our temperament was altered permanently. We became like the sensitive plant that curls up its tendrils at a touch. Ever since, our lives have exhibited a constant shrinking from contact with other people. We no longer dare to face the world. We assume the world stalks us, always to harm us.”
  7. “Depression is not a sin. Though sins can result from it and temptations intensify because of it, depression itself is not a sin.”
  8. “But isn’t following Jesus supposed to change all of this? Isn’t Jesus supposed to heal our diseases? Many of us feel that if we were more true to Jesus we wouldn’t struggle this way. Others actually tell us earnestly that our salvation in Jesus is threatened and put into question. But just as a man with asthma or a woman born mute will likely remain this way even though they love Jesus, so our mental disorders and melancholy inclinations often remain with us too. Conversion to Jesus isn’t heaven, but its foretaste… Christian faith on earth is neither an escape nor heaven.”
  9. “Therefore we sufferers of depression in Christ may grow terribly weak, even in faith, but we are not lost to God. Contrary to those who tell us that we do not have enough faith or that we are condemned because of our inability to smile more, ‘Depression of spirit is no index of declining grace.’ It is Christ and not the absence of depression that saves us. So, we declare this truth. Our sense of God’s absence does not mean that He is so. Though our bodily gloom allows us no feeling of His tender touch, He holds on to us still. Our feelings of Him do not save us. He does.”
  10. “It is here, when dealing with spiritual depression, that Charles takes a marked turn in his usually gentle approach as a caregiver and sufferer. Many circumstantial, biological and spiritual pains outlast our abilities to control them or understand them. But, when we face this ancient foe, the devil, there remains only one thing we can and must do. ‘Fight!'”
  11. “According to Charles, trite sayings and quick fixes will not work. Most sufferers cannot ‘be dismissed with just a word of hope and a dose of medicine, but require a long time in which to tell their griefs and to receive their comfort.'”
  12. “Perhaps, nothing in life reminds us that we are not God, and that this earth is not heaven, like an indescribable distress that sometimes defies cause and has no immediate cure, or no cure at all.”
  13. “Just as King David cried out to himself, ‘Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me?,’ so we too argue with ourselves trying to find out the reason why we see and imagine foul tidings when none actually exist. ‘You can hardly tell why you are so depressed,’ he says, ‘if you could give a reason for your despondency, you might more easily get over it.'”
  14. “It has long been recognized that a spirituality focused only on sunshine, positive thinking, immediacy and quick-fix Bible quoting ‘breaks down impotently as soon as melancholy comes.'”
  15. “This phrase ‘man of sorrows’ comes from Isaiah 53:3. The Old Testament prophet describes the promised One from God. Charles testified regularly to the blessed strength that relationship with Jesus as the man of sorrows afforded him… Christians are used to being students of the Cross. But Charles invites sufferers to find our Savior’s help in the garden of Gethsemane. This ‘garden of sorrow’ becomes for Charles a picture of the ‘mental depression’ of Jesus. ‘Bodily pain should help us to understand the cross,’ Charles says, but ‘mental depression should make us apt scholars at Gethsemane.”
  16. “But in Jesus we have no distant God story. On the contrary, this King leads from the front. He hungers when His people do. He thirsts when they thirst. He puts aside the cup of water offered to Him, passing it to a fellow soldier who looks more faint than Himself. Therefore, we who see Him fight and suffer among us begin to believe that we too can endure because He does. We cry out, ‘This day, assuredly, we can bear poverty, slander, contempt or bodily pain, or death itself; because Jesus Christ our Lord has borne it.’ Why? Because ‘if there be consolation anywhere, surely it is to be found in the delightful presence of the Crucified. The sympathy of Jesus is the next most precious thing to his sacrifice.”
  17. “In him, we see that our present sufferings are light and momentary. He will outlast our suffering and in Him so will we! The presence of Jesus defending us, holding us secure, never abandoning us, provides immense comfort. His presence is good news!” 
  18. “No matter how deep you fall, grace goes deeper still. ‘What was under Elijah when he fell down in that fainting fit under the juniper tree? Why, underneath were the everlasting arms.’ No matter how far you fall in your depression, ‘the eternal arms shall be lower than you are.'”
  19. “An ointment for every wound, a cordial for every faintness, a remedy for every disease. Blessed is he who is well skilled in heavenly pharmacy and knows how to lay hold on the healing virtues of the promises of God! ‘What is prayer,’ Charles asks, ‘but the promise pleaded?’ One promise that Charles repeatedly used for prayer was from Psalm 103:13: ‘As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.’ As with Jesus, who taught us to pray to God as our heavenly and loving Father, Charles remarked: ‘When we are lowest, we can still say, ‘Our Father,’ and when it is very dark, and we are very weak, our childlike appeal can go up, ‘Father, help me! Father, rescue me!’'”
  20. “First, taking medicine is a wise act of faith, not of unfaith. ‘It would not be wise to live by a supposed faith, and cast off the physician and his medicines, any more than to discharge the butcher, and the tailor, and expect to be fed and clothed by faith,’ he said. ‘We make use of medicines, but these can do nothing apart from the Lord, ‘who healeth all our diseases.’ Likewise, when appealing to James 5:14-15, Charles observes, ‘Certainly, when the Holy Spirit spoke concerning sick men,’ he ‘advised that medicines should be used, and prayer for their restoration.'”
  21. “Six years prior to his death, as he looked back over his life, he startles us with his perspective regarding the use of suffering to do good in life. ‘I am sure that I have run more swiftly with a lame leg than I ever did with a sound one. I am certain that I have seen more in the dark than ever I saw in the light–more stars, most certainly–more things in heaven if fewer things on earth. The anvil, the fire, and the hammer, are the making of us; we do not get fashioned much by anything else. That heavy hammer falling on us helps to shape us; therefore let affliction and trouble and trial come.”