Spurgeon’s Sorrows by Zack Erswine (book review)

Charles Spurgeon is one of my favorite preachers and writers. He was definitely God’s gift to his  generation. Fortunately, his sermons and books can still be checked out today. They are well worth checking out as they are rich in biblical truth. As impactful as he is, he is still a mere man who struggled with depression. So when I heard how this book discusses that in detail, I knew I had to read it! That being said, here’s my thoughts.

What I enjoyed about “Spurgeon’s Sorrows” is that displays Spurgeon in a different light. Yes, he is highly regarded as a tremendous preacher but here, he is shown more sympathetic manner. This book makes it distinctly evident that he struggled with depression, especially in ministry. Great detail is given in Spurgeon’s depression and how he brought it up in his sermons because he knew that there were hurting church members. As church leaders, it is important to learn to suffer along with depressed congregants who usually feel intimated to share with them. Sadly,  many leader’s have erred in handling it appropriately by just telling them to snap out of it. Yet it does more harm than good. But Spurgeon’s vulnerability allowed people to see that they are not alone in their struggle and that is key for pastors to do, to become wounded with the wounded.

In closing, I enjoyed this book. It is not a “how to” book, rather it discusses the experience of someone who’s been there, a man of God no less. Moreover, we have a Savior who knows and relates to our pain. Yet He is also our hope. So please read this book, and read it alongside with someone. It is meant to be shared.  As dark as depression may be, you are not alone. And there there is light, The Light, at the end of the tunnel.

Notable quotes (Spurgeon quotes included)

“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.” -Charles Spurgeon

“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. Our hope therefore, does not reside in our ability to preserve a good mood but in His ability to bear us up.”

” In contrast to those who would tell you to get stronger and plead your strengths with God,Charles counters and tells us the opposite: “Let your weakness plead with God through Jesus Christ.”

“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.” -Charles Spurgeon

Helps that Harm (an excerpt)

I was just reading a chapter in Zack Erswine’s book, “Spurgeon’s Sorrows” and what struck me is why sometimes people deal harshly with sufferers. Here is the following:

  1.  We judge others according to our circumstances rather than theirs. “There are a great many of you who appear to have a large stock of faith, but it is only because you are in very good health and your business is prospering. If you happened to get a disordered liver, or your business should fail, I should not be surprised if nine parts out of ten of your wonderful faith should evaporate.”  Jesus teaches us about those who lay up heavy burdens on others but do not lift a finger to help (Matt. 23: 4).

  2. We still think that trite sayings or a raised voice can heal deep wounds. A person “may have a great spiritual sorrow, and someone who does not at all understand his grief, may proffer to him a consolation which is far too slight.” Like a physician who offers a common ointment for a deep wound, we “say to a person in deep distress things which have really aggravated him and his malady too.”  In this regard, Charles teaches us the Scriptures, “Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda” (Prov. 25: 20).

  3. We try to control what should be rather than surrender to what is. We must not “judge harshly, as if things were as we would theoretically arrange them, but we must deal with things as they are, and it cannot be questioned that some of the best believers are at times sorely put to it,” even “to know whether they are believers at all.”  The Scriptures teach us about Job’s friends who struggled at this very point.

  4. We resist humility regarding our own lack of experience. “There are some people who cannot comfort others, even though they try to do so, because they never had any troubles themselves. It is a difficult thing for a man who has had a life of uninterrupted prosperity to sympathize with another whose path has been exceedingly rough.”  The Apostle Paul teaches us to comfort others out of the comfort that we ourselves have needed and received (2 Cor. 1: 4). According to the Bible, when we encounter someone who weeps, we too are meant to weep (Rom. 12: 15). When someone encounters adversity they are meant to reflect and meditate, and we with them (Eccles. 7: 14). Without this together-sympathy our attempts to help others can lose the sound of reality. The loss of this sound of reality forges the larger reason for our harshness.

Quite the sobering words as it’s something we’ve done, I know I sure did! Yet when we have suffered, I’m certain the last things desired is being dealt harshly by someone else even with helpful intentions. Let us trust God in giving us His perspective and humility rather than try to solve it ourselves. Jesus suffered too and sympathizes with us rather than try to tell us to snap out of it.

 

 

Book Review: Depression- Looking Up from the Stubborn Darkness by Edward T. Welch

 

Hello everyone, it has been a long time since I’ve blogged. Life sometimes gets in the way so it happens. I hope to be more consistent this time around as there is much to share, such as what I’ve been reading. Lately, I’ve been meaning to read books on the topic as I’ve been dealing with much in my own life and needed input. So I hope to put out book reviews that can be much help, especially on a spiritual level. And what better way to restart than with a book review from a book I just finished reading? That being said, let us commence.

Ed Welch tackles this difficult topic as it is necessary. Depression is not often something we discuss openly yet it is something that is desperately needed. As started as part of the title, it is a “stubborn darkness” as one cannot merely snap out of it. Throughout the book, Welch tackles depression through various descriptions as well as it’s causes and symptoms. Additionally, depression is associated with anger, fear, dashed hopes, failure and shame (just to named a few). With all of these in mind in considering depression, Welch constantly asks a question that we must all take into account, “who do you trust? whom will you worship”? It is moments such as this that put out faith to the test. Our actions determine whether or not we trust God.

What is immensely appreciated in this book is that it stays biblical with practical as well as medical advice. It is a long read so be sure to read and review constantly to grasp it. It is well worth the read.

Notable quotes

“Depression says, “You will not find meaning in what you are doing,” and depression is right. What it doesn’t tell you is, “Keep looking, you will find it. You are a creature with a royal purpose.” For this, you need to listen to others who have gone this way before. They urge you to continue and point the way.”

“Perseverance is more than just making it through life until you die from natural causes. It is perseverance in faith and obedience. It is perseverance in our God-given purpose, even when life is very hard. Perseverance asks the question, “Today, how will I represent God? How will I trust him and follow him in obedience?” Then it asks for help from others, cries out to the Lord, and looks for an opportunity to love. It may seem feeble, but our confidence is in the God who is strong. The essence of persevering is trusting or obeying because of Jesus.”

“Emotions have a history. To put a complex process as simply as possible, their history consists of two parts: (1) events outside of us, which include physical problems, and (2) beliefs, spiritual allegiances, and interpretations within us. The interaction of these two, over time, is what causes depression.

“Isn’t it true that suffering reveals us? While prosperity allows us to hide, hardships peel off masks we didn’t even know we were wearing. During the better times, we can be happy, unafraid, confident, and optimistic, but the lean years reveal the best and the worst in us. Put a dozen relatively like-minded people into the same crisis and you will see a dozen different responses. Some are heroes; others are cowards. Some are leaders; others are followers. Some are optimistic; others despair. Some shake their fist at God; others quietly submit. You don’t really know who you are until you have gone through suffering. We can measure our spiritual growth by the way we behave under pressure.”

“Notice how those who have medicated away their hardships with illegal drugs, alcohol, or sex can seem immature. They may look forty-five, but they have the character of an adolescent. Find a person who has weathered storms rather than avoided them and you will find someone who is wise.”