See a previous post I wrote on the value of biographies here
Have you struggled with adversity in your life? Have you often wondered how to properly view the trials and struggles you’ve encountered? I know I have. What I want to share with you now is some of the thoughts from the life of Charles Spurgeon that has recently blessed and encouraged my own life. Spurgeon, known as “the prince of preachers,” was a minister at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London and lived from 1834-1892. Most of my quotes will be coming from John Piper’s biography of Spurgeon here. I listened to Piper give Spurgeon’s biography speech, on a CD, at a pastor’s conference some years’ back and I simply want to share what has encouraged me in hopes that it will encourage you.
AFFLICTION=”THE GREATEST EARTHLY BLESSING”
What would you say is the greatest earthly blessing that God could give to any of us? Some may say wealth, others may say family. Others may say that the greatest earthly blessing could be a steady job or physical health. Look, however, to how Spurgeon answered this question. Spurgeon’s struggle with depression is well-known and is readily admitted by him on many occasions, so he is quite familiar with affliction of various types. On affliction, Spurgeon said:
“I dare say the greatest earthly blessing that God can give to any of us is health, with the exception of sickness . . . If some men, that I know of could only be favoured with a month of rheumatism, it would, by God’s grace mellow them marvelously.” (An All Round Ministry, 384).
Do you, or I, believe that “sickness” is God’s “greatest earthly blessing”? Could “rheumatism” actually be good for one’s soul? Spurgeon mentions why he believes that sickness would be helpful: It would be helpful to “mellow” those on whom sickness has fallen. Basically, the sickness is given to humble and to sober us. This is very similar to what Paul spoke of in 2 Corinthians 12:7 in that he was given “a thorn…in the flesh…to keep me from becoming conceited.” Why was Paul suffering from a “thorn” in the flesh? To keep him humble. Why does Spurgeon say that sickness is the greatest earthly blessing? It is to humble us. The question that follows from this line of reasoning is this: Do we value humility? If we valued humility, then maybe we would value whatever it is that produces humility within us.
I have noticed in my own life when I have been sick (several times with pneumonia over a 4 year period of time at one point) that it is the only time I really rest, reflect, & slow down. I am “forced” to stop everything I am doing and simply lay in the bed for a few days while I recover from the sickness. Also, when I have had several events or projects going on, and I get sick, I am having to rely solely on other people’s help. It is very humbling to have to depend on others, but this is exactly what sickness does to you. Even though sickness is no fun at the moment, I can attest to the benefits I see from it on the back-end of it. When I am over the sickness, I usually have an extra amount of energy and a new vigor to tackle the projects of life.
Someone may ask, “Doesn’t God heal? If sickness is so good for us, then why should we even pray for healing?” We are told to be prayed for if we are sick in the New Testament (James 5:14-15). Also, healing was a part of Jesus and the disciples’ ministry to many that were afflicted with sickness. God can and does heal! However, if God does not heal, then we must submit to His will and receive whatever good He may be doing in the midst of it (Deuteronomy 32:39).
Spurgeon continues the theme of deriving good from afflictions. He says:
“I am afraid that all the grace that I have got of my comfortable and easy times and happy hours, might almost lie on a penny. But the good that I have received from my sorrows, and pains, and griefs, is altogether incalculable … Affliction is the best bit of furniture in my house. It is the best book in a minister’s library” (“The Anguish and Agonies of Charles Spurgeon,” 25).
Look again at the key statement in that previous paragraph: “But the good I have received from my sorrows and pains, and griefs, is altogether incalculable…” This is simply an astounding statement. I am sure that many of us can think of how “good” it is to take a vacation or to get away from your daily routine to take a trip to the beach or to the mountains. All of this is good and necessary to bring a balance to our work life. However, Spurgeon is reminding us here that there is “incalculable” good that we don’t get on vacation or during times of ease and comfort, but it is instead during times of illness that this “incalculable good” can be granted to us.
Can you or I look at our illnesses, or illnesses and pain that others are going through and say that they are receiving something that is of an “incalculable good”? It certainly can be difficult, but if we believe Romans 8:28 and if we believe Ephesians 1:11, then we must believe that there is a sanctifying good coming through even our darkest moments when we cannot detect that good.
John Piper sums up Spurgeon’s view of pain and affliction:
“I would say with Spurgeon that in the darkest hours it is the sovereign goodness of God that has given me the strength to go on — the granite promise that he rules over my circumstances and means it for good no matter what anyone else means.”
Do we really believe that God has Christians’ good in mind when even the toughest afflictions may come into our lives? Do we really believe that God is Sovereign over all? Do we really believe that God loves us, and is always with us, even when it seems as if He has abandoned us? We must believe these things with all our hearts and cling to them with all the strength that God gives to us if we are going to survive, nay, thrive during the trials of this life. Let us pray for deliverance and healing, but if the deliverance and healing don’t come, then let us trust our Sovereign God as He holds our hand and carries us through our pain, sickness, and trials.
I’D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU!
Make a comment or post a question in the “Leave a Reply” section below.