Friday, January 30, 2015

The Depression Suffered By ‘the Prince of Preachers’

“My spirits were sunken so low that I could weep by the hour like a child, and yet I knew not what I wept for … a kind friend was telling me of some poor old soul living near, who was suffering very great pain, and yet she was full of joy and rejoicing. I was so distressed by the hearing of that story, and felt so ashamed of myself.… [but] sometimes the Christian should not endure his sufferings with a gallant and a joyous heart… [but] that sometimes his spirits should sink within him, and that he should become even as a little child smitten beneath the hand of God.”
— Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834 – 1892)
Real as real as real was the spiritual torture known to the great preacher, Spurgeon. There were the physical maladies (gout, for instance) and there were the defamatory maladies – envies and jealousies, without much doubt – the weight of responsibility for his preaching, and the spiritual agonies some like him are ‘blessed’ (or burdened) with.
What a comfort it is to know that a great and very famous preacher was so normal as to be utterly spent in his own soul’s agony!
I heard of recent that nearly seventy percent of pastors will suffer mental illness at one time or other – and a portion of these must be afflicted most continually. We are not alone! We find ourselves in good company, for the work we do, which is disposed to spiritual attack, criticism, indifference, and fickleness, not to mention our predilection for praise and approval.
There are two main causes of depression and depressive disorders – perfectionism (the fear of failure, not meeting lofty goals, etc) and relational dissatisfaction (including bullying, loneliness, loss, etc).
Spurgeon’s depression runs similarly to ours – at times we know not the reason. Perhaps there are too many causes and effects. When we list them down and analyse them – if we have the energy – we are, at times, delighted in a resigned sort of way to have negotiated the labyrinth of reason.
Sometimes the tears have no sense at all, yet we do most dedicatedly shed them!
This is not to say, per Spurgeon’s life, that God can’t use us greatly or effectively in all our weary brokenness. Of course, God ensures it’s the broken who are used, just so the proud minister cannot explain it.
There are two other points the prince of preachers makes – two appositely arranged: 1. It’s often highly appropriate that the person with depression have no reason or excuse for joy – despair is a useful locale; and, 2. There are other times when we simply must come before God, besotted by his Presence, in a humble and cordial childlike surrender.
1.     Do you find you are guilty for depressed days or weeks or months? What could God be saying that makes theological sense, plus provides you a hope in truth?
2.     Have you noticed any vicious cycles apparent in your depression? Can charting these cycles provide any insight on how to manage your mental health?
3.     Perhaps you’ve never been depressed. How can you have empathy (if you struggle for it) with those who suffer?
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.

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