Christian Focus, 2014.
Reviewed by Lyn Barnes.
Spurgeon’s Sorrows is a sensitive, refreshing and poetic journey in understanding times of sorrow and in knowing how to care for those who ask the question: “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” (Ps.42-43). The author, Zack Eswine, has scoured Spurgeon’s sermons to meditate on how the great preacher described his own experiences of “the road to sorrow”.
In 1856, as Spurgeon was preaching to several thousand people, a man yelled “Fire”. In the panic, seven people died and 28 were seriously injured. This senseless tragedy had a lasting effect on the great man. He wrote: “We are different, each one of us; but I am sure there is one thing in which we are all brought to unite in times of deep sorrow, namely in a sense of helplessness.”
This book identifies three broad areas to describe this sense of helplessness and being “downcast”.
- Sometimes being downcast is a response to painful circumstances which sinks into black despair. Spurgeon’s words to the brokenhearted were: “Jesus Christ knows all your troubles for similar troubles were His portion too.”
Spurgeon points to the disease of melancholy: “I would not blame all those who are much given to fear, for in some it is more their disease than their sin, and more their misfortune than their fault.” Spurgeon counsels: “Your… spiritual life depends on grace, and grace will never cease to shine till it light you in glory.”
Lastly, spiritual depression is explained as a time “when you feel in your senses that God has deserted you, He is angry with you or you have done something which forfeits His love”. This torments our minds. Yet God is greater than our torments.
This book is well worth a reflective read as Spurgeon’s Sorrows touches the heart of the downcast and their carers. In the words of Spurgeon: “Depression of spirit is no index of declining grace; the very loss of joy and the absence of assurance may be accompanied by the greatest achievement in the spiritual life. We do not want rain all the days of the week, and all the weeks of the year; but if the rain comes sometimes, it makes the fields fertile, and fills the water brooks.”
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Lyn Barnes is a member at Revesby Presbyterian Church, NSW