Born in England in 1834, Charles Spurgeon heard and accepted the gospel during his teenage years. Not much later, at the young age of 19, they called him to pastor one of London’s largest Baptist churches. He became famous for his powerful preaching, earning him the title, “The Prince of Preachers.”
He delivered many sermons, authored many books, and taught at a pastor’s college. “Encouragement for the Depressed” is a short book, that contains a collection of his teachings on the topic of depression and downheartedness.
Depression is one of the leading mental health struggles; whether it’s a diagnosed condition, or a season of feeling disheartened. Thus, it’s an important topic for discussion and reflection.
For this review, I’m highlighting a few quotes that I found meaningful throughout the book, for our consideration and growth, as those who experience seasons of discouragement, not specifically for those with diagnosed depression.
I say this because we are beautifully complex. There is no single cause that leads to clinical depression, but there are common themes that contribute to the ebb and flow of general discouragement in our lives.
As we consider our emotions, and become more aware of what shapes them, may these words challenge us, and give us courage, as we embrace the life we have been given, and the grace, love and mercy God has shown to us.
“Our work, when earnestly undertaken, lays us open to attacks in the direction of depression. Who can bear the weight of souls without sometimes sinking to the dust? Passionate longings after men’s conversion, if not fully satisfied (and when are they?), consume the soul with anxiety and disappointment.”
As a parent, my deepest longing is for my children’s young hearts to know and follow Christ.
Worry may nag at my thoughts, or fears about choices they are making. Feelings of guilt begin to surface, along with the “what-ifs” and thoughts that I’m not “good enough.” It’s a challenge to be wary of these apprehensions, and learn to entrust both their souls, and our acts of obedience, to the Father, depending wholly on his grace.
As a church planter, the souls of our neighbors, our friends and our village became a deep burden and earnest longing. Striving to share the gospel, to see the fruit of our prayers were a daily focus. Every funeral we attended was a stark reminder of the reality of life and death. Oh how we learned to trust God. To depend upon the Spirit’s work, and not our own. To surrender all the control we wish we had to his authority.
“We are not to be living specimens of men in fine preservation, but living sacrifices whose lot is to be consumed; we are to spend and to be spent, not to lay ourselves up in lavender and nurse our flesh”
Do we become discouraged as we compare ourselves to others? The things they have, the lives they enjoy?
Jesus came for us to have life to the full (John 10:10). We want to enjoy our life, and the things we enjoy. Yet, the slippery slope of comparison can develop a ‘have-not’ mentality, which easily spurs us down a path of negativity. We must guard our hearts and our minds, embracing what we have been given, and enjoying it, without measuring to that of our neighbor.
“He that lives by feeling will be happy today and unhappy tomorrow; and if our salvation depended upon our feelings, we should be lost one day and saved another, for they are as fickle as the weather, and go up and down like a barometer.”
Do you notice how easy it is to take our feelings as truth?
It’s a shift we see all around us, that what we feel becomes our truth. This is a dangerous line of thinking to follow because we believe that “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17), and we are admonished to stand firmly with the “belt of truth buckled around your waist” (Eph 6:14). Our emotions are ever present as a part of our experience, we feel our feelings, then we surrender them to God, under the authority of the truth of his Word.
“He has looked upon you-you with little grace, and little love, and little faith – and he has not despised you.”
In our Mennonite cultural heritage, the values of hard work and endurance run deep. Yet, so much so, that we can begin to find our identity, and our salvation, in all the good works we do, the traditions we follow and the righteous choices we seem to make. We judge ourselves based on outward appearances and think that the Father does too.
But our salvation was never a result of our works, it was not our good deeds that brough the Lord’s attention to us, it was his deep love for us, the grace and mercy he extended to us in our sinful state. What a gift to know, and believe, that he has not despised me, but has acted with the gift of love.
“Fishermen must mend their nets, and we must, every now and then, repair our mental waste and set our machinery in order for future service”
We know that farming equipment gets serviced during the winter months, when snow covers the ground, to prepare for the next planting season. So our bodies also need rest. “Rest time is not waste time. It is economy to gather fresh strength.” In the busyness of life, it can be hard to take the time and space we need, to reflect, to process and learn what God is doing in the moment of our day.
If we persist in our busy endeavors, without taking time to rest, we risk running into burnout and depression, because we weren’t designed to run on empty.
“if it be inquired why the valley of the shadow of death must so often be traversed by the servants of King Jesus, the answer is not far to find. All this is promotive of the Lord’s mode of working, which is summed up in these words: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord’ (Zech 4:6).”
Have you struggled with a chronic illness? Tragedy? Suffering?
Pain and suffering is not far from us. While we wish it away, it creeps in unexpectedly. We wonder about the purpose, we wish for answers. What we can hold onto as truth, is that to struggle through our suffering brings about God’s work in our life, if we pursue him in it. It is not survived by our own power or our own strength, but in humble dependence on him. You don’t sit at your daughter’s hospital bed, wondering how to say goodbye, and leave that moment without being changed. His love, and grace are for us, but our daily act of surrender will change us into his likeness.
Life is a journey, through deep valleys, and rolling hills. As we look upon ways we become discouraged, may our hearts turn to Jesus and the truth of his word. To be encouraged by him and through him, for his glory and for a the good of those around us.
*A big thanks to Crossway for the complimentary copy of this book - which I received as part of the Crossway Blog Review program – and for the opportunity to post an honest review.