Spurgeon’s Sorrows: Realistic Hope for those who Suffer from Depression by Zack Eswine
Downtrodden, long-faced, we have a penchant for the sorrowful in our culture. Many of our congregants and even our pastors suffer from one form of depression or another. What do we do with a culture that is so experienced in the lows and highs of depression, yet has no definitive way to deal with such a condition? Fellow sufferer and pastor Zack Eswine immensely helps us as he looks at depression from a unique perspective; one which focuses on the life of Charles Spurgeon and how he dealt with a very debilitating form of depression.
Zack gives us a glimpse in the goal of his book as he writes about Spurgeon, “The fact that such a prominent Christian pastor struggled with depression and talked so openly about it invites us to friendship with a fellow sufferer. As this pastor and preacher grappled with faith and doubt, suffering and hope, we gained a companion on the journey. In his story we can begin to find our own. What he found of Jesus in the darkness can serve as a light for our own darkness (15).” Spurgeon didn’t come out of his depressive states unscathed but by the grace of God he managed to hold onto to faith, or rather God continued to hold onto him. In the larger story of Scripture, Charles found great resources to engage the struggles he faced.
Zack begins his book by looking at painful circumstances and how they relate to depression. He writes, “Sometimes sadness in response to painful circumstance takes a dark turn. It morphs into something other than itself. Grief doesn’t end and the dark creature we call depression wakens from its lair (19).” For many, sadness does not immediately go away or vanish but stays an indefinite time. Those wanting to help people immersed in deep sadness often don’t have the words to say or say things that are hurtful or pious sounding with no respect for the sufferer. Rather, Zack calls people to offer mercy, compassion, and acceptance to those walking down the path of deep sadness (21).
There are a whole host of metaphors in the Bible for depression. Spurgeon capitalizes on these metaphors by using some of them in his sermon titles; “Even Charles’ sermon titles began to utilize the metaphors that Scripture offers for the sorrowing; titles such as “the frail leaf” (Job. 13:25)16 , the “wounded spirit” (Prov. 18:14, kjv), the “fainting soul” (Ps. 42:6)17 , and “the bruised reed” (Isa. 42:1-3). Jesus is “the man of sorrows” (Isa. 53:3). He does not quit us amid the agony of a fleshly thorn (2 Cor. 12:7) (52).” The metaphors of sorrow in the Scriptures give words to our suffering and expression to our experience that often we cannot communicate otherwise. Charles makes the point that this language is a gift from God, a true grace for those who suffer from depression.
Even in the midst of such fits of depression, there is a very real sense that despair is our entire lot. To this feeling or frame of mind, Zack sees the words of Spurgeon a real remedy, he writes, ““What was under Elijah when he fell down in that fainting fit under the juniper tree? Why, underneath were the everlasting arms (65).” Grace goes deeper still, down all the way and at the bottom of such a steep drop is God Almighty.
This is truly a tremendous book for those who suffer from depression. Not only does this book gives us a glimpse of Spurgeon’s battles with depression, Zack gives us a window into many aspects of depression from medication to natural helps, from the healing comfort of the Scriptures to good friends. My only criticism is that I wish the book were longer.
Thanks to Cross Focused Reviews and Christian Focus for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.