The Multiple Means to Joy: Spurgeon on Suffering

Published on November 19, 2009 by CT in Blog, Kindling

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C. H. Spurgeon

When others’ words kindle my own flame:  Reflections on words by C. H. Spurgeon.

Mankind has said and written many things throughout the ages.  Some of it needs to be commended and retold throughout every generation so that others might benefit from the records of wisdom.  Some of it needs to be destroyed, or at least held aloft in public contempt so that others might not fall prey to its empty promises.

Here is some writing to be commended:

Does a man know any gospel truth aright till he knows it by experience? Is not this the reason why God’s servants are made to pass through so many trials, that they may really learn many truths not otherwise to be apprehended? Do we learn much in sunny weather? Do we not profit most in stormy times? Have you not found it so—that your sick-bed—your bereavement—your depression of spirit, has instructed you in many matters which tranquillity and delight have never whispered to you? I suppose we ought: to learn as much by joy as by sorrow, and I hope that many of my Lord’s better servants do so; but, alas! others of us do not; affliction has to be called in to whip the lesson into us.

If you ever want to evaluate something that someone else writes or says to see if it’s worth believing, always start with their assumptions.  Sometimes these assumptions are stated; other times they are implied.  Spurgeon builds this discussion on suffering on top of the foundation of the gospel—he means for us to believe that knowing gospel truth is our aim.  This of course presupposes other things, which isn’t the focus of our commendation.

When Spurgeon talks about stormy times and depression of spirit, He is retelling a truth that people have known for centuries:  that purity of spirit is formed by the presses of pain.  This is worth retelling to every generation.  But it’s not his focus.

His focus is on experiencing gospel truth—or knowing the truth of the gospel in our hearts and spirit as well as our heads.  John Piper says faith is not merely intellectual assent to the truth of the gospel; it’s also the affectional embrace of the object of our faith—Jesus—being our greatest treasure.  And this is the lesson Spurgeon means for us to see.

If knowing and treasuring Jesus is our life’s greatest goal, and joy and sorrow are means towards that end, then we welcome them both with open arms.  We may still wince at the pain and rejoice when suffering passes us by, but we embrace them both as satisfactory ways to gain our greatest joy:  Jesus.

So we seek to join Paul in saying, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8).

Crave Something More Topic of the Week:  Suffering