Comfort for the Afflicted

Comfort for the Afflicted January 15, 2021

Over the past year, the United States (and the world) has seen a spike in mental health issues. The reasons for this are obvious and not the subject of this blog post. What is the subject of this blog post is a recent republication of two works by Charles H. Spurgeon under the title Encouragement for the Depressed, with an introduction by Randy Alcorn.

Image: Crossway

I have not (yet) struggled with depression, so take what I have to say about this little volume with a grain of salt. Because at least in terms of theological orthodoxy, rhetorical excellence, and encouragement for those of us who do not struggle with depression but do struggle with obedience, faithfulness, holiness, and a number of other things, this little volume is excellent.

And I’m not just saying that because the second work included in this volume has the most Victorian Era name ever (“The Minister’s Fainting Fits”). I’m saying it because like so much of what Spurgeon writes, these two short works show why he is the ‘prince of preachers.’ The quotable passages are too many to include in a short review like this, but here is at least one to give you a taste of why you should read this book and then give it to someone else so that they can enjoy it too:

“By all the castings down of his servants, God is glorified, for they are led to magnify him when again he sets them on their feet, and even while prostrate in the dust their faith yields him praise. They speak all the more sweetly of his faithfulness and are the more firmly established in his love.” (97)

This is certainly true of all our infirmities, not just depression. And yet it is also hard to hear when we’re in the midst of them. When we’re writhing in pain or gasping for air through lungs filled with fluid or so down that we can’t even get out of bed the Gospel can seem distant. And yet what Spurgeon wants us to remember is that it is exactly at these moments when our reconciliation to God through the shed blood of Christ provides the sweetest relief. The world will not understand this, but a world that has chosen sin over the Savior ought not to be our standard.

This isn’t to say that Spurgeon denies the value of worldly remedies for all kinds of sickness, including depression. It is to say that Christians have something greater to hold onto than just restored physical health (as great as that can be!). This little book is an excellent reminder of that greater Gospel so clearly and boldly proclaimed by Charles Spurgeon.

Dr. Coyle Neal is co-host of the City of Man Podcast and an Associate Professor of Political Science at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO

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