Spurgeon on depression

A couple of times a year Diane Langberg invites one of her pastors to come and minister to us at staff meeting. It is always a rich time. Last week, Greg MacDougall talked to us about some of Spurgeon’s thoughts on depression. He summarized a chapter from Spurgeon’s Lectures to my Students. Gotta love the chapter title: “The Minister’s fainting fits.” As Greg said, “No, this isn’t about histrionic ministers, though someone should probably write about that, its about why we find ourselves in despair, what occasions our depression, and the lesson from it” (I’m paraphrasing Greg here from memory). By the way, I think we could replace “depressed” with anxious, and tempted towards addictions in what is written below.

So, here are some of Spurgeon’s points.

1. Why do we get depressed?

  • Duh, we’re human. No, he didn’t say, “duh” but we are sons and daughters of Adam and so we know suffering and brokenness.
  • We all have physical and mental infirmities. “Certain bodily maladies, especially those connected with the digestive organs…Are the fruitful fountains of despondency….As to mental maladies, is any man altogether sane?
  • The work of christian ministry encourages us to despair when we see sinners sinning all the more boldly
  • The Christian leader is somewhat lonely by position
  • “Sedentary habits have a tendency to create despondency in some constitutions.” Studying, reading, etc. He suggests “stiff walk in the wind’s face, would not give grace to the soul, but it would yield oxygen to the body, which is next best.”

2. When are we likely to get depressed?

  • Right after a great success, after a “cherished desire is fulfilled.”
  • Before a great achievement (when we may be tempted to give up)
  • “In the midst of a long stretch of unbroken labour…” we wear out and despair
  • When we are betrayed by a beloved
  • When troubles abound
  • For unknown reasons. This must not be forgotten. Many depressions may not have a discernible cause. What we do with them is more of the issue. “Causeless depression is not to be reasoned with, nor can David’s harp charm it away by sweet discoursings….One affords himself no pity when in this case, because it seems so unreasonable, and even sinful to be troubled without manifest cause; and yet troubled the man is…”

3. The Lesson:“be not dismayed by soul-trouble.” “Cast the burden of the present, along with the sin of the past and the fear of the future, upon the Lord, who forsaketh not his saint. Live by the day–ay, by the hour. Put no trust in frames and feelings. Care more for a grain of faith than a ton of excitement….Be not surprised when friends fail you: it is a failing world….Between this and heaven there may be rougher weather yet, but it is all provided for by our covenant Head….Come fair or come foul…be it ours, when we cannot see the face of our God, to trust under the shadow of his wings.”


Filed under Biblical Reflection, Depression, Despair

8 responses to “Spurgeon on depression

  1. Kerry Donovan

    From one who has served in ministry and experienced the d. word this is great encouraging and attuning material.
    I’m going to print it and hold on to as a resourcer.

  2. royingle

    Having battled depression nearly my entire adult life, I understand what Spurgeon writes. I greatly admire him for preaching through his pains. I seek to do the same. I love Christ and am thankful that He loves me (1 John 4:10) and that He has saved me not by my own works or righteousness but by His grace alone (Romans 10:4; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7). What a blessing to know that despire my depression, I am loved and accepted by God through His Son.

  3. Stan Hankins

    There have been times in my life when I absolutely thought I couldn’t make it. Thank God for Spurgeon and his encouraging words.

  4. Earlier today I had been listening to Focus on the Family, a radio broadcast in which Dr. Dobson was interviewing a Christian minister about his experience of depressioin. He share many valuable insights into his battle against this illness and was fortunate enough to find a good psychiatrist who helped him back on thje road again. At their first meeting the psychiatrist spoke very matter of factly to him assuring him that his ailment was quite common and that many notable persons through history such as Charlotte Bronte and Charles Spurgeon suffered from it. I did a google search for ‘Spurgeon on depression’ and arrived here at your excellent summary. I would like to reprint your piece in my blog accrediting you as source , of course. The Evangelical Christian response to depression can be a bit medieval with such useless advice as ‘ Memorise Scripture’ and ‘renounce the devil’ being offered mor in the spirit of Job’s ‘comforters’ than out of a sympathetic and understanding heart.

    • Sure thing. Welcome to the blog.

      • Thank you Phil for this piece by Spurgeon on depression. It is such a blessing to me this morning. I will add this to my files and share it with the women I work with in my group. I must read more of his writings. By the way I was in prayer this morning as I had been feeling
        alone in my ministry to abused women. After prayer the first thing I did was check your blog as I am blessed by following it. And lo and behold, the first thing my eyes saw was this article. The Lord is always on time. May He continue to bless and prosper you in the work you are doing for others.

  5. Pamela Heck

    I am having bouts of depression which trouble me because i should be filled with joy, but these thoughts of sadness and gloom are overwhelming me and I can’t seem to get free! Thank you for your help

    Mrs. Pamela Heck

  6. Clint Lewey

    Reblogged this on Counsel of a Friend and commented:
    Please note, in reblogging this material, I am in no way voicing approval to all material in the contributor’s blog site. I am sharing an article that I believe is helpful and encouraging.

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