The question of evil has been a stumbling block to countless souls for thousands of years. And it’s not just atheists and agnostics who stumble over it. Even those who have met Jesus and found hope in Him sometimes struggle with the questions of why God allows suffering and evil.
Recently I read a quote from one of Spurgeon’s sermons that really touched me. In it he talks some about his own experiences with despair and spiritual darkness. Spurgeon pastored a megachurch in the 1800’s. Thousands flocked to hear him. He is almost worshipped today for his faithfulness to Christ and the gospel in his ministry. But many people do not realize the deep depression that Spurgeon for years struggled with – or the physical ailments.
Here is the excerpt from the sermon. In it we find one of the reasons why God in His wisdom and compassion often allows even His most faithful servants to go through periods of deep darkness and struggle.
One Sabbath morning, I preached from the text, “My God, My God, why has Thou forsaken Me?” and though I did not say so, yet I preached my own experience. I heard my own chains clank while I tried to preach to my fellow-prisoners in the dark; but I could not tell why I was brought into such an awful horror of darkness, for which I condemned myself.
On the following Monday evening, a man came to see me who bore all the marks of despair upon his countenance. His hair seemed to stand up right, and his eyes were ready to start from their sockets. He said to me, after a little parleying, “I never before, in my life, heard any man speak who seemed to know my heart. Mine is a terrible case; but on Sunday morning you painted me to the life, and preached as if you had been inside my soul.”
By God’s grace I saved that man from suicide, and led him into gospel light and liberty; but I know I could not have done it if I had not myself been confined in the dungeon in which he lay. I tell you the story, brethren, because you sometimes may not understand your own experience, and the perfect people may condemn you for having it; but what know they of God’s servants? You and I have to suffer much for the sake of the people of our charge… You may be in Egyptian darkness, and you may wonder why such a horror chills your marrow; but you may be altogether in the pursuit of your calling, and be led of the Spirit to a position of sympathy with desponding minds.
From Charles Spurgeon: Preaching Through Adversity by John Piper (Kindle Locations 361-371). Desiring God.
I know that these few words from Spurgeon do not give an exhaustive answer to the question of suffering. But it does bring some important light to the subject. I have experienced some of what Spurgeon is talking about and witnessed much more of it in the lives of people I have walked with and ministered to.
Who can deny the compassion and empathy that one gains after living through suffering? Who has not seen the grace and anointing for ministering to others that follows those who have trusted God through hard times?
This much is for sure: Dear believer, you may be going through the valley of the shadow of death, but if you keep trusting the Savior who also suffered, He who was raised from the dead will also turn your sorrow into rejoicing. Afterwards, you will be “a strength to your brothers.” Jesus will use you to lift up the fallen and suffering who are now going through what you have already endured with Christ’s help!