Some time ago, I wrote a post on “Why Christian Leaders Struggle with Dark Nights of the Soul.” Today, I’ve been re-reading Charles Spurgeon’s Lectures to My Students, and I’ve been reminded of that great pastor’s thoughts on depression among ministers. He admitted that he knew “by most painful experience what deep depression of spirit means,” but he wanted his students and others to think it not strange when they were “for a season possessed by melancholy.”Here, according to Spurgeon, is why we struggle:
- We’re human. We face the reality of a fallen world—filled with afflictions and difficulties. These struggles come so we “may learn sympathy with the Lord’s suffering people, and so may be fitting shepherds of an ailing flock.”
- Our bodies and minds are often unhealthy. Physical ailments and emotional battles are real. If we’re predisposed to “lowness of spirit,”we shouldn’t be surprised by our giving in to this pain.
- Our work is weighty. We bear the burden of the souls of men, and we cannot help but grieve when others reject the truth of the gospel. Ours is “heart work, the labour of our inmost soul.”
- Our pastoral position is a lonely one. No one can fully walk in our shoes, and we sometimes “look in vain for comfort to the disciples sleeping” around us.
- The ministry too often promotes a sedentary lifestyle. Here, I’ll let Spurgeon make his point: “To sit long in one posture, poring over a book, or driving a quill, is in itself a taxing of nature; but add to this a badly ventilated chamber, a body which has long been without muscular exercise, and a heart burdened with many cares, and we have all the elements for preparing a seething cauldron of despair.”
Spurgeon’s answer, though, was simple: “Be not dismayed by soul-trouble.” It’s often a part of the work of ministry, and we must cast our cares on the Lord even as we minister to other hurting people. Indeed, writes Spurgeon, “Heaven shall be all the more fuller of bliss because we have been filled with anguish here below, and earth shall be better tilled because of our training in the school of adversity.”
May God help us trust Him and cling to Him at all times.
Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1954), 154.