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Bob HaytonSt. Paul, MNAge: 35-44Gender: Male4 Stars Out Of 5Spurgeon's own personal thoughts and experience shed's light on those struggling with depression in the Church todayMarch 3, 2015Bob HaytonSt. Paul, MNAge: 35-44Gender: MaleChristianity is a religion of the heart, and Evangelicalism especially emphasizes personal conversion and spiritual transformation. Our churches are very good at diagnosing spiritual maladies and confronting the problem of personal sin. But we often stumble in our efforts to help those afflicted by mental anguish, physical suffering and especially depression.
Depression directly contradicts the emotions that Scripture commends, and even commands. We are to "rejoice always" and to "count it all joy." So a common temptation is to chalk up depression to the category of self-inflicted pain and ultimately reduce it to a sin problem. The conservative tendency to distrust psychologists and especially psychiatrists only adds to the problem.
Author Zack Eswine comments on this tendency:
Religion offers both a challenge and a help to those who suffer mental disorders. This challenge surfaces when preachers assume that depression is always and only a sin. They pour gasoline on the fire and wonder why it rages rather than calms those they try to help. At the same time, studies today confirm that those with mental health challenges simply do much better if they are part of a religious community. (Kindle location, 495)
This contemporary problem is not so contemporary after all. Charles Spurgeon the great Baptist preacher of the nineteenth century, was all too intimately acquainted with this problem. Eswine explores this little known side of the great preacher in his new book Spurgeon's Sorrows: Realistic Hope for those who Suffer from Depression (Christian Focus, 2014). Spurgeon himself suffered from persistent bouts of depression. He sought medical treatment and at times took sabbaticals to restore his health. He was also never shy about admitting this problem, and his candor led him to be a magnet for those seeking help themselves.
Eswine's book traces Spurgeon's history and his approach to discussing this problem and counseling those with the problem. Spurgeon's own personal thoughts and experience shed's light on that of many in today's church.
Eswine writes with care and resists a simplistic approach to the problem. He doesn't shy away from spiritual considerations either. Spurgeon himself was like that. At times he spoke with great compassion of those afflicted by sorrows and despair, and at other times he challenged them toward greater faith. We are both physical and spiritual beings and no counsel is a one-size-fits-all solution.
Even the darkest pits that depression can lead to were roads travelled by the preacher. He found solace in Elijah and Job and others who like him, had despaired of life and wished to die. Eswine quotes Spurgeon and crafts his book with care, trying to help the wounded and encourage them to find hope in a body of believers.
The book is a bit disjointed and segmented. But that seems intentional, and is written with an eye to what those suffering from depression can withstand. Short chapters, brief thoughts, simple conclusions and applications. Encouraging thought and offering help without a judgemental attitude. One oddity in the book is the author's repeated use of Spurgeon's first name. This may be intended to be less off-putting for the depressed reader. It might make "Charles" seem more approachable. I found it jarring and odd, but that may just be me!
There is much that caregivers can learn as well in these pages, and the author's use of Spurgeon's insights along with some contemporary authors, provides help in how to deal with those struggling with this problem in our churches today. I recommend the book and hope its message is a blessing and help to many.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by the publisher. The reviewer was under no obligation to offer a positive review.
GazpachoHarrison, MIAge: 55-65Gender: Female5 Stars Out Of 5A Pastor's Treatment of Charles H. Spurgeon's Depression and what it means for us todayFebruary 26, 2015GazpachoHarrison, MIAge: 55-65Gender: FemaleQuality: 5Value: 5Meets Expectations: 5This review is being written from the perspective of a fellow sufferer of depression. The book discusses a condition I have had a bent toward from my early years. I am not a psychologist, theologian, pastor, therapist, counselor, Bible student, professor, or church staff. I'm just a garden variety human being and found this book very readable and appealing.
After reading through Spurgeon's Sorrows a couple of times I realized that it is a bit different from other books I've read that focus on depression. There seemed to be a sub-text that I didn't understand at first. The marked difference seemed to come from the heart of the author, Dr. Zachary Eswine. The writings indicated a poetic heart, a sensitive nature. This is not a textbook.
I am a person who lives with a condition called Bipolar Disorder or Manic Depression. I experience different mood swings in spite of the use of stabilizing medications. In reading this book, I immediately recognized the author's sense of empathy for those of us who live with depression as a matter of biology as well as for those who become depressed because of a sensitive nature or troubling circumstances. His non-clinical approach is a breath of fresh air. I didn't find any judgmental attitudes in any of his chapters. He writes out of a sincere desire to lend a helping hand.
The author's arsenal is twofold: a gentle nudge toward understanding, and a surprising revelation for Christians who may recognize the prolific works of Charles H. Spurgeon. In the author's words, "How is it then that this preacher could stand up publicly in a congregation and talk so openly about depression? He was a mega-church pastor, one of the first ever. It was the 1800's. He was British, Victorian, and Baptist. How was a guy like that talking so openly about a subject like this?" Apparently, there was as much need then as there is today for one believer to stand along side another believer, and any sufferer of depression, in commiserating companionship. It definitely doesn't come naturally. We all need a push to get us moving in the right direction.
The book is divided into three parts:
Part I: Trying to Understand Depression
Part II: Learning How to Help Those Who Suffer from Depression
Part III: Learning Helps--How to Daily Cope with Depression
It contains numerous quotes from Charles Spurgeon's sermons, cited at the end of each of the 12 short chapters. I think its greatest appeal would be for pastors, Bible teachers, therapists, counselors and theologians. However, excerpts are short and to the point. For a person studying the Bible and wants to understand how God views depression and sorrow, this makes a fascinating study.
One of the most impressive facets I appreciate in this book is the way Pastor Eswine gives us three godly examples of how depression, heaviness of soul, the troubled spirit and even the mentally ill ought to be understood. First we have Pastor Eswine himself, who has experienced deep sorrow and trouble in his life. Then we have the passionate, fiery, historical figure of Charles Spurgeon whose prolific writings and sermons inspire hundreds every day. Finally, both pastors point to Jesus, a "man of sorrows" who was sorely afflicted on our behalf. He knows and understands the burdens we carry because He carried them too once.
One of my favorite aspects of this writing was learning of Spurgeon's own torments and melancholy intensified by a tragic incident that occurred while he was preaching. This was part of his life I had never known about before reading this book.
Finally, Chapter 6 caught my interest. It explores the language God uses in the Bible toward the troubled, and the way He communicates His heart to us. He uses metaphors and similes to ease the suffering and help us understand. "Since depression is a condition that is almost unimaginable to anyone who has not known it, its diagnosis (and aid) depends on metaphors." We endure winters. We are bruised like a cluster of grapes, trodden in the wine-press, waves of agony roll over us, and so on. The use of such word pictures and metaphorical phrases encourages our neighbors and fellow Christians to grow in understanding, empathy and helpfulness.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Cross Focused Reviews (A Service of Cross Focused Media, LLC)on behalf of Christian Focus Publications. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
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