You know that I’m a Spurgeon addict, but the subject of my reading and study has always been the sermons of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. When Moody published this quote from Susannah Spurgeon (1832 – 1892), I knew that I had to learn more.
We may remember Susannah as the wife and encourager of London’s famous preacher, but often overlooked is Susannah’s “Book Fund” which she established so that ministers of the gospel could build at least a small theological library of their own. You have to keep in mind that most ministers back then were not paid enough for such luxuries as books. If my homework is accurate, Susannah’s love for theology started with The Pilgrim’s Progress. The woman who would become Mrs. Spurgeon came to understand that these kinds of resources were desperately needed by those who were filling England’s pulpits, and she did her part to make that happen.
Not only did Charles become a writer of widespread influence in the church, but Susannah had her own literary gifts, and authored several books of her own. She chronicled her spiritual struggles, and the ordinary trials of the Christian life, and I’m so glad that she did. But I particularly love the quote which I’m sharing with you here!
“When the storms come …”
You’ve been there, and so have I. But a spiritual storm doesn’t always look like a storm, does it? Sometimes it just looks like nothing is happening. And that’s the problem, isn’t it? Nothing is happening. We don’t like nothing. (Former English teachers: forgive me.) Nobody enjoys those seasons of seeming emptiness. In fact, sometimes the waiting on God is the hardest part!
“Our trees of delight are bare and leafless.”
Susannah Spurgeon knew personally of what she wrote. Likely you can relate, because there are times when we all feel zapped, spiritually and otherwise. Zapped! Along with her husband, Susannah had to walk through many painful seasons of church life, and many dark nights of the soul. One of her journal entries includes these words of counsel which she offered to herself: “The Lord has strewn the pages of God’s Word with promises of blessedness to those who wait for Him. And remember, His slightest Word stands fast and sure; it can never fail you. So, my soul, see that you have a promise underneath thee, for then your waiting will be resting and a firm foothold for your hope will give you confidence in Him who has said, ‘They shall not be ashamed that wait for Me.’” Friends, I pray that Isaiah 49:23 will be for you, like it was for Mrs. Spurgeon, a promise worth standing on – even when you feel without the energy to stand.
“He strips us of the comforts to which His love has accustomed us.”
In Every Moment Holy – which I highly recommend – Douglas McKelvey includes a prayer that I have found most comforting in times of my own struggles with letting go of my own dreams – those moments when I finally realize that what I’ve been wanting is not at all what God wants. I’ll share a portion of that prayer here: “O Christ, in whom the final fulfillment of all hope is held secure, I bring to you now the weathered fragments of my former dreams, the broken pieces of my expectations, the rent patches of hopes worn thin, the shards of some shattered image of life as I once thought it would be. What I so wanted has not come to pass … You are the sovereign of my sorrow. You apprehend a wider sweep with wiser eyes than mine. My history bears the fingerprints of grace … My dreams are too small. Your bigger purpose has always been for my greatest good … So let this disappointment do its work … Here in the ruins of my wrecked expectation, let me make this best confession: Not my dreams, O Lord, not my dreams, but Yours, be done.” The older I get, the more I need that prayer.
“He leaves us alone in the world, to mourn the absence of the chief desire of our heart.”
It seems to me that God’s “wider sweep with wiser eyes” always includes the work which needs to be done in my own soul. The work that I can’t accomplish in my own strength. The work which I don’t even know needs to be done. It seems to me that, as long as the visible blessings keep rolling in, I am unlikely to keep my eyes fixed upon the lover of my soul – and so my Lord must leave me to taste the emptiness of my own achievements. This is a painful work, but a beautiful work. Maybe you can relate. Maybe you’re there right now.
“… to sing to Him then, to bless and praise and laud His dear name then …”
Then! Will you and I sing in the storm? That’s a really good question. Let’s get real for minute: we generally feel like singing when things are going great. When we can see that things are going our way. But that kind of praise doesn’t require much faith on our part. Friends, the testing of our faith comes in the moment of worshipful surrender that can happen only when you and I have no idea how or what God will provide …
“This is the work of His free grace only.”
Susannah knew something which you and I must never forget. We don’t wait on a God who has forgotten us. We don’t wait on a God who’s powerless to save. We don’t wait on a God whose attention we need to summon frantically because He has forgotten where we live. No, we wait upon none other than the Sovereign King of the universe! He is here. He is able. He is everything we need. By that term “free grace,” Mrs. Spurgeon was reminding us that we did nothing to bring about our salvation except receive it from the open hand of the Lord Jesus. How glorious! How marvelous! How timely for 2021!
By His grace and for His glory,