“Rest time is not waste time” by Charles Spurgeon

“As it is recorded that David, in the heat of battle, waxed faint, (2 Samuel 21:15) so may it be written of all the servants of the Lord. Fits of depression come over the most of us.

Usually cheerful as we may be, we must at intervals be cast down. The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy.

There may be here and there men of iron, to whom wear and tear work no perceptible detriment, but surely the rust frets even these; and as for ordinary men, the Lord knows, and makes them to know, that they are but dust.

Knowing by most painful experience what deep depression of spirit means, being visited therewith at seasons by no means few or far between, I thought it might be consolatory to some of my brethren if I gave my thoughts thereon, that younger men might not fancy that some strange thing had happened to them when they became for a season possessed by melancholy; and that sadder men might know that one upon whom the sun has shone right joyously did not always walk in the light.

Our work, when earnestly undertaken, lays us open to attacks in the direction of depression. Who can bear the weight of souls without sometimes sinking to the dust?

Passionate longings after men’s conversion, if not fully satisfied (and when are they?), consume the soul with anxiety and disappointment. To see the hopeful turn aside, the godly grow cold, professors abusing their privileges, and sinners waxing more bold in sin—are not these sights enough to crush us to the earth?

The kingdom comes not as we would, the reverend name is not hallowed as we desire, and for this we must weep. How can we be otherwise than sorrowful, while men believe not our report, and the divine arm is not revealed?

All mental work tends to weary and to depress, for much study is a weariness of the flesh; but ours is more than mental work—it is heart work, the labour of our inmost soul.

How often, on Lord’s-Day evenings, do we feel as if life were completely washed out of us! After pouring out our souls over our congregations, we feel like empty earthen pitchers which a child might break.

Probably, if we were more like Paul, and watched for souls at a nobler rate, we should know more of what it is to be eaten up by the zeal of the Lord’s house. It is our duty and our privilege to exhaust our lives for Jesus.

We are not to be living specimens of men in fine preservation, but living sacrifices, whose lot is to be consumed; we are to spend and to be spent, not to lay ourselves up in lavender, and nurse our flesh.

Such soul-travail as that of a faithful minister will bring on occasional seasons of exhaustion, when heart and flesh will fail. Moses’ hands grew heavy in intercession, and Paul cried out, “Who is sufficient for these things?”

Even John the Baptist is thought to have had his fainting fits, and the apostles were once amazed, and were sore afraid.

There can be little doubt that sedentary habits have a tendency to create despondency in some constitutions. 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, especially in the dim months of fog.

Let a man be naturally as blithe as a bird, he will hardly be able to bear up year after year against such a suicidal process; he will make his study a prison and his books the wardens of a jail, while nature lies outside his window calling him to health and beckoning him to joy.

He who forgets the humming of the bees among the heather, the cooing of the wood-pigeons in the forest, the song of birds in the woods, the rippling of rills among the rushes, and the sighing of the wind among the pines, needs not wonder if his heart forgets to sing and his soul grows heavy.

A day’s breathing of fresh air upon the hills, or a few hours’ ramble in the beech woods’ umbrageous calm, would sweep the cobwebs out of the brain of scores of our toiling ministers who are now but half alive.

A mouthful of sea air, or a 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.

The ferns and the rabbits, the streams and the trouts, the fir trees and the squirrels, the primroses and the violets, the farm-yard, the new-mown hay, and the fragrant hops—these are the best medicine for hypochondriacs, the surest tonics for the declining, the best refreshments for the weary.

For lack of opportunity, or inclination, these great remedies are neglected, and the student becomes a self-immolated victim. In the midst of a long stretch of unbroken labour, the same affliction may be looked for.

The bow cannot be always bent without fear of breaking. Repose is as needful to the mind as sleep to the body. Our Sabbaths are our days of toil, and if we do not rest upon some other day we shall break down.

Even the earth must lie fallow and have her Sabbaths, and so must we. Hence the wisdom and compassion of our Lord, when he said to his disciples, “Let us go into the desert and rest awhile.”

What! when the people are fainting? When the multitudes are like sheep upon the mountains without a shepherd? Does Jesus talk of rest?

When Scribes and Pharisees, like grievous wolves, are rending the flock, does he take his followers on an excursion into a quiet resting place?

Does some red-hot zealot denounce such atrocious forgetfulness of present and pressing demands? Let him rave in his folly. The Master knows better than to exhaust his servants and quench the light of Israel.

Rest time is not waste time. It is economy to gather fresh strength. Look at the mower in the summer’s day, with so much to cut down ere the sun sets.

He pauses in his labour— is he a sluggard? He looks for his stone, and begins to draw it up and down his scythe, with “rink-a-tink—rink-a-tink—rink-a-tink.”

Is that idle music— is he wasting precious moments? How much he might have mown while he has been ringing out those notes on his scythe!

But he is sharpening his tool, and he will do far more when once again he gives his strength to those long sweeps which lay the grass prostrate in rows before him.

Even thus a little pause prepares the mind for greater service in the good cause. Fishermen must mend their nets, and we must every now and then repair our mental waste and set our machinery in order for future service.

To tug the oar from day to day, like a galley-slave who knows no holidays, suits not mortal men. Mill-streams go on and on for ever, but we must have our pauses and our intervals.

Who can help being out of breath when the race is continued without intermission?

Even beasts of burden must be turned out to grass occasionally; the very sea pauses at ebb and flood; earth keeps the Sabbath of the wintry months; and man, even when exalted to be God’s ambassador, must rest or faint; must trim his lamp or let it burn low; must recruit his vigour or grow prematurely old.

It is wisdom to take occasional furlough. In the long run, we shall do more by sometimes doing less.

On, on, on for ever, without recreation, may suit spirits emancipated from this “heavy clay,” but while we are in this tabernacle, we must every now and then cry halt, and serve the Lord by holy inaction and consecrated leisure.

Let no tender conscience doubt the lawfulness of going out of harness for awhile, but learn from the experience of others the necessity and duty of taking timely rest.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students: A Selection from Addresses Delivered to the Students of the Pastors’ College, Metropolitan Tabernacle (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1875/2008), 179, 182, 183, 184, 186-188.

“Do you think Jesus Christ is only for little sinners?” by Charles Spurgeon

“Remember that even after you are secure in Christ, and accepted before God, and clothed in Christ’s righteousness, you may sometimes get despondent.

Christian men are but men, and they may have some trial, and then they get depressed if they have ever so much grace. I would defy the apostle Paul himself to help it.

But what then? Why then you can get joy and peace through believing. I am the subject of depressions of spirit so fearful that I hope none of you ever get to such extremes of wretchedness as I go to, but I always get back again by this— I know I trust Christ.

I have no reliance but in Him, and if He falls I shall fall with Him, but if He does not, I shall not. Because He lives, I shall live also, and I spring to my legs again and fight with my depressions of spirit and my downcastings, and get the victory through it.

And so may you do, and so you must, for there is no other way of escaping from it. In your most depressed seasons, you are to get joy and peace through believing.

‘Ah!’ says one, ‘but suppose you have fallen into some great sin—what then?’ Why then the more reason that you should cast yourself upon Him. Do you think Jesus Christ is only for little sinners? Is He a doctor that only heals finger-aches?

Beloved, it is no faith to trust Christ when I have not any sin, but it is true faith when I am foul, and black, and filthy; when during the day I have tripped up and fallen, and done serious damage to my joy and peace, to go back again to that dear fountain and say:

‘Lord, I never loved washing so much before as I do tonight, for today I have made a fool of myself; I have said and done what I ought not to have done, and I am ashamed and full of confusion, but I believe Christ can save me, even me, and I will rest in Him still.’

That is the true way of Christian life, and the only way of getting joy and peace. Go to Christ even when sin prevails.

Only let your confidence be not in your peace, not in your joy, but in Christ.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “Joy and Peace in Believing,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. 12 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1866), 12: 298–299.

“Our sorrows shall have an end” by Charles Spurgeon

“Our longest sorrows have a close, and there is a bottom to the profoundest depths of our misery.

Our winters shall not frown forever; summer shall soon smile.

The tide shall not eternally ebb out; the floods retrace their march.

The night shall not hang its darkness for ever over our souls; the sun shall yet arise with healing beneath his wings.

The Lord turned again the captivity of Job.’ (Job 42:10) Our sorrows shall have an end when God has gotten His end in them.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “Intercessory Prayer,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. 7 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1861), 7: 449.

“By God’s grace, I saved that man from suicide” by Charles Spurgeon

“Another form of strength comes of weakness, for by it our sympathy is educated. When you and I become weak, and are depressed in spirit, and our soul passes through the valley of the shadow of death, it is often on account of others.

One Sabbath morning, I preached from the text, ‘My God, My God, why hast 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 upright, 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 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. God’s sheep ramble very far, and we have to go after them; and sometimes the shepherds go where they themselves would never roam if they were not in pursuit of lost sheep.

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.

Expect to grow weaker, brethren, that you may comfort the weak, and so may become masters in Israel in the judgment of others, while, in your own opinion, you are less than the least of all saints.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, An All-Round Ministry: Addresses to Ministers and Students (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1960), 221–222.

“The lone island of despondency” by Charles Spurgeon

“I think that this is the darkest of all the Psalms. It has hardly a spot of light in it. The only bright words that I know of are in the first verse. The rest of the Psalm, is very dark, and very dreary.

Why, then, am I going to read it? Because, it may be, there is some poor heart here that is very heavy.

You cannot tell out of this great crowd how many sorrowing and burdened spirits there may be amongst us. But there may be a dozen or two of persons who are driven almost to despair.

My dear friend, if this is your case, I want you to know that somebody else has been just where you are.

Remember how the shipwrecked man upon the lonely island all of a sudden came upon the footprints of another human being.

So here, on the lone island of despondency, you shall be able to trace the footprints of another who has been there before you. Hear how he prays.”

–Charles H. Spurgeon, “An Exposition of Psalm 88” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons (vol. 41; London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1895), 478.

“Preach to yourself” by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

“Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc.

Somebody is talking. Who is talking? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment was this; instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. ‘Why art thou cast down, O my soul?’ he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: ‘Self, listen for a moment, I will speak to you.’…

The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why art thou cast down’– what business have you to be disquieted?

You must turn on yourself, upbraid yourself, condemn yourself, exhort yourself, and say to yourself: ‘Hope thou in God’– instead of muttering in this depressed, unhappy way. And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do.

Then having done that, end on this great note: defy yourself, and defy other people, and defy the devil and the whole world, and say with this man: ‘I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, who is also the health of my countenance and my God.'”

–D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Its Cure (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965/2002), 20-1.

“The ultimate cause of all spiritual depression” by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

“The ultimate cause of all spiritual depression is unbelief. It is because we listen to the devil instead of listening to God that we go down before him and fall before his attacks.”

–D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Its Cure (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965/2002), 20.