This weeks 'thought' comes from a book entitled, "The Hidden Price of Greatness," by Ray Beeson and Randela Mack Hunsicker. I enjoyed this book simply because the authors share what other Christian biographies tend to leave out -- the humanity, weaknesses and struggles that well-known Christians have often endured.
All too often Christian biographies, with their desire to accentuate the accomplishments and praiseworthy traits of great leaders, purposely leave out information which shows their flaws. Many don't want to know that the heroes of our faith had doubts, wrestled with temptations, fell to temptations, and often endured intense mental and emotional anguish -- sometimes even experiencing nervous breakdowns. And because such things are not shared, we tend to be ignorant of what these authors share: That greatness often comes with a huge price tag attached. It is not, as we can be tempted to believe, all fame and glory.
This selection has to do with the great English preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon. By the time Spurgeon died at the age of 57, he had published more than 3500 sermons, written 135 books, and pastored the Metropolitan Tabernacle for 38 years (growing the congregation to over 14,000 members). He started and taught at a college for pastors, established and funded two orphanages (one for 250 boys and another for 250 girls), and began a home for elderly widows. To this day he is still considered one of the best preachers that has ever lived.
Yet throughout his ministry Spurgeon was plagued with "depression, discouragement, illness and fatigue. He didn't always experience the miraculous release he received after the Music Hall disaster (when God replaced his depression with joy). Added to his own difficulties, he had the sorrow of seeing his wife, Susannah, become a semi-invalid at thrity-six years of age...
Most of us want, as cartoon character Charlie Brown put it, a life of 'ups and upper ups.' It just never feels good to feel down. But there aren't enough dollars, pleasures, or achievements to keep away the low tides of life. Charles Spurgeon experienced this and commented, 'The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy.' Christians go through times of despair--whether they're willing to admit it or not.
Throughout his life Spurgeon was honest about his frequent discouragement and depression. He tried to prepare less-experienced Christians for dark moments. He assured them that Christ, the Man of Sorrows, knew how they felt when their hearts were breaking, and that the Savior would bend to catch his children's tears. Trials taught Spurgeon much about the ways of God and about the human condition... In a lecture he later gave to young ministers, the following key principles emerged:
- Those who trust and serve God are not exempt from dejection.
- Our suffering teaches us compassion for others.
- God often chooses people for special service because of their awareness of their own limitations. He knows they are more likely to remain dependent on his strength and guidance. However, these same people are also apt to become too introspective and collapse under a burden of false guilt. Because they are conscientious and caring, they worry (and) may also take on more responsibility than is healthy.
- Our pain may actually prepare us for the particular mission God has planned for us.
- Sorrow is inevitable in the lives of those who share God's grief over sin and evil.
- Great success is almost always mixed with heartache so that we will not glory in our achievements... Suffering is a strong antidote for pride and any delusions of granduer.
- Dark times drive us to new levels of trust in God and release greater dimensions of His power in our lives... The 'aha!' of discovery is often preceded by the agony of failure... Pain cuts through our theology, our complacency, our self-sufficiency and leaves us with quiet, humble hearts that can hear the voice of God."
All too often we can tend to think the road to greatness is paved with cushions and lined with adoring fans. Not so if that 'greatness' is to be defined in Christian terms. The sinful nature is aroused and reinforced rather than diminished and deadened when the self is adored, praised and pampered. Ministry that helps others usually flows out of struggle, pain and suffering, not a life of ease, abundance and unhindered success. Even Seneca, the Roman philosopher and statesman could say: "It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness."
With prayers for your continued usefulness in Christ's service,