Spurgeon battled against “causeless depression” his whole life. This “shapeless, undefinable, yet all-beclouding hopelessness,” he wrote, “cannot be reasoned with.” Fighting this type of depression, he said, is as difficult as fighting with mist.
But Spurgeon did fight it—with faith.
I am heartily ashamed of myself for falling into [despondency], but I am sure there is no remedy for it like a holy faith in God.
The place of faith was to depend upon God to act:
The iron bolt which so mysteriously fastens the door of hope and holds our spirits in gloomy prison, needs a heavenly hand to push it back.
In his famous lecture to his students, “The Minister’s Fainting Fits,” Spurgeon commended the glory of God in creation as a remedy for depression:
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 warders of a gaol, 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.
Heaviest the heart is in a heavy air, Ev’ry wind that rises blows away despair.
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.
For more on Spurgeon’s depression and his fight of faith, see:
- John Piper, Charles Spurgeon: Preaching through Adversity
- Darrel W. Amundsen, The Anguish and Agonies of Charles Spurgeon
- Zack Eswine, Listening for the Sound of Reality: The Melancholy of Abraham Lincoln and Charles Haddon Spurgeon
- Randy Alcorn on how Spurgeon’s writings on depression helped him go through his own depression in 2007 (part 1, part 2, part 3)