Five Biblical Principles to Fight Regret

Worried young woman being accusedRecently I met a woman who confessed, “My life is not what I thought it would be.”  She went on to share the many regrets of her heart. Webster’s dictionary defines regret like this:  “to feel sad or sorry about (something that you did or did not do).”  Or, the Oxford Dictionary states that it is to, “Feel sad, repentant, or disappointed over (something that has happened or been done, especially a loss or missed opportunity).”  With the exception of a few, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have regrets. But for some, like my new friend, it is a major cause of depression. She is harassed by thoughts of, “If only,” “I should have,” “Why didn’t I?” Why did I?” 

You don’t have to be a Christian to understand the folly and futility of living in regret.  It’s common sense, isn’t it?  No one can undo the past. What’s more, the only thing we accomplish when we obsess over the past is to repeat the same in the present!  It’s an utter waste of time. But it’s one thing to know you shouldn’t do it, and quite another to not do it. To fight regret we need more than common sense.  We need the Word of God. Thankfully, there are biblical truths to help us combat the sin of living in regret — and make no mistake about it, it is sin.  If you are a Christian, no matter what your past is, you don’t have to live with regret. Below are a few biblical principles to help you fight.

  1. MISTAKES AND FAILURES ARE PART OF THE PLAN: Ephesians 1:11 states, “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.”  The doctrine of predestination teaches that before the foundation of the world, God planned our lives. In some mysterious way, this includes the bad things.  Our mistakes, the sins we committed, and the sins committed against us – all of this is working for good.  This does not mean that God condones sin but in a mysterious way, these things are working to accomplish God’s loving purpose for us which, from the beginning, was to lavish us with His love. Our mistakes, the follies, the sinfulness of the heart, they are all factored in by the Master Architect, who lovingly crafts and foreordains each event and circumstance in our life.  For the Christian, all things are working for good (Romans 8:28). Our times are in His hands (Psalms 31:15).
  2. BEING BROKEN IS BETTER THAN BEING PROUD: Psalms 119:71 says, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.” Failure teaches us things that victories don’t.  As for me, I cringe to think what I would be without the humiliations and the sufferings.  Crushing is good.  It keeps us wholly reliant upon the grace of God.  Left to our own devices most of us would believe our own hype. Rightly did the hymnist say, “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love.” Trouble helps us stay at the cross.  Moreover, it keeps us kind and gentle, especially to the weaker among us who too often get steam-rolled by the stronger.  Don’t despise weakness. It’s good.
  3.  GOD IS NOT BOUND BY TIME:   Psalms 90:4 says, “For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.” So many Christians look back and lament what could have been.  Wasted or lost years that can never be retrieved.  But what is lost to us is not lost to God. God is able to restore what was lost over many years in a single year (Joel 2:25)!  He does not operate under our limited ideas of time.  He (not us) defines the terms of our purpose and usefulness in the Kingdom. Scripture is littered with examples of saints who thought their best years were behind them.  Moses, Abraham and Sarah, Zechariah and Elizabeth, and the list goes on.  And, many times, he saves the best for last (Matthew 19:30)!  The bottom line is that God is a Redeemer and if not in this life, He will restore in the next.
  4. MISTAKES CANNOT SEPARATE US FROM GOD: Romans 8:38-39 says, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Whatever our past mistakes separate us from, they cannot separate us from the love of God!  If you are a born-again believer, you and Jesus are one!  Octavious Winslow writes, “Nothing shall separate you from his love, nor sever you from his care, nor exclude you from his sympathy, nor banish you from his heaven of eternal blessedness.”  No matter what your past is, your life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3).
  5. GOD IS ON THE THRONE (NOT YOU):  Lamentations 5:19 says, “But you, O LORD, reign forever; your throne endures to all generations.”  Hard as it is to imagine, we are not the center of the universe!  We do not hold the universe together.  Jesus does (Colossians 1:17)! D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes that there is a morbid and sinful preoccupation with self when we dwell on our past.  It’s good to be introspective and to examine yourself in light of Scripture but for heavens sake, if you are a Christian, you must temper it with the amazing grace of God! Nothing matters more — not the consequences of your sin, not the consequences of someone else’s sin — than what God did in Christ when He sent his only begotten son to die for our sins (John 3:16). And, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things (Romans 8:32)?

If you are a Christian crippled in the present by the tyranny of the past, know this:  You don’t have to live like that.  Christ suffered the blow for it all. Romans 6:14 says,“For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”  With God, You can triumph over regret and live a “full and abundant life” (John 10:10).

Never look back again; never waste your time in the present; never waste your energy; forget the past and rejoice in the fact that you are what you are by the grace of God, and that in the Divine alchemy of His marvelous grace you may yet have greatest surprise of your life and existence and find that even in your case it will come to pass that the last shall be first.  Praise God for that fact that you are what you are, and that you are in the Kingdom. – D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Recommended Reading:  Spiritual Depressions:  Its Causes and Cures by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Recommended Listening:  Spiritual Depression #4: Regrets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

News of a Better World by John Newton

Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

Dear Brother,

Blessed be God for the news of a better world, where there will be no sin, trouble, nor defect forever!

What shall it be — when the Lord shall call us up to join with those who are now singing before the eternal throne!

What shall it be — when all the children of God, who in different ages and countries have been scattered abroad — shall be all gathered together, and enter into that glorious and eternal rest provided for them!

What shall it be — when there shall not be one trace of sin or sorrow remaining — not one discordant note to be heard, nothing to disturb or defile, or alleviate the never-ceasing joy!

Many a weary step we have taken, since the Lord first drew us to Himself; but we shall not have to tread the past way over again. Some difficulties may remain — but we know not how few. Perhaps before we are aware, the Lord may cut short our conflict and say, “Come up hither!” At the most, it cannot be very long! He who has been with us thus far — will be with us to the end. He knows how to cause our consolations to exceed our greatest afflictions!

And when we get safely home — we shall not complain that we have suffered too much along the way. We shall not say, “Is this all I get — after so much trouble?” No! When we awake in that glorious world, we shall in an instant — be satisfied with His likeness. One sight of Jesus as He is — will fill our hearts, and dry up all our tears!

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18)

Letters of John Newton

Susannah Thompson Spurgeon: A Life of Sacrifice, Suffering, and Service (Part 3 of 3)

Mrs C H Spurgeon

Welcome back to Heavenly Springs! Today we will conclude our series on Susannah Thompson Spurgeon. In Part 1, we covered her early years, courtship, and marriage. In Part 2 we discussed some of her sacrifices and sufferings. Today we will cover her life of service. Please don’t forget to enter to win a free book. The drawing will close at 9pm EST on Friday night – details are at the end of the post!

From the start, Susannah proved an invaluable asset to her husband. While still engaged, Charles asked a young Miss. Thompson to help him compose “a little book of extracts” from the writings of one of his favorite Puritan authors, Thomas Brooks. He asked her to mark up “all the paragraphs and sentences that seemed particularly sweet, quaint or instructive.”[1] So she did. And the result was a small book called “Smooth Stones Taken from Ancient Brooks” which may very well be in your library! While her name is nowhere to be found, Charles Spurgeon’s very first literary work bears the stamp of Miss. Susie Thompson!

In their first year of marriage, Charles founded the Pastor’s College, a school for young preachers who couldn’t afford an education. Susie was every bit invested in the work as he was. She writes, “I rejoice to remember how I shared my beloved’s joy when he founded the Institution, and that together we planned and pinched in order to carry out the purpose of his loving heart; it gave me quite a motherly interest in the College, and ‘our own men.’”[2] The college trained nearly 900 students during his lifetime.[3] Reflecting on those early days, Susie writes, “… we never had enough left over to ‘tie a bow and ends’; but I can see now that this was God’s way of preparing us to sympathize with and help poor pastors in the years which were to come.”[4]

You may not know this, but Charles usually didn’t pick his theme for the Sunday sermon until Saturday night.[5] Whenever he would struggle to find a text for Sunday he would say, “Wifey! What shall I do? God has not given me a text yet?”[6] Often she would make a suggestion and if he used it, would give her credit after the sermon. “You gave me that text!” he would say. She also helped him by reading books out loud. Late Saturday night she would often join him in his office where “there was always an easy chair … drawn up to the table by Mr. Spurgeon’s side, and a number of open books piled one upon another from which she used to read as directed by her husband.”[7]

On one Saturday evening Charles was struggling with a particular text. He consulted commentary after commentary but to no avail. His wife, observing his frustration, suggested he go to bed and revisit in the morning. He complied but asked that she wake him early in order to prepare. Susie tells what transpired that night.

“By-and-by a wonderful thing happened. During the first dawning hours of the Sabbath, I heard him talking in his sleep, and roused myself to listen attentively. Soon I realised that he was going over the subject of the verse which had been so obscure to him, and was giving a clear and distinct exposition of its meaning with much force and freshness. I set myself with almost trembling joy to understand and follow all that he was saying, for I knew that if I could but seize and remember the salient points of the discourse he would have no difficulty in developing and enlarging upon them. Never preacher had a more eager and anxious hearer! What if I should let the precious words slip? I had no means at hand of ‘taking notes,’ so, like Nehemiah, ‘I prayed to the God of Heaven,’ and asked that I might receive and retain the thoughts which He had given to His servant in his sleep, and which were so singularly entrusted to my keeping. As I lay repeating over and over again the chief points I wished to remember, my happiness was very great in anticipation of his surprise and delight on awaking; but I had kept vigil so long, cherishing my joy, that I must have been overcome with slumber just when the usual time for rising came, for he awoke with a frightened start, and seeing the tell-tale clock, said, ‘Oh, wifey, you said you would wake me very early, and now see the time! Oh, why did you let me sleep? What shall I do? What shall I do?’ ‘Listen, beloved,’ I answered; and I told him all I had heard. ‘Why! that’s just what I wanted,’ he exclaimed; ‘that is the true explanation of the whole verse! And you say I preached it in my sleep?’ ‘It is wonderful,’ he repeated again and again, and we both praised the Lord for so remarkable a manifestation of His power and love.”[8]

Susie was also the founder of The Pastors Book Fund, one of her most important and visible ministries. The humble origins of the ministry show how God blesses small sacrifices offered in faith. In 1875, after having completed the first volume of “Lectures to My Students,” Charles asked his wife to read it and offer her thoughts. “I wish I could place it in the hands of every minister in England,” was the reply, and the preacher at once rejoined, “Then why not do so: how much will you give?”[9] Susie took up the challenge and sold a valuable (but unnecessary) item she had stashed away. From the sale she generated exactly enough to buy one hundred copies of the work. She writes, “If a twinge of regret at parting from my cherished but unwieldy favourites passed over me, it was gone in an instant, and then they were given freely and thankfully to the Lord, and in that moment, though I knew it not, the Book Fund was inaugurated.”[10] Her biographer writes, “Mrs. Spurgeon’s name deserves to live for ever in the annals of the Christian Church in connection with her fund for supplying theological books to clergymen and ministers too poor to buy them.”[11] And if anyone understood the importance of books it was she! Her husband’s personal library contained 12,000 volumes! [12] She writes, “Books are as truly a minister’s needful tools as the plane and the hammer and the saw are the necessary adjuncts of a carpenter’s bench. We pity a poor mechanic, whom accident has deprived of his working gear, we straightway get up a subscription to restore it, and certainly never expect a stroke of work from him while it is lacking; why, I wonder, do we not bring the same commonsense help to our poor ministers, and furnish them liberally with the means of procuring the essentially important books?[13]

Regarding his wife’s ministry, Charles wrote, “This good work of providing mental food for ministers ought never to cease till their incomes are doubled. May ‘Mrs. Spurgeon’s Book Fund’ become a permanent source of blessing to ministers and churches!”[14]

On January 31st, 1892, at age 57, Charles went home to Glory. After her beloved’s death, she devoted herself almost entirely to literary work, the most significant being, “C.H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography.” This monumental four-volume work was made possible only through the tireless efforts of a devoted wife who spent large quantities of time sifting through old correspondence, sermons and books. She also authored the chapters concerning home and marriage in which she expresses, in many places, her deep longing for her beloved. “Ah! my husband,” she says in one passage, “the blessed earthly ties which we welcomed so rapturously are dissolved now, and death has hidden thee from my mortal eyes; but not even death can divide thee from me or sever the love which united our hearts so closely. I feel it living and growing still, and I believe it will find its full and spiritual development only when we shall meet in the glory-land and worship together before the throne!”[15]

Susannah went on to author several works of her own: “Ten Years of My Life in the Service of the Book Fund,” and “Ten Years After.” She also authored three devotionals: “A Carillon of Bells to Ring out the Old Truths of ‘Free Grace and Dying Love’ ”; “A Cluster of Camphire; or, Words of Cheer and Comfort for Sick and Sorrowful Souls”; and “A Basket of Summer Fruit.”

In the summer of 1903, Susie was struck with a severe case of pneumonia she never recovered from. Even on her sick bed, her faith shined. “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him,” she said feebly, and quoted the lines:

“His love in times past forbids me to think
He’ll leave me at last in trouble to sink.”[16]

On October 22nd, 1903, Mrs. Spurgeon joined her husband. Her biographer tells what happened during those last moments. “When very near the end she clasped her feeble hands together, and, her face aglow with a heavenly radiance, exclaimed: “Blessed Jesus! Blessed Jesus! I can see the King in His Glory!”[17]

Mrs. Spurgeon is gone but her work, having been built on the foundation that is Christ, remains.   It is a testament to the power of God that a woman so weak and frail could accomplish so much. Her biographer writes, “If greatness depends upon the amount of good which one does in the world, if it is only another name for unselfish devotion in the service of others—and surely true greatness is all this—then Mrs. C. H. Spurgeon will go down to posterity as one of the greatest women of her time.”[18]

As we bring our series to a close, I’d like to share one final thought. There is a temptation, when we study the great men and women of the faith, to measure ourselves according to their accomplishments. This is a mistake. We are not called to live Susie’s life – or anyone else’s. Susannah Thompson Spurgeon was born for her time and her place; we are born to ours. Instead, may her life challenge and inspire us to trust God and be faithful in our varied spheres for which the allotments of Divine Providence has fixed for us.

This concludes Part 3 of our 3-Part Series. As a reminder, I will be giving away two copies of Susannah Spurgeon: Free Grace and Dying Love (Morning Devotions with the Life of Susannah Spurgeon). If you are interested in participating, please leave a comment. You may increase your chances by sharing on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media. Just let me know what you have done, and I will add your name once for each share. The Giveaway will close on Friday, September 5th at 9pm EST. Winners will be notified via email.

[1] Charles Ray, Mrs. C. H. Spurgeon (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1903), 113.
[2] Ray, Mrs. C. H. Spurgeon, 35.
[3] Christian History Magazine-Issue 29: Charles Spurgeon: England’s “Prince of Preachers” (Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today, 1991).
[4] Charles Ray, Mrs. C. H. Spurgeon (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1903), 35.
[5] Christian History Magazine-Issue 29: Charles Spurgeon: England’s “Prince of Preachers” (Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today, 1991).
[6] Charles Ray, Mrs. C. H. Spurgeon (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1903), 102.
[7] Ray, Mrs. C. H. Spurgeon, 102.
[8] Ray, Mrs. C. H. Spurgeon, 37–39.
[9]Ray, Mrs. C. H. Spurgeon, 67.
[10] Ray, Mrs. C. H. Spurgeon, 68.
[11] Ray, Mrs. C. H. Spurgeon, 66.
[12] Christian History Magazine-Issue 29: Charles Spurgeon: England’s “Prince of Preachers” (Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today, 1991).
[13] Charles Ray, Mrs. C. H. Spurgeon (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1903), 73.
[14] Ray, Mrs. C. H. Spurgeon, 118.
[15] Ray, Mrs. C. H. Spurgeon, 112.
[16] Ray, Mrs. C. H. Spurgeon, 116.
[17] Ray, Mrs. C. H. Spurgeon, 117.
[18] Ray, Mrs. C. H. Spurgeon, 119.

Susannah Thompson Spurgeon: A Life of Sacrifice, Suffering, and Service (Part 2 of 3)

Mrs C H Spurgeon

Welcome! Thank you for visiting Heavenly Springs!  Today we continue with Part 2 of a series on the life of Susannah Thompson Spurgeon.  Yesterday, in Part 1, we covered her early years, courtship, and marriage to Charles Spurgeon.  Today we will discuss some of her sacrifices and sufferings. Don’t forget to enter to win a free book — details are at the end of the post!

The couple returned from their honeymoon to their first home, a modest house on New Kent Road. Susie lost no time throwing herself into her husband’s work “with a zeal not less than his own.”[1] Within a year of being married, on September 20th, 1856, Susie gave birth to two beautiful baby boys; fraternal twins, Charles and Thomas. The delivery was a hard one – one she never fully recovered from.  Nonetheless, as a devoted mother, she faithfully taught (and lived) the doctrines of the faith so effectively that both boys made early professions of the faith. Years later, they would point to their mother’s influence. Thomas writes, “I trace my early conversion directly to her earnest pleading and bright example. She denied herself the pleasure of attending Sunday evening services that she might minister the Word of Life to her household: There she taught me to sing, but to mean it first … My dear brother was brought to Christ through the pointed word of a missionary; but he, too, gladly owns that mother’s influence and teaching had their part in the matter. By these, the soil was made ready for a later sowing.”[2]   How telling it is that the boys credited their mother for their spiritual condition. One would expect that the children of a great preacher like Charles Spurgeon would point to their father.  But they recognized their mother. Let this be an inspiration to Christian mothers everywhere who labor, toil, and sacrifice to raise their children in the Lord.

For the first ten years of their marriage, Susannah traveled with her husband on various trips. She writes, “It was my joy and privilege to be ever at his side, accompanying him on many of his preaching journeys, nursing him in his occasional illnesses, his delighted companion during his holiday trips, always watching over and tending him with the enthusiasm and sympathy which my great love for him inspired.[3]  But by 1868 Susannah was forced to concede that her traveling days were over. She became what she calls, a “prisoner in a sick-chamber.”[4]  Her ministry became “suffering instead of service.”[5]  Combined with the agony of her physical suffering was the emotional strain of being separated from her husband for long stretches of time. Due to his numerous physical ailments, not the least of which was a debilitating case of gout, Charles would travel to Mentone, France during the winter months where the warm Mediterranean weather helped him heal.  “These separations,” she says, “were very painful to hearts so tenderly united as were ours, but we each bore our share of the sorrow as heroically as we could and softened it as far as possible by constant correspondence.”[6]

Despite the afflictive dispensation to which she was subjected for so many years, she learned to trust the Sovereignty and goodness of God. Her posture, in all her sufferings, was one of uncomplaining submission.  Having been schooled in her husband’s school of faith, she understood trials and sufferings were not designed to destroy but to refine and purify.  To that end, she could say, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).

Susannah’s sufferings were not just physical; they were spiritual, too. Although the Spurgeon’s were, at some level, accustomed to the abuse of the press, those abuses reached new heights after the tragic events of  October 19th, 1856. On that night Charles was set to preach at Surrey Gardens Music Hall to thousands of people.  The service was just beginning when suddenly, in the middle of his prayer, several troublemakers shouted, “Fire! The galleries are giving way!” “In the ensuing chaos, seven people died and twenty-eight were hospitalized with serious injuries. Spurgeon, totally undone, was literally carried from the pulpit….” [7]

Susannah recalls the moment her husband returned. “When my beloved finally came home he looked a wreck of his former self,—an hour’s agony of mind had changed his whole appearance and bearing. The night that ensued was one of weeping and wailing and indescribable sorrow. He refused to be comforted. I thought the morning would never break; and when it did come it brought no relief.”[8] Charles entered such a period of darkness they wondered if he would ever preach again.  It was their “valley of the shadow of death” and “ofttimes,” she writes, “when we lifted up our foot to set forward, we knew not where or upon what we should set it next.”[9]

The darkness of that period was exacerbated by the malicious cruelty of the press.  A torrent of slander, the likes of which they had never seen, was unleashed against them.  Charles almost entirely lost his spiritual bearings, and a powerless Susannah could do nothing but watch.  She writes, “My heart alternately sorrowed over him and flamed with indignation against his detractors.”[10] Finally she received strength through the words of Matthew 5:11-12. The words nearly jumped off the page, coming alive and equipping her to fight the battle raging against her husband’s soul.  She printed the text in large Old English type, put it in a pretty Oxford frame, and hung it in their room.  She made sure that Charles heard those words each day he left the house.  Charles did eventually emerge from his  depression — though some argue, he never fully recovered.  But by God’s grace he persevered and continued His work for the Lord.  For that we have, in large part, his wife to thank.

In 1871, Charles Spurgeon wrote to his beloved, “None know how grateful I am to God for you. In all I have ever done for Him you have a large share, for in making me so happy you have fitted me for service. Not an ounce of power has ever been lost to the good cause through you. I have served the Lord far more and never less for your sweet companionship.”[11]

Given the high place Charles assigns to his wife, how little, comparatively speaking, we think of and honor her.  Each time we enjoy, even a small benefit from his labors, we do well to remember that we reap with joy, what she sowed in tears.

This concludes Part 2 of our 3-Part Series. Please join us tomorrow for Part 3. As a reminder, at the end of the series, I will be giving away two copies of Susannah Spurgeon: Free Grace and Dying Love (Morning Devotions with the Life of Susannah Spurgeon). If you are interested in participating, please leave a comment. You may increase your chances by sharing on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media. Just let me know what you have done, and I will add your name once for each share. The Giveaway will close on Friday, September 5th at 9pm EST. Winners will be notified via email.

[1] Charles Ray, Mrs. C. H. Spurgeon (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1903), 34.
[2] Ray, Mrs. C. H. Spurgeon, 65.
[3] Ray, Mrs. C. H. Spurgeon, 47–48.
[4] Ray, Mrs. C. H. Spurgeon, 51.
[5] Ray, Mrs. C. H. Spurgeon, 48.
[6] Ray, Mrs. C. H. Spurgeon, 51.
[7] Christian History Magazine-Issue 29: Charles Spurgeon: England’s “Prince of Preachers” (Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today, 1991).
[8] Ray, Mrs. C. H. Spurgeon, 42.
[9] Ray, Mrs. C. H. Spurgeon, 42–43.
[10] Ray, Mrs. C. H. Spurgeon, 45.
[11] Ray, Mrs. C. H. Spurgeon, 55.