Weirdest thing just happened. I sat down in my corner where I love to write to all of you and I turned on my music to an old album called, "The Story." Filled with amazing songs that walk us through the entire Bible, The Story has a song about the Old Testament's suffering Job; exactly who I wanted to think about tonight and for this series. But I'll come back to that.
Spurgeon, as we learned on Monday, had his share of deep, painful physical needs. So painful in fact that in 1886 he said, “When I am suffering very greatly from gout, if anybody walks heavily and noisily across the room, it gives me pain." In his autobiography he wrote, “I thought a cobra had bitten me and filled my veins with poison. I think it would have been less painful to have been burned alive at the stake than to have passed through those horrors and depressions of spirit.” (The Spurgeon Center)
It's no wonder Spurgeon was able to connect with his audience. He understood. It's no wonder he said, "The greatest earthly blessing that God can give to any of us is health, with the exception of sickness." More than ever, I get it. If a once-able weightlifter can be so bold to say, only someone who has suffered thinks to check himself at the door of pride, remove his shoes, and while he may have plenty of head room, knows to stoop.
I remember lying in my bath tub. A year removed from my neck replacement surgery and two away from my back reconstruction, I was dealing with something far more severe. Most of you know I had a colon infirmity where a spasm prevented me from being able to function normally, and the 2-year, daily war with pain was nearly unbearable. For months leading up to that risky surgery - in my bathtub with water full of blood and waste - I'd cry, I'd worry, I'd get angry, I'd apologize to my body, I'd question. Until one day, I resigned. Those that have my latest book recall my journal entry:
"I never predicted such weeks like this. If I ever get up...if I ever hope and rise and stand...if I ever smile, truly smile and speak and write and encourage, make no mistake, it won't be because I kept fighting. It won't be because of my inner man, my deep faith or some gut-summoned passion of belief. No, I have none of that. If I ever get better, it will only be by the mercy and unbelievable, inconceivable grace of my dear God."
Spurgeon: "O dear friend, when thy grief presses thee to the very dust, worship there! If that spot has come to be thy Gethsemane, then present there thy ‘strong crying and tears’ unto thy God. Turn the vessel upside down, and let every drop run out; but let it be before the Lord. When you are bowed down beneath a heavy burden of sorrow, then take to worshipping...” (Job’s Resignation)
Notice the sermon title? Job's resignation. If you ever get a chance, google it and read it. Watch what Spurgeon does to describe a suffering Job. And as you do, realize that Spurgeon himself, perhaps the moment he delivered the message was in much agony himself.
You'll forgive the long entry today, but I often stand above that tub and look down. That tub, and the years, and the loss of function, the loss of weight and ability are the reasons I stoop when I enter your lives each day. Today the tub is quiet, it's kept and clean, but it's where I resigned. It will always be the "dust where I worshipped."
Well, anyway, let's bring this to a close. I think I'll end with that song about Job from The Story. The fact that I stumbled upon Spurgeon's sermon about Job's resignation the very minute this song began, well, it was just too good of a moment for me to ignore. Perhaps because I'll never forget it.
If one more person takes my hand and tries to say they understand.
Tells me there's a bigger plan that I'm not meant to see.
If one more person dare suggest that I held something unconfessed
and tries to make the dots connect from righteousness to easy street.
Who else will see my suffering as one more opportunity to educate and help me see all my flawed theology?
If one more well-intentioned friend tries to tie-up my loose ends;
hoping to - with rug and broom - sweep awkward moments from the room...
But who am I to make demands of the God of Abraham?
And God, who are You that You would choose to answer me with mercy new?
How many more will wander passed to find me here among the ash.
Will you hold me? Will You stay so I can raise this broken praise to You?
But You were the one who filled my cup.
And You were the one who let it spill.
So blessed be Your Holy Name if you never fill it up again.
If this is where my story ends, just give me one more breath to say, "Hallelujah."
- Jimmy Peña