September 11, 2018

Review: Susie (The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon)

Moody Publishers provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for a review; however, the views stated here are my own. 

So much has been written about Charles Spurgeon that it's surprising that more attention has not been given to his wife, Susannah. Though often parted due to ministry or health issues, the love between Charles and Susie preserved a bond of oneness that, undergirded by their love of Christ, anchored them during difficult times. This anchoring allowed Charles Spurgeon, prince of preachers, to have a ministry of great breadth and depth, and it's impossible to separate the man and his ministry from his bride and helpmeet. This is made clear in Susie: the Life of Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon by Ray Rhodes.

As a pastor's wife, I was interested to read about the life of the woman married to one of the most celebrated pastors of the last 200 years. I expected to be informed and even encouraged, but I also came away challenged and convicted.

Susie had a passionate love for Charles (and he for her), and this is made clear through their letters to one another. In one, Susie responds to a letter from her husband, who was low at the time, "Words are but cold dishes on which to serve up thoughts and feelings which come warm and glowing from the heart." She follows this with encouragement to persevere in his ministry, even in the midst of public criticism. Susie recognized that she could provide a counter by "...quenching their fiery darts most easily with the shield of domestic love." Through this love, she graciously reminded him of a greater truth: "Do remember, dear friend, that the God you love, the Master you serve, is never indifferent to your grief, or unwilling to hear your cry."

These were not empty platitudes for Susie. She faced her own trials in the form of ongoing, disabling illness with this same truth, declaring, "Yet how good God has been to me! He has upheld me thorugh days of darkness, and seasons of sorrow, of which none knew but Himself and my own soul."

Susie also had a passion for equipping pastors for their work, and Charles encouraged her in this. The book details the remarkable start and growth of her Book Fund, which distributed 200,000 books to needy pastors over twenty-eight years. She oversaw every detail of this work, selecting each book with care, evaluating each request with a discerning eye, and personally corresponding with each recipient--all while dealing with her own physical limitations. After the death of her beloved husband, the Lord used this very ministry to console her in her deep sorrow.

As the wife of a celebrity pastor of that day, Susie found herself with a platform of her own. In our time, she may have been a blogger and more prolific author; in her own time, she transparently expressed her dependence on God during her own trials through letters, articles, and a handful of books. She never denied the grief, pain, or weariness that she experienced, but used it to point toward the sufficiency of Christ to sustain her. In her writing, she was most concerned with the image of Christ that she portrayed, and she shared undiluted truth in a most winsome way. Without the concern of hitting a bestseller list or building a large blog following, she simply spoke the truth in love.

Susie is a most comprehensive biography, and I learned much about Charles as well as his bride. It encouraged me anew in ways to come alongside my pastor husband to love and encourage him, as well as to pursue serving others with my own gifts. As the author (a friend of mine) is a great promoter of both marital and ministry joy, I can guess this was one of his hopes for his readers!

September 5, 2018

Review: Devoted (Great Men and Their Godly Moms)

Cruciform Press provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for a review; however, the views stated here are my own. 

One of the hardest roles I've ever held is that of mother. It's truly a case of on-the-job training. And because it's so hands-on, I have tended to focus on the practical day-to-day aspects of mothering. Now that my kids are young adults (though not all launched), it's a whole new ballgame.

With that in mind, I was so encouraged to read Devoted: Great Men and Their Godly Moms by Tim Challies. This little book is a compilation of blogposts about the mothers of eleven men (some you'll know, some you may not). I appreciated that the author invited Melissa Edgington to write "A Mother's Reflection" in response to each biography. She also teamed up with Rebecca Stark to write "questions for reflection" at the end of each chapter.

Challies introduces the book this way:
History tells of women whose love for the Bible shaped its earliest and most prominent teachers, and women whose unceasing prayers led to the long-awaited salvation of their wayward sons. It tells of women who were great theologians in their own right, yet whose only students were their own children. It tells of women who laid an early foundation in the lives of their sons that, despite their best efforts, they could never undermine. It tells, time and time again, of exceptional Christian men who owe so much to their godly mothers.
I gleaned so many lessons from the lives of these women.
  • Don't assume children are too young to learn important spiritual truths, or that they are too young for church to matter. Give them the opportunity to build a biblical foundation from an early age -- and be sure you're building that foundation in your own life (from John Newton's mother).
  • When your children, especially adult children, are unbelievers, "often the best ministry. . . is the minstry they will never see -- private, faith-filled, daily prayers in the closet." This ministry is fueled by "daily renewal in God's Word" (from Christopher Yuan's mother)
  • A deep relationship with Christ, strengthened through "years of prayer, study, ministry, and the development of a biblical worldview" will enable me to respond to heartache with faith, perseverence, and trust (from William Borden's mother).
  • "[God] uses ordinary mothers to carry out his purposes" (from John Piper's mother). 
  • While children are young, plead with God for their salvation . . . right in front of them (Charles Spurgeon's mother).
  • Respond to rebellion with earnest prayer (from Augustine's mother).
Some of these mothers were consistent in their faith, others were weaker, yet God saw fit to use each in her own way to spiritual impact her son. This, too, was encouraging to me.

I highly recommend this book. It not only makes for great devotional reading, it would also be a good small group (such as a book club) choice, with great application and discussion question already prepared.