In this sermon, Spurgeon speaks of and to “burden-bearers” of various sorts, comparing them to the Gershonites spoken of and to in the book of Numbers—a family in the tribe of Levi called to bear holy burdens and responsible for the moving of the priestly ornaments. As I’m presently one of these Gershonites—no longer bed-bound, but still in a daily state of suffering—it is not enough to view myself as “not worthless” but rather, to stand as a witness of God’s goodness in and through that suffering. This passage in Numbers 4 starts with the words, “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying…” before going on to describe the service and the life the Gershonites were to live. They were not an afterthought, nor were they they “less than” but, rather, were directly appointed by God for their task.
In my last article, I shared some verses1 that the Lord has repeatedly used to encourage and sanctify me over the past few years. These verses were especially heartening during a prolonged period during which I was housebound, and largely confined to my bed. Lying there, in vast amounts of pain, unable to sleep or even to find a single comfortable position, I struggled against a persistent sense of pointlessness. The enemy would come and remind me of just how frail I was, and how useless I felt. My only visitors were the people who lived with us, and I had no pastoral support at the time.
I felt very alone.
It was not the first time I’d been seriously ill, and, therefore, I knew that the Lord would be perfecting my suffering for his glory and for the good of his people. There were times though—sometimes due to spiritual drought and other times because of the wretched medicine I had to take—that the truth became hard to hold onto.
During this time, I had continued to disciple a number of young men in the church, (albeit on Zoom…and horizontally.) One day, between one call and another, I brought my struggle before the Lord and asked:
“What is the point? What am I good for now?”
After I had prayed, I picked up a book of sermons that sat by my bedside, and I began to read. I’d love to tell you about the sermon I stumbled upon that day, and about how God used it to transform my suffering once more, to change my life, and to renew my mind. In addition though, I wanted as many people as possible to be able to access this sermon, and so, I have recorded the sermon in full so you can listen on YouTube.
Burdens and Bedsides
That day, whilst reading the sermon above, the following words were an answer to prayer and a warm embrace:
There lies, at Dundee, at this present moment, a man who has been confined to his bed, I think it is now fifty-six years. I have his photograph at home, and the friend who sent it to me wrote, “I send you the likeness of the happiest man in Dundee, and one of the most useful, too, for he is a great soul-winner though he cannot raise himself from a constantly prostrate position. He talks so sweetly of Christ and of the upholding power of divine grace, that he leads many to put their trust in Jesus Christ.
I was six months in to what would be almost a year spent mostly in bed—though I didn’t know it yet. In that moment, my prayer railing against my uselessness was replaced by one petitioning God to use my bedridden state; even if it was to last another fifty-six years. The truth is, that often when we’re in states of suffering, we’re the first to declare ourselves a lost cause, even when we would never do such a thing to others.
Spurgeon goes on to say:
All over this land…there are bed-ridden men and women who are the saintliest among the saints. It is an atrocious lie that some have uttered when they have said that the sickness is a consequence of the sufferer’s sin. I could not select, out of heaven, choicer spirits than some whom I know who have not for twenty years left their bed, and they have lived nearer to God than any of us, and have brought to Him more glory than any of us.
It is true that there are some out there who will blame suffering saints for their status, I’ve met some personally.