By Charles Spurgeon
II. But now I have to answer a second question, what is a wounded spirit? “A wounded spirit who can bear?” It cannot bear its own infirmity so it becomes a load to itself, and the question is not, “What can it bear?” but “Who can bear it?” “A wounded spirit, who can bear?” What then is a wounded spirit? Well, I have known some who have talked about having a wounded spirit, but the wound has been after all a very slight affair compared with the wounds that I mean. One has been disappointed in love. That is very sad, but still it is a trial that can be endured. We have no right to love the creature so much as to make it our god or our idol. I have known some who have been disappointed in the object of their ambition, and in consequence they have had a wounded spirit. But who are you that you should not be disappointed, and what are you that you should have everything according to your mind? Surely if the Lord were to deal with you according to your sins you would have something to bear far worse than your present disappointment. As to those trials of which a person says, “Nobody ever suffered as I have done, nobody was ever treated I have been,” such statements are altogether wrong. There are many others who have passed through equal or even greater trials. Do not therefore allow these things to fret you and to destroy your peace. Be not like the Spartan boy who put the fox into his bosom and carried it there, though it was gnawing at his flesh, and eating right into his heart.
There are some people who are so unwise as to make earthly objects their supreme delight, and those objects become like foxes that gnaw to their soul’s destruction. I will only say this about such wounded hearts as these; there is a good deal of sin mingled with the sorrow, and a great deal of pride, a great deal of creature-worship and of idolatry there. Depend upon it, if you make an idol and God loves you, he will break it. A Quaker lady once stood up to speak in a little meeting, and all that she said was “Verily, I perceive that children are idols.” She did not know why she said it; but there was a mother there who had been wearing black for years after her child had been taken away; she had never forgiven her God for what he had done. Now this is an evil that is to be rebuked. I dare not comfort those whose spirits are wounded in this fashion. If they carry even their mourning too far, we must say to them, “Dear friend, is not this rebellion against God? May not this be petulance instead of patience? May there not be very much here which is not at all according to the mind of Christ?” We may sorrow and be grieved when we lose our loved ones, for we are men, but we must moderate our sorrow and bow our will to the will of the Lord, for are we not also men of God?
I will not dwell further upon that point, but there are some forms of a wounded spirit which are serious, and yet they are not quite what I am going afterwards to speak about. Some have a wounded spirit through the cruelty of men, the unkindness of children, the ingratitude of those whom they have helped, and for whom they have had such affection that they would almost have been willing to sacrifice their own lives. It is a terrible wounding when he who should have been your friend becomes your foe, and when, like your Lord, you also have your Judas Iscariot. It is not easy to bear misrepresentation and falsehood, to have your purest motives misjudged, and to be thought to be only seeking something for yourself when you have a pure desire for the good of others. This is a very painful kind of wounded spirit, but it must not be allowed to be carried too far. We should cry to God to help us bear this trial; for after all, who are we that we should not be despised? Who are we that we should not be belied? He is the wise man who expects this kind of trial, and expecting it, is not disappointed when it comes. “How”—asked one, of a person who had lived through the terrible French Revolution when almost all notable men were put to death—“how was it that you escaped?” He answered, “I made myself of no reputation, and nobody ever spoke of me, so I escaped.” And I believe that, in this world, the happiest lot does not belong to those of us who are always being talked about, but to those who do not know anybody, and whom nobody knows; they can steal through the world very quietly. So do not be broken-hearted if men try to wound your spirit. When thirty years ago they abused me to the utmost, I felt that I need not care what they said, for I could hardly do anything worse than they said I had done. When you once get used to this kind of treatment—and you may as well do so for you will have plenty of it if you follow Christ—it will not trouble you, and you will be able to bear your infirmity without being much wounded by the unkindness of men.
There are others who have been very grievously wounded by sorrow. They have had affliction upon affliction, loss after loss, bereavement after bereavement. And we ought to feel those things; indeed, it is by feeling them that we get the good out of them. Still, every Christian man should cry to God for strength to bear repeated losses and bereavements if they are his portion, and he should endeavor in the strength of God not to succumb whatever his trials may be. If we do yield to temptation and begin to complain of God for permitting such things to come upon us, we shall only be kicking against the pricks and so wound ourselves all the more. Let us be submissive to the hand that wields the rod of correction, and then very soon that rod will be taken from off our backs.
There are some who have been greatly wounded no doubt, through sickness. A wounded spirit may be the result of diseases which seriously shake the nervous system. Let us be very tender with brethren and sisters who get into that condition. I have heard some say, rather unkindly, “Sister So-and-so is so nervous, we can hardly speak in her presence.” Yes, but talking like that will not help her; there are many persons who have had this trying kind of nervousness greatly aggravated by the unkindness or thoughtlessness of friends. It is a real disease, it is not imaginary. Imagination no doubt contributes to it and increases it; but still, there is a reality about it. There are some forms of physical disorder in which a person lying in bed feels great pain through another person simply walking across the room. “Oh!” you say, “that is more imagination.” Well, you may think so if you like, but if you are ever in that painful condition—as I have been many a time —I will warrant that you will not talk in that fashion again. “But we cannot take notice of such fancies,” says one. I suppose that you would like to run a steam-roller across the room just for the sake of strengthening their nerves! But if you had the spirit of Christ you would want to walk across the room as though your foot were flakes of snow!; you would not wish to cause the poor sufferer any additional pain. I beg you, never grieve those upon whom the hand of God is lying in the form of depression of spirit, but be very tender and gentle with them. You need not encourage them in their sadness, but at the same time, let there be no roughness in dealing with them; they have many very sore places, and the hand that touches them should be soft as down.
Yet do I not wish to speak of that kind of wounded spirit alone for that is rather the business of the physician than of the divine. Still, it well illustrates this latter part of our text, “a wounded spirit, who can bear?” But this is the kind of wounded spirit I mean. When a soul is under a deep and terrible sense of sin —when conviction flashes into the mind with lightning swiftness and force, and the man says, “I am guilty;” when the notion of what guilt is first comes clearly home to him and he sees that God must be as certainly just as he is good, then he discovers that he has angered infinite love, that he has provoked almighty grace, and that he has made his best Friend to be, necessarily, his most terrible foe. A man in such a condition as that will have a wounded spirit such as none can bear. Then you may pipe to him, but he will not dance; you may try to charm him with your amusements, or to please him with your oratory, but you cannot give him peace or rest. “A wounded spirit, who can bear?” You know that there was one of old who said, “My soul chooseth strangling and death rather than my life,” and there was another, Judas, who actually did strangle himself under an awful sense of his guilt in betraying his Lord. Oh! I do trust that no one of you will act as he did, for that were to damn yourself irretrievably; but I do not wonder that you cry out, “Oh, that I could hide myself in the dust to escape from the terrors of a sense of divine wrath!” “A wounded spirit, who can bear?”
Sometimes the spirit is wounded by the fierce temptations of Satan. I hope that you do not all understand what this means; but there are some who do. Satan tempts them to doubt, tempts them to sin, tempts them to blasphemy. Some dear friends whom I know, who are among the purestminded of mortals, and whose lives are models of everything that is devout and right, are worried by the great adversary from morning to night, scarcely ever waking in the night without some vile suggestion of Satan or some horrible howling in their ears, “You are lost; you are lost; you are shut out from mercy for ever.” They are tempted even to curse God and die; and that temptation brings a wounded spirit, such as they scarcely know how to bear. Who can bear it? God save you from it if you have fallen under its terrible power!
A wounded spirit may also come through desertion by God. The believer has not walked carefully, he has fallen into sin, and God has hidden his face from him. Ah, my friends, whenever you trifle with sin, I wish you could feel as some of God’s true people have done when they have been restored after a great fall! A burnt child dreads the fire, and so does a true child of God who has ever played with sin; he has been brought back to his Lord, but he has gone the rest of his life with an aching heart and limping limbs, and many a time in wintry weather he has felt that his broken bones start and cry out against him with the memory of his past sins. “Deliver me,” says David, “from the sins of my youth;” and so may some of God’s best servants say in their old age; and some who once were very bright stars but who have been for a while eclipsed, will never be able to escape from a certain sense of darkness which is still upon them. “I shall go softly all my years in the bitterness of my soul,” may he say who has once grievously sinned against God after light and knowledge. Therefore beloved, be very careful that you do not backslide, for if you do you will have a wounded spirit which you will not know how to bear.
I believe however that some of God’s children have a wounded spirit entirely through mistake. I am always afraid of those who got certain wild notions into their heads, ideas that are not true I mean; they are very happy while they hold those high notions, and they look down with contempt upon others of God’s people who do not go kite-flying or balloon-sailing as they do. I think to myself sometimes—how will they come down when their precious balloon bursts? I have often wished them well down on the level again. I have seen them believe this, and believe that, which they were not warranted by the Scriptures to believe, and they have affected exalted ideas of their own attainments. Their position was something wonderful; they were far up in the sky looking down upon all the saints below! Yes, dear friends, that is all very pretty and very fine, undoubtedly; but when you come down again then you will begin to condemn yourself for things that you need not condemn, and you will be distressed and miserable in your spirit because of a disappointment which you need never have had if you had walked humbly with your God. For my own part, I can truly say that none of the novelties of this present evil age have any sort of charm for me; I am content still to abide in the old way, myself ever a poor, needy, helpless sinner, finding everything I need in Christ. If you ever hear me beginning to talk about what a fine fellow I am and how perfect I am getting, you just say, “He’s off his head.” Please put me in an asylum directly, for I must have lost my reason before I could have believed this modern nonsense. I feel sure that I, for one, shall not suffer any disappointment in this direction, for I shall keep just where Jack the huckster kept, and say with him,—
“I’m a poor sinner, and nothing at all,
But Jesus Christ is my all in all.”
IV. But lastly, suppose our spirit is wounded, how is it to be healed? Do you need that I should tell you that there is only One who can heal a wounded spirit? “By his stripes we are healed.” If you would be healed of the bleeding wounds of your heart, flee away to Christ. You did so once; do it again. Come to Christ now, though you may have come to him a hundred times before. Come now just as you are, without one plea, but that his blood was shed for you. Come to him. There is no peace for a soul that does not do this, and you must have peace if you will but come simply as you are, and trust yourself with Christ.
If however your wounded Spirit should not get peace at once, try to remove any mistakes which may be causing you unnecessary sorrow. Study your Bible more. Listen to plain preaching of the gospel. Let this be to you the mark of true gospel preaching—where Christ is everything and the creature is nothing; where it is salvation all of grace through the work of the Holy Spirit, applying to the soul the precious blood of Jesus. Try to get a clear view of the gospel and many a doubt and fear will fly away when knowledge takes the place of ignorance.
Endeavour also to get a clear view of your own troubles. We are never frightened so much by what we know as by what we do not know. The boy thinks as he sees something white, “That is a ghost,” and that is why he is frightened. He does not know what a ghost is; he supposes that it is something mysterious, and he is superstitious, so he is frightened by the object before him. If he would go right up to it he would see that it is a cow and he would not be frightened any more. Half the fears in the world have no real ground, and if we could but induce troubled persons dispassionately to look at their fears, their fears would vanish. Write it down in black and white if you can, and let some friend read it. Perhaps if you read it yourself you will laugh at it. I believe that oftentimes with regard to the most grievous afflictions that we have in our mind, if they fretted somebody else, we should say, “I cannot think how that person can be so stupid.” We almost know that we are ourselves stupid, but we do not like to confess it. I would therefore urge the wounded spirit to look at its wound; it is of no use to cover it over and to say, “Oh, it is an awful wound!” Perhaps if you would just have it thoroughly examined, the surgeon would say to you, “Oh, it is only a flesh wound; it will soon be all right again!” And so your drooping spirits would revive and your wounded self would begin to heal.
One thing however I would say to one who has a really wounded heart. Remember Christ’s sympathy with you. O thou who art tossed with tempest and not comforted, thy Lord’s vessel is in the storm with thee! Yea, he is in the vessel with thee. There is not a pang that rends the believer’s heart but he has felt it first. He drinks out of the cup with you. Is it very bitter? He has had a cup full of it for every drop that you taste. This ought to comfort you. I know of no better remedy for the heart’s trouble in a Christian than to feel, “My Master himself takes no better portion than that which he gives to me.”
Also let me recommend as a choice remedy for a wounded spirit; an enlarged view of the love of God. I wish that some of you who have a wounded spirit would give God credit for being as kind as you are yourself. You would not suffer your child to endure a needless pain if you could remove it; neither does God afflict willingly, or grieve the children of men. He would not allow you to be cast down, but would cheer and comfort you if it was good for you. His delight is that you should be happy and joyful. Do not think that you may not take the comfort which he has set before you in his Word; he has put it there on purpose for you. Dare to take it and think well of God, and it shall be well with your soul. If this should not cure the evil, remember the great brevity of an your afflictions, after all. What if you should be a child of God who has even to go to bed in the dark? You will wake up in the eternal daylight. What if for the time being you are in heaviness? There is a needs-be that you should be in heaviness through manifold temptations, and you will come out of it. You are not the first child of God who has been depressed or troubled. Ay, among the noblest men and women who ever lived there has been much of this kind of thing. I noticed in the life of Sir Isaac Newton—probably the greatest mind that God ever made apart from his own dear Son —the great Sir Isaac Newton, the master and teacher of the truest philosophy, during the middle part of his life was in great distress and deep depression. Robert Boyle again, whose name is well known to those who read works of depth of thought, at one time said that he counted life to be a very heavy burden to him. And there was that sweet charming spirit of the poet Cowper. You all know that throughout his life he was like a flower that blooms in the shade; yet he exhaled the sweetest perfume of holy piety and poetry. Do not therefore think that you are quite alone in your sorrow. Bow your head and bear it if it cannot be removed; for but a little while and every cloud shall be swept away, and you in the cloudless sunlight shall behold your God. Meanwhile, his strength is sufficient for you. He will not suffer you to be tempted above what you are able to bear; and if you cannot bear your infirmity because of your wounded spirit, he will bear for you both yourself and your infirmity. “O rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him.” “Let not your heart be troubled, ye believe in God, believe also in your Christ.” Go away you Hannah of a sorrowful spirit, and be no more sad. The Lord grant his comforts to you for his Son Jesus Christ’s sake! Amen.
The Causes & Cure of a Wounded Spirit