An Interview with Charles on Suffering

by Andy Wood on November 8, 2013

in Ability, Five LV Laws, Insight, Life Currency, LV Cycle, Principle of Eternity, Waiting

PainCharles is nothing short of an odd combination.  He’s an immensely popular preacher and pastor, having preached to more people than anyone else on the planet, with the exception of Billy Graham and perhaps a couple of others. Yet while he rarely shows it, he’s a physical mess.  He suffers from rheumatic gout and kidney disease, and there are days he can’t even leave the house because of the excruciating pain.

His wife is a mess.  This woman, whom he loves dearly, has disabilities of her own, and this weighs heavily on Charles.

His finances are a mess. Despite the reach of Charles’ ministry, a sober look at his books reveals an ugly secret: the man is broke-down broke. 

His relationships are a mess. Charles lives in a world of relentless criticism, and in his case it comes from every angle.  Always up for a good debate, this man catches it from all sides.  The media.  Church members. Non-Christians. And perhaps the biggest sting of all – fellow pastors.

His emotions are a mess. Charles is clinically depressed; the only surprise of each day is the depths to which his despair will take him.

Having walked through some of this territory myself, I came to this interview with a sense of camaraderie. To be honest, I expected to commiserate with Charles and join him on the Can’t Wait to Be Dead Express.  That was NOT, however, what I found. What I discovered instead was the heart of a man who was relentless in his attacks on the gates of hell as the physical and emotional pain were on him. I found the heart of a man who saw adversity as opportunity.  I saw the heart of a man who found beauty in the struggle against the Dark Night of the Soul.

Q.        You speak of this depression as an opportunity.  What do you mean by that, and how do you approach it?

A.        This depression comes over me whenever the Lord is preparing a larger blessing for my ministry.

Q.        In that way?

A.        The cloud is black before it breaks, and overshadows before it yields its deluge of mercy.

Q.        That’s an amazing perspective.

A.        Depression has now become to me as a prophet in rough clothing, a John the Baptist, heralding the nearer coming of my Lord’s richer [blessing].

Q.        Would you say your perspective is unique in that regard?

A.        [No…] Far better men have found it.

Q.        Most of the time when I’ve faced feelings of real depression, the recurring thought was, “It’s always going to be this way.” To me, that’s what makes it depression… this sense of hopelessness.  You’re saying that you almost attack the depression with hope?

A.        [Like] the scouring of the vessel has fitted it for the Master’s use, immersion in suffering has preceded the baptism of the Holy [Spirit]. Fasting gives an appetite for the banquet.

Q.        Scouring.  I can relate to that. There is something about those times of discouragement or despair that has a way of exposing my heart, and I don’t like what I see. I’m just grateful that He doesn’t abandon us during those times.

A.        The Lord is revealed in the backside of the desert, while his servant keeps the sheep and waits in solitary awe.

Q.        I’ve got to tell you… most of the people I have met who have encountered the kind of pain you have face have a way of acting like they’re permanently stuck in this permanent wilderness, or this permanent state of being beaten by life.

A.        The wilderness is the way to Canaan. The low valley leads to the towering mountain. Defeat prepares for victory.

Q.        Thanks for those insights, Mr. Spurgeon.  That can be pretty life-changing, if we let it truly change our perspective.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Martha Orlando November 8, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Wow! What a twist at the end, Andy! Great interview. 🙂
Martha Orlando´s last blog post ..Give Me a Break!

Jerimy Foster November 8, 2013 at 7:05 pm

I think if I had to suffer the cognitive dissonance of those who actually attempt to believe in one religion while attempting to comprehend the vast plethora of possibilities, I too would be severely depressed. In a state of dissonance, people may sometimes feel surprise, dread, guilt, anger, or embarrassment.

The theory of cognitive dissonance in social psychology proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance by altering existing cognitions, adding new ones to create a consistent belief system, or alternatively by reducing the importance of any one of the dissonant elements.

You may not be aware, and truthfully, most religious people are not, but religion, by default, creates cognitive dissonance. One cannot live in a modern world and both consider the true existence of their individual god and accept the realities that surround them. Just the 43,000 differing sects of Christianity are enough to drive a person to desperation unless they blindly accept something without knowledge. And as we know that always leaves lingering doubts that cannot be resolved. Between the Christian sects and the 62,000 previous and current gods, there are far too many different methods of considering religion for someone to be accurate–except within their own ever changing mind. Thus, cognitive dissonance!

Andy Wood November 8, 2013 at 7:37 pm

Hi Jerimy, and thanks for your comments and insights. I am very aware of the idea of cognitive dissonance, just as I am aware that no religious, philosophical or even “scientific” system will answer or resolve everything that doesn’t make sense. What I appreciate about a biblically-based faith is that it, too, deals head-on with that issue. For example, men like Job, Jeremiah, and certain psalmists in the Bible confronted the age-old issue of why good people suffer and bad people appear not to… and they didn’t come up with neatly-packaged answers that resolved all the complaints or injustices that people observed. The entire book of Ecclesiastes is a washed-out cynic’s view of one man’s search for meaning in all the things that claim to give it, including “religion” (not a big fan of that word).

The Bible even intentionally creates some cognitive dissonance of its own, though those who study it prefer the word “paradox.” The poor in spirit are the most richly blessed. The greatest in the kingdom are those who are willing to be the least. We receive by giving. And we lead by serving. None of that at first blush makes a bit of cognitive sense.

At the end of the day, all either of us have to deal with the cognitive dissonance in our lives is faith. You may place your faith in science, philosophy, or your own good sense to unpack answers to those questions. I may place mine (albeit imperfectly) in the God of the Bible as I understand Him. It’s anything but blind. Rather, it’s an eyes-wide-open awareness that we DON’T have all the answers (hence the multitude of sects, denominations, etc.) and, if our attitude is proper (no guarantees of that), a humble submission to the love, care, and grace of that God as he has revealed himself in Jesus Christ. Either way, those who follow Christ have found peace and truth in his words, “According to your faith be it unto you.”

Thanks again for stopping by.

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