(Susannah shares on how she dealt with the death of her beloved husband, C. H. Spurgeon)
I wrote this ten years ago, on my return from Mentone, that beautiful village on the sea-coast; when with one hand the Lord had smitten me well-near to death, while with the other hand He had poured into my wounded heart the oil and wine of His choicest consolation. It was a wonderful time to my soul, and He helped me to sing aloud of His faithfulness, and to bless His Name—though He had taken from me my husband—the joy and crown of my earthly life.
Because of this, because He had glorified Himself in my sorrow, and out of the inmost recesses of my heart had drawn forth this canticle of grief, the words went straight to other lonely hearts, and rested there like “the dew of Hermon.” For a long time, I received constant testimony to the fact that, in a very remarkable way, God was using the experience He had given me, as a balm and cordial to heal and soothe others of His bereaved children; and none but myself can tell how precious was this knowledge to my aching heart. It seemed indeed worthwhile suffering and sorrowing, if God’s love and pity turned it all into a sweet symphony of praise to Him, and enabled stricken ones to honor Him by a response of sweet submission and perfect truth.
So, to the glory of my dear Lord, whose grace was sufficient for me in my darkest and most distressful days, I have had my “Song of Sighs” reproduced; and my one earnest desire is that, as the Lord then gave it the approval of His blessing, so now he will not withhold the grace which alone call make it His voice of comfort to those who mourn.
How shall I sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?
For I am brought into a strange, weary land of loneliness and sorrow. I am a captive to grief, and the light of my life has been suddenly quenched in darkness.
Yet there is a song to be sung.
Mercy has outrun misery. Divine love has pierced the gloom of an unspeakable sorrow with a ray of celestial glory.
The anguished cry of a stricken heart has been hushed by the sweet compassion of a comforting God! “Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul!”
It is the Lord’s song.
“He Himself has done it!” “The Lord gave—and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the Name of the Lord.” Is our dear Master to hear only sobs and sighs, and see only tears and sorrow, when He asks for His own beloved ones back again, that they may be with Him, and behold His glory? Nay, truly. For all His will is love.
The harp may often hang on the willows, and some of its choicest strings may be snapped forever on earth; but faith’s hand must reach it down, and love’s skillful fingers will soon find some tender chords of thankfulness in which to repeat His praise.
He will help me to sing it.
All the weeks and months since the pearly gates opened that my beloved husband might pass into the excellent glory, there has been, (for his sake,) deep down in my heart, a low undertone of joy in God, like the singing of the pebbles on a beach when the tide comes rolling in.
I thank God for this. And now that the deep waters are somewhat assuaging, this hidden music ought to be more distinct and appreciable.
I have traveled far now on life’s journey; and, having climbed one of the few remaining hills between earth and Heaven, I stand awhile on this vantage-ground, and look back across the country through which the Lord has led me.
A well-defined pathway is visible, but it appears devious and wandering; sometimes skirting a mountain-top, whence one could catch glimpses of “the land that is very far off”; and, further on, descending into a valley shadowed by clouds and darkness. At one time, it runs along amidst steep places, and overhanging rocks; at another time, it winds across an open plain, brilliant with the sunshine of goodness and mercy, and fanned by breezes which are wafted from the fields of Heaven.
There are flowers of joy and love growing all along the way, even in the dark places; and “trees which the Lord has planted,” give shade and shelter from too great heat.
I can see two pilgrims treading this highway of life together, hand in hand—heart linked to heart. True, they have had rivers to ford, and mountains to cross, and fierce enemies to fight, and many dangers to go through; but their Guide was watchful, their Deliverer unfailing, and of them it might truly be said, “In all their suffering he also suffered, and he personally rescued them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them. He lifted them up and carried them through all the years.”
Mostly, they went on their way singing; and for one of them, at least, there was no joy greater than to tell others of the grace and glory of the blessed King to whose land He was hastening. And when he thus spoke, the power of the Lord was seen, and the angels rejoiced over repenting sinners.
But, at last, they came to a place on the road where two ways met; and here, amidst the terrors of a storm such as they had never before encountered, they parted company—the one being caught up to the invisible glory—the other, battered and bruised by the awful tempest, henceforth toiling along the road—alone.
But the “goodness and mercy” which, for so many years, had followed the two travelers, did not leave the solitary one; rather did the tenderness of the Lord “lead on softly,” and choose green pastures for the tired feet, and still waters for the solace and refreshment of His trembling child. He gave, moreover, into her hands a solemn charge—to help fellow-pilgrims along the road, filling her life with blessed interest, and healing her own deep sorrow by giving her power to relieve and comfort others.
“With Christ—which is far better!” Philippians 1:23.
Ever since the solemn midnight hour when God took to Himself my most precious treasure, “the desire of my eyes,” my loving and dearly-beloved husband—the above inspired words have been a wellspring of solace and comfort to my desolate heart. In the first anguish of my grief, I wrote them on the “farewell” card, and the palm-branches, which waved over his dead body in token of everlasting victory, bore their grand message of consolation to the thousands of weeping mourners.
Now, as the days go by, and the sense of loss deepens, and is still more acutely realized, the blessed fact set forth by these words comes again with Divine power of healing to my sorrowing soul. It is because it is far better for him to be with Christ—that I can patiently and even cheerfully endure my lonely life. I can sometimes dwell with such joy on the thought of his eternal glory “with Christ,” that I forget to sorrow over my own great and unspeakable loss.
A dear friend wrote thus to me, the other day—”Oh, when I think of him, as able to praise his Savior, and preach without fatigue or pain—no longer limping, or leaning on his staff—with no cough, no faintness—no swollen fingers or ankles—away from the fogs and mists; where no heresies distress his heart; when I think of him thus, my heart fairly leaps for joy!”
Yes, faith can truly exult in our beloved’s glory.
After his translation, I had time and opportunity further to realize the consolation enfolded in my text, and to prove the comforting power of the assurance that, even though my precious husband had bidden adieu to the best that earth could give, his being “with Christ” was “far better.”
In a lovely garden, I often wandered alone, where, but a few weeks previously, his sweet presence had heightened every charm, and doubled every delight. There, amid the olive-groves, and rose-covered terraces, the dear Master taught me His estimate of true affection by recalling to my mind His own words to His disciples, “If you loved Me, you would rejoice—because I go to the Father;” and thus He made me understand that the thought of my darling’s everlasting bliss, must overcome and banish my own selfish grief and sorrow.
So, day after day, I roamed amid a profusion of nature’s beauty, breathing the fragrance of her choicest flowers; with the deep blue sky above me, and the still deeper blue of the Mediterranean Sea, spread out like a sapphire lake below me; with the most charming view of mountains, valleys, and seashore, bathed in sunshine, and the distant towns on the coast glittering like golden cities in the clear light, and only the cry of a sea-bird, or the dash of the wavelets on the shore, to mark the rhythm of the ceaseless harmonies of earth, and sea, and sky. Yet, even here, and missing so sorely his tender interest and participation in all my joy, I was enabled to remember that this was but mere earthly beauty—all fleeting and perishable; and that, to be in the Glory-land, where “everlasting spring abides,” and to be “with Christ,” was “far better.”
Sometimes, my thoughts would recall those glorious drives up the mountains, which we had so lately enjoyed together; when every turn in the road revealed some new beauty of prospect, and a perfect climax of delight was reached when, after long, steady climbing, the horses drew the carriage triumphantly into the “place” of the quaint mountain village or town where we were bound. Here, some eight or nine hundred feet above the level of the sea, the houses were crowded together among the rocks like swallows’ nests, and the view before us was enchanting beyond description; and my beloved would, with childlike eagerness, turn to me, and say, “There, wifey, isn’t that worth coming all the way to see?” Yes, truly; and if there had been nothing else to see than his exultant happiness at my long-desired presence with him, this would have well repaid any effort of love on my part.
But, good and precious as all that was—and, oh! how sweet is the memory now!—my heart understands that it was only a poor earthly joy—fading and shadowy; and again I have to say, “He is with Christ, which is far better!
Mr. Hanbury’s “marble halls” were full of all art-treasures and riches collected from many lands. Everything that the most perfect taste could desire was there in lavish abundance, and the rooms were filled with all the choice and precious things that earth and wealth could furnish. I made discoveries, every day, of something more rare and costly, or more beautiful than I had seen before; and my first impulse was to go and tell my husband about it, or bring him to share my pleasure and admiration.
But, alas! he was gone, and my heart would bleed afresh, and my grief awaken to a terrible intensity, until, in soft accents within my soul, the blessed Spirit would whisper, “He is with Christ—which is far better!”
Down by the sea-shore, with the clear blue waters kissing the shingle at my feet, and making even the stones to sing a constant song of joy, I used to sit and think of my beloved’s eternal bliss, until I could almost join in the universal melody around me, though the tears were blinding my eyes, and my heart ached with an unspeakable grief. I could not see to the other side of the bright Mediterranean waters—the light was too dazzling, and my vision was bounded; but I knew that, beyond the horizon, there lay a beautiful summer-land, where the rigors of winter are unknown, and the icy winds of the North never blow.
Even so, I could not, with my bodily eyes, see to the other shore of that separating sea which my precious husband had so lately crossed; but faith knew that the Celestial City was there, and that he was even then walking the golden streets, rejoicing in the fullness of joy at God’s right hand! Better, ay, far better, to be with Christ—than to be with me! With me remained tears, and grief, and pain, and sin; but there, God Himself had wiped all his tears away; and neither sorrow, nor sin, nor evil of any kind, could ever again hurt his gentle spirit, or vex his loving heart!
Many such ponderings were in my heart during those sad and sacred days; but the conclusion to them all was this—that there was no earthly bliss, no ravishing prospect, no precious ties of wedded love, no “best” that this world or its relationships could give, which was not silenced, and surpassed, and beyond measure outweighed—by the blessed fact that to be “with Christ was far better!”