CH Spurgeon's Autobiography (Volume 2) records the following concerning one of his most significant experiences:
After enforced rest he was back in his pulpit on Sunday, April 23, but weeks of pain followed. Through May and June, 1871, when he should have been on a previously-arranged continental tour, he lay suffering. In a letter to the congregation at the Tabernacle he opened his heart to them:
The furnace still glows around me. Since I last preached to you, I have been brought very low; my flesh has been tortured with pain, and my spirit has been prostrate with depression. Yet, in all this, I see and submit to my Father's hand; yea, more, I bless Him that His paternal love has been more than ever dear to me. With some difficulty, I write these lines in my bed, mingling them with the groans of pain and the songs of hope...
On June 18, the eve of his birthday, he wrote in another letter to the congregation [wherein he expressed the hope to be back amongst them preaching by July].
This hope was realized when he preached at the Tabernacle on the morning of Sunday July 2, 1871, from Psalm 71:14, 'But I will hope continually, and will yet praise thee more and more.' A short article entitled, 'Great Mercies', which appeared from his pen in the July issue of The Sword and the Trowel revealed something of what he had passed through:
'It is a great mercy to be able to change sides when lying in bed ... Did you ever lie a week on one side? Did you ever try to turn, and find yourself quite helpless? Did others lift you, and by their kindness only reveal to you the miserable fact that they must lift you back again at once into the old position, for, bad as it was, it was preferable to any other?... It is a great mercy to get one hour's sleep at night... Some of us know what it is, night after night, to long for slumber and find it not. O how sweet has an hour's sleep been when it has interposed between long stretches of pain, like a span of heaven's blue between the masses of thunder-cloud! We have blessed God more for those dear moments of repose than for whole weeks of prosperity... What a mercy have I felt it to have only one knee tortured at a time! What a blessing to be able to put the foot on the ground again, if but for a minute! What a still greater mercy to be able to get from the bed to a chair and back again!
We call those things mercies which please us, ease us, suit our wants, and fall in with our cravings. Truly they are so, but not less gracious are those benefits which cross us, pain us, and lay us low. The tender love which chastises us, the gentle kindness which bruises us, the fond affection which crushes us to the ground--these we do not so readily recount; yet is there as much of divine love in a smart as in a sweet, as great a depth of tenderness in buffeting as in consoling. We must count our crosses, diseases and pains if we would number up our blessings. Doubtless it is a mercy to be spared affliction, but he would be a wise man who should tell which of the two was the greater boon--to be for the present without chastisement or to be chastened. We judge that in either case it is well with the righteous, but we will not have a word said to the disparagement of affliction. Granted that the cross is very bitter, we maintain with equal confidence that it is also very sweet.'
Preaching at the Tabernacle, later in 1871, Spurgeon thus described how he wrestled in prayer, and prevailed with the Lord, in what proved to be the crisis of that season of suffering: I have found it a blessed thing, in my own experience, to plead before God that I am His child. When, some months ago, I was racked with pain to an extreme degree, so that I could no longer bear it without crying out, I asked all to go from the room, and leave me alone; and then I had nothing I could say to God but this, "Thou art my Father, and I am Thy child; and Thou, as a Father, art tender and full of mercy. I could not bear to see my child suffer as Thou makest me suffer; and if I saw him tormented as I am now, I would do what I could to help him and put my arms under him to sustain him. Wilt Thou hide Thy face from me, my Father? Wilt Thou still lay on me Thy heavy hand, and not give me a smile from Thy countenance?" I talked to the Lord as Luther would have done, and pleaded His Fatherhood in real earnest. "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him." If He be a Father, let Him show Himself a Father--so I pleaded; and I ventured to say, when they came back who watched me, "I shall never have such agony again from this moment, for God has heard my prayer." I bless God that ease came, and the racking pain never returned. Faith mastered it by laying hold upon God in His own revealed character--that character in which, in our darkest hour, we are best able to appreciate Him. I think this is why that prayer, "Our Father which art in Heaven," is given to us, because, when we are lowest, we can still say, "Our Father," and when it is very dark, and we are very weak, our childlike appeal can go up, "Father, help me! Father, rescue me!"'
This experience made so deep an impression upon Spurgeon's mind and heart that he never forgot it. Those who are familiar with his writings must have noticed how often he referred to it, and how he urged other tried believers to do as he had done.