Preaching With a Broken Heart

John Piper, on the biography of Charles Spurgeon, wrote about preaching with a broken heart:

Everyone faces adversity and must find ways to persevere through the oppressing moments of life. Everyone must get up and make breakfast, and wash clothes, and go to work, and pay bills, and discipline children and generally keep life going when the heart is breaking.

But it’s different with pastors—not totally different, but different. The heart is the instrument of our vocation. Spurgeon said, “Ours is more than mental work—it is heart work, the labour of our inmost soul” (see note 1). So when our heart is breaking we must labor with a broken instrument. Preaching is our main work. And preaching is heart work, not just mental work. So the question for us is not just How you keep on living when the marriage is blank, and a child has run away, and the finances don’t reach, and pews are bare and friends have forsaken you; the question for us is more than, How do you keep on living? It’s, How do you keep on preaching. It’s one thing to survive adversity; it is something very different to keep on preaching, Sunday after Sunday, month after month when the heart is overwhelmed.

Spurgeon said to the students of his pastors’ college, “One crushing stroke has sometimes laid the minister very low. The brother most relied upon becomes a traitor … Ten years of toil do not take so much life out of us as we lose in a few hours by Ahithophel the traitor, or Demas the apostate” (see note 2). The question for us is not, How do you live through unremitting criticism and distrust and accusation and abandonment; for us the question is also, How do you preach through it? How do you do heart work when the heart is under siege and ready to fall?