The Remarkable Susie Spurgeon
“I’ve heard of Susie Spurgeon, but I really don’t know much about her.” That comment is representative of many people when they discover Susie: The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon. Her husband, Charles, is one of the most prominent personalities in Christian history, and his life has been often considered in numerous biographies, doctoral dissertations, and articles. Why is it then that Susie is little known?
It may be that Charles Spurgeon was a large figure who cast a giant shadow. He penned 135 books and over 63 volumes of sermons. He edited a monthly magazine, pastored what we would call today a megachurch, gave oversight to over 60 benevolent institutions, and preached up to ten times a week. He remains one of the most widely read authors of Christian literature in our day.
Another reason for Susie’s relative obscurity may be found in the culture of the times. Susie lived from 1832–1903, coinciding with Queen Victoria’s reign from 1837–1901. In the Victorian Age, women were mostly known in connection with their husbands. Therefore, when biographers of Spurgeon typically introduce Susie at the time of her meeting of Charles, it is because she is thought of primarily as his wife.
However, Susie Thompson Spurgeon was a remarkable woman in her own right. Here are several fascinating things to know about Susie.
1. Susie Was a Prolific Author
Susie co-edited Smooth Stones Taken From Ancient Brooks in 1855 with Charles, and in 1886 she authored Ten Years of My Life in the Service of the Book Fund. She had a season of her most prolific writing from 1886 through 1901. Her son Thomas Spurgeon remembered his mother as having “rare literary gifts.”
Susie’s written treasures have mostly been obscured beneath the mountain of material by and about her famous husband. Her own literary prolificacy was cultivated by her serious commitment to the Bible, her voracious reading of devotional literature, and her thirty-eight-year exposure to the example of Charles.
Her readers, partly because of her personal writing style, enjoyed Susie’s books. Her writing was descriptive, even flowery and poetic — a style not usually seen today, but embraced by her readers. She wrote: “We are such old friends now, my dear readers and I.”
Susie’s writing is most remembered today through C. H. Spurgeon’s Autobiography. This colossal work, coedited and contributed to by Susie, was originally produced in four volumes. It is a repository of biographical narrative and essential for not only digesting the life and character of Charles Spurgeon, but also that of Susie. The first volume appeared in 1897, and the fourth was published in 1900.
2. Susie Persevered through Trials by Faith in Christ.
Marriage to Charles brought unique challenges due to his popularity, his critics, and his not infrequent travels away from home, which were both ministry and health-related. However, Susie faced what many would consider insurmountable challenges of her own. Susie had recurring health challenges for many years. Around 1868–69, she required surgery, and the famed gynecologist James Y. Simpson operated on her. The specifics of her affliction are unknown, but we know that she suffered from gynecological problems.
Her pain around this difficult season caused episodes during which she was not able to lift hand or head; even when her pain subsided, it was rare that she could travel even a mile from home without suffering for days after. Yet Susie didn’t view her home as a prison, nor did she give in to the temptation to resign herself to a life of inactivity due to her sickness. There is no evidence that she was a complainer nor did she blame God for her sufferings. She wrote: “If we would trust Him for the keeping, as we do for the saving, our lives would be far holier and happier than they are.”
3. Susie Cared for Poor Pastors and Their Families
So severe were Susie’s longtime health afflictions that no one would have blamed her if she had chosen to nurse her sicknesses at home and not exert herself in ministry. However, she put her hands to work in the service of her Lord. 1875 was a pivotal year for Susie. Charles had handed her a draft of his new book, Lectures to My Students. Susie excitedly declared that she wished every pastor in England could have a copy. Charles gently exhorted her to make her wish a reality. His simple words of encouragement launched Susie to her lifetime commitment of ministering to poor pastors and their families.
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SOURCE: Crosswalk, Ray Rhodes Jr.