For the month of December, and in honor of the birth of Jesus (which may or may not have happened in December – post coming soon,) I plan on writing several shorter articles containing meditations and reflections on Christmas by spiritual giants from past years. Over the next few weeks, I hope to share some great Nativity/Christmas themed insights from people like: Charles Spurgeon, John Calvin, Martin Luther, C.S. Lewis, a collection of Early Church Fathers, and many others. Please consider subscribing so you don’t miss any posts!
George Müller is one of the most faith-filled servants of God who has ever lived. He is remembered for building some of the first orphanages in England, and for ultimately overseeing the care of over 10,000 orphans. So effective was his watch-care of the orphans, that many in Bristol, England, were known to complain that Müller’s orphanages were elevating poor children beyond their station, and several area mines and factories (who relied heavily on unjust child-labor) had difficulty finding children to work for them, as all of Müller’s orphans were so highly educated. In addition to caring for orphans, Müller also pastored churches, sponsored missionaries, founded over 100 schools, and traveled around the world preaching the gospel. Perhaps most astonishing of all, he did all of this without ever asking any person or church group for donations. He did not ask for donations in church, nor did he send out letters asking for support. As a pastor, he refused to even take a regular salary; instead leaving a box in the back of the sanctuary (and never mentioning it) for those who wished to fund his salary. His policy, and the policy of his orphanages and other ministries, was to ask God ALONE for food money and every material need.
Very often, God’s answer to prayer would come just in time (including a breakfast for dozens of children that famously arrived right before the meal,) and Müller scrupulously recorded every time God answered one of his prayers specifically. In fact, according to his journals, Müller saw God answer over 50,000 (FIFTY-THOUSAND) prayer requests specifically and noticeably – some that were answered within hours, and some that Müller labored in prayer for decades until he saw the answer. Needless to say, Müller is rightly remembered as a giant of the faith, and a man of deep, abiding joy. That said, I find it quite remarkable that ‘Mr. Faith’ himself experienced something that is common to thousands of Christians: Holiday depression. Recorded below, you will find an instance in the life of young George Müller, in which he was beset by a powerful (short-term) Christmas Day depression out of nowhere. Read on to discover how Müller responded to that bout of depression, and was able to remain faithful through abiding and the encouragement of other believers.
Müller’s journal, 1929: On December 24th I went to the Church Missionary Institution at Islington, in the hope of benefiting the students there, if it were the Lord’s will. I returned very happy, as I almost invariably was at that time, and went to bed full of joy. Next morning, (being that of Christmas day), I awoke in a very different state of heart from what I had experienced for many weeks past. I had no enjoyment, and felt cold and lifeless in prayer. At our usual morning meeting, however, one of the brethren exhorted me to continue to pray, saying, that the Lord surely would again smile on me, though now for a season, for wise purposes, he seemed to have withdrawn himself.
I did so. At the Lord’s table, in the morning, a measure of enjoyment returned. Afterwards I dined in a family, in company with the brother just referred to. My former enjoyment gradually returned. Towards evening the Lord gave me an opportunity of speaking about his return, and I had great enjoyment in doing so. At eight o’clock I was asked to expound at family-prayer, and was much assisted by the Lord. About half an hour after the exposition was over, I was requested to come out of the room to see one of the servants, and the mother of another of the servants, who had been present at family-prayer. I found them in tears, and both deeply impressed and under concern about their souls. I then went home, at least as happy as on the previous evening. I have related this circumstance, because I am aware that it is a common temptation of Satan to make us give up the reading of the Word and prayer when our enjoyment is gone; as if it were of no use to read the Scriptures when we do not enjoy them, and as if it were of no use to pray when we have no spirit of prayer; whilst the truth is, in order to enjoy the Word, we ought to continue to read it, and the way to obtain a spirit of prayer is, to continue praying; for the less we read the word of God, the less we desire to read it, and the less we pray, the less we desire to pray.
Source: George Müller, A Narrative of Some of the Lord’s Dealings with George Müller, vol. 1 (London: J. Nisbet & Co., 1860), 52–53.
Note: I recognize that what Müller dealt with here is less like the long-term, besetting depression that many struggle with. I do not intend to minimize that kind of suffering by presenting here an instance of the overcoming of short-term depression. Nevertheless, even for those who have had a longer struggle with depression, Müller’s example here is hopefully encouraging and helpful. Abiding in Christ and being steadfast in the midst of short-term or long-term depression is good and necessary.