For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God (Romans 8:18-19, NASB1995)
You can’t be a bonified follower of Jesus without a few C.S. Lewis books on your bookshelves or Kindle.
With at least 200 million Lewis books sold – that’s a lot of bookshelves. Added to books sold is the fact that it’s hard to read any Christian book and not find a C. S. Lewis quote or two.
And all of this from a man who died in 1963 – easily the most influential writer of the past 100 years.
C.S. Lewis – a congenial giant of intellect – could write the controversial with both sides of the argument listening in silence! His writings are intellectual without talking down to lesser minds, but so well taught through logic and images that I always felt like I was smart when I read his books.
I can quote C.S. Lewis as well as anyone.
Which brings me to his book The Problem of Pain. An older book – written in 1940 at the beginning of World War II – it was exceedingly relevant when published and still is today.
The Problem of Pain frames the big question of why Christians suffer, and while not giving overly palliative or trite answers, sets in motion your thought processes to frame pain in the larger perspective of God’s grace.
Lewis begins the book with humility…
I was never fool enough to suppose myself qualified, nor have I anything to offer my readers except my conviction that when pain is to be borne, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all.
In chapter two, C.S. Lewis frames the question that every book on suffering written since 1940 attempts to solve…
If God were good, He would wish to make His creatures perfectly happy, and if God were almighty, He would be able to do what He wished. But the creatures are not happy. Therefore, God lacks either goodness, or power, or both. This is the problem of pain, in its simplest form.
He doesn’t give quick answers but delves deeply into our doubts while encouraging our thoughts to dispense with too-easy reactions to arrive at the only possible conclusion…
If God is wiser than we are, His judgment must differ from ours on many things, not least on good and evil. What seems to us good may therefore not be good in His eyes, and what seems to us evil may not be evil.
The book teaches pain begins with sin. A lesson that must be learned in our generation too – as when we lose the Fall as the ultimate cause, we find it increasingly difficult to find comfort.
Consider the rapid increase of depression, discouragement, and suicide today.
As Lewis writes…
According to the doctrine of the Fall, man is now a horror to God and to himself and a creature ill-adapted to the universe not because God made him so but because he has made himself so by the abuse of his free will.
C.S. Lewis weaves pain with regeneration and our future in heaven.
The Christian doctrine of suffering explains, I believe, a very curious fact about the world we live in. The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world: but joy, pleasure, and merriment, He has scattered broadcast. We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun and some ecstasy. It is not hard to see why. The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose an obstacle to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bath, or a football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.
When I first read The Problem of Pain, I sat in stunned silence.
Finally, an author had given me an understanding of why Christians suffer – or why anyone suffers for that matter. I still have specific questions as to why an incident happens or why that person dies…
But I also have a better understanding of Biblical hope. As C.S. Lewis concludes…
We are very shy nowadays of even mentioning heaven. We are afraid of the jeer about ‘pie in the sky’, and of being told that we are trying to ‘escape’ from the duty of making a happy world here and now into dreams of a happy world elsewhere. But either there is ‘pie in the sky’ or there is not. If there is not, then Christianity is false, for this doctrine is woven into its whole fabric.