Saturday, October 28, 2006

CS Lewis on pain

I'm currently looking over my material on suffering for a talk I'm giving for the Christian Union at St Martin's College in Ambleside later this week. I've been reminded of this incredible quote from 'The Problem of Pain' written by a man who knew a fair bit of pain in his own life, C.S. Lewis:

'The human spirit will not even begin to try to surrender self-will as long as all seems well with it. Now error and sin both have this property, that the deeper they are the less their victim suspects their existence; they are masked evil. Pain is unmasked, unmistakeable evil; every man knows something is wrong when he is being hurt... Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.'

We live in a painful and broken and cursed world. It is only by God's grace and mercy that he does not make us face the horrible fate of living forever as sinners in this world (see Genesis 3:22), without hope of ever having relationship with him again. Likewise, God could have let us muddle on in our sin, never realising the seriousness of our predicament.

Instead, God reminds us something is wrong - most graphically in pain and suffering - telling us that we are twisted people living in a cursed world. It is through pain that God screams at us that life is not as it was meant to be. Whilst pain is horrible, its effect is in itself grace from God: through pain, humanity is given an indicator of the seriousness of our rebellion and speaks to us of the urgency for our repentance (see 2 Peter 3:8-9). This certainly isn't the whole Christian truth on suffering - and even the Bible's explanation leaves some unanswered question. We don't know why particular people or particular groups experience pain as they specifically do. I don't know why a particular man was murdered in Preston last week in a street I often walk down myself. I don't know why a friend of mine has just contracted cancer. As Christians, we get in trouble when we are trite and won't admit that there is an element of mystery to the question of suffering and pain. And yet, this is part of the Bible's revealed truth: God graciously shows us the something of the horror of our sin, in order that, in repentance and through Jesus' sacrifice, we might be welcomed into the new order of things, where sin is no more and we can live with our God forever (see Revelation 21:1-4).


At 4:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

AMEN! Just wrote on the (relatively small) pain I'm currently in and this blog was so encouraging to read! I needed the CS Lewis quote and your post came right up! Thank you for saying(in much better words than me)what I was writing about!
grace to you!


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