I am sure with all of the hardship we see in people’s lives around the world today, there are many who question what God is doing in the midst of this pandemic. Is there any good that can come out of it?
I recently read a book by Dr. Alister McGrath titled, If I Had Lunch with C.S. Lewis. It was an excellent read, exploring a few of Lewis’ ideas on some of life’s significant issues. I gained new insight on pain and suffering, which he touched upon in his writing.
Most of the atheists in the world today will tell you the number one reason they do not believe in God is because of all the pain and suffering they see around them. How can a loving god allow it? C.S. Lewis was in this camp. If there is no God, the universe is meaningless and, therefore, no explanation for pain and suffering is needed.
But, once Lewis became a Christian, he was forced to think deeply through this issue. One great insight that came to him was the importance of the word “good.” What if we confuse the word “goodness” with the word “kindness?” he believed that this confusion is what causes us to approach pain from a false perspective.
Lewis came to believe that we had failed to appreciate what the goodness of God really means. We have developed this idea of a grandfatherly type of figure with a warm, sentimental type of love. We, therefore, have a false, immature view of God.
He says we have to learn to see ourselves as the true objects of God’s love. It is a love that comes from an eternal perspective. It is a love that has our best interest at heart, though we cannot often see this or implement it in our own lives.
Suffering is sometimes a result of where we have made poor decisions and choices, or it can be something completely unforeseen, such as this pandemic. Regardless of the circumstances, it points us to the fact that life is transient, and how much we desperately need God.
In his book, The Problem of Pain, Lewis says, “Pain helps to shatter the illusion that all is well, thus allowing God to plant a flag of truth within the fortress of a rebel soul.”
Clearly, as sinful people, our paths need redirecting; there has to be some means for God to accomplish that.
Lewis, in the book, introduces the concept of the intolerable compliment. That is, God loves us too much to ignore us. McGrath says, “We would prefer to be left alone, not loved as passionately as this.”
Over the years, I have thought a lot about the word “good.” What is the ultimate good in life? Most modern people naturally think that it involves prosperity, comfort and having a good time. But, what does God consider to be truly good for our lives?
In Psalm 73:28, we read, “But as for me, the nearness of God is my good.” he is telling us that being in close relationship with God is good for his life. The problem is, “all of us, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.” God, the good shepherd, desires to draw us back to himself, and sometimes he uses pain as his most effective means.”
Several years ago, I had lunch with a man who had survived cancer. He had been given a 50 percent chance of survival, but he did indeed beat the illness. He told me how his business life before the cancer had flourished and he had truly experienced the American dream. He had everything he wanted in life. And then the cancer came.
As he looked back at his battle with the disease, he told me, “I have come to understand that suffering is good for us.” and then he shared why:
- Suffering causes our minds to focus on what really matters. We so easily are caught up in the trivial.
- Suffering has deepened my relationship with my wife. Our marriage is at a place it has never been.
- Suffering has given me a greater burden for people who are hurting.
- For the first time, Christ is real in my life.
What I essentially heard this man saying is that God had made a major breakthrough in his life, and the suffering from cancer was the essential instrument He used to reach him. My prayer is that God will make a breakthrough in the lives of many and we will be able to look back and see how His hand was clearly in it.
Richard E Simmons III is the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership and a best-selling author.