Over the years I have read a number of C. S. Lewis’ wonderful books. In the last few years especially I have read books about his life and the spiritual transformation that took place in the years he was a Christian. Not only was Lewis a brilliant writer, but he was a real man of God.
This summer I read a book by Dr. Alister McGrath entitled, If I Had Lunch with C. S. Lewis. It was a really good read and explored some of Lewis’ ideas on a number of significant issues. I gained some new insights on what he had written about pain and suffering.
Most of the atheists in the world today will tell you the number one reason that 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 that 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 generally shows us when we have made poor decisions and choices. It also can point us to the fact that life is transient, and that 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 plan a flag of truth within the fortress of a rebel sand. 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: 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 very 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% chance of survival, and he did indeed beat the illness. He told me how his business life had flourished and that he had truly experienced the American Dream. He had everything that 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:
1. Suffering causes our minds to focus on what really matters. We so easily are caught up in the trivial.
2. Suffering has deepened my relationship with my wife. Our marriage is at a place it has never been.
3. Suffering has given me a greater burden for people who are hurting.
4. 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 that the suffering from cancer was the essential instrument that He used to reach him.