It's one of those days today, when all the divine signposts are pointing the same way, and I really don't want to go down their suggested path.
C.S. Lewis' "The Problem of Pain" does indeed explore the question of a good God in a horrible world, but one of the chapters particularly explores why it's necessary for humans to grasp pain's necessity. Mostly, Lewis knows man's tendency - to constantly ascribe issues to forces outside of himself, and make them the problem, instead of looking inward for the issues and upward for the solution.
His chapter on "Fallen Man" reminds me why I don't read the book that often, but the chapters on "Human Pain" contain wisdom beyond the popular quote, "[Pain] is God's megaphone to rouse a deaf world". There's the graphic description of real childhood issues: "the bitter, prolonged rage at every thwarting, the burst of passionate tears, the black, Satanic wish to kill or die rather than to give in". An honest adult, reading that, will remember a time when that desire to act childlike (in that sense) has resurfaced, and not too long ago. For me, it was just today.
God often promises things that I'd rather see than hear about, because I'd rather receive and go on about 'my business' than ask, only to hear Him say, "that would be good but this is better for you right now". Lewis speaks about this 'second level' convincingly, and it's at this moment that I wish he were not so articulate. "If the first and lowest operation of pain shatters the illusion that all is well, the second shatters the illusion that what we have, whether good or bad in itself, is our own and enough for us...What then can God do in our interests but make 'our own life' less agreeable to us, and take away the plausible sources of false happiness?"
Lewis is right in explaining that at the back of our minds lurks the false hope in a God who acts more like a "senile benevolence" who likes to see His creatures just enjoying themselves. That would mean He must ignore our sin and the effects of sin on our world, just as we would like to ignore it and walk on in happy ignorance. We would rather not be made 'perfect by suffering', and our Lord Himself asked to be let off of the most painful experience on this earth. Christ's equal wish to submit in obedience to the Father's will is not as palatable. If left to myself, I would act as the puppy in Lewis' illustration: "Let Him but sheathe the sword for a moment and I behave like a puppy when the hated bath is over - I shake myself as dry as I can and race off to reacquire my comfortable dirtiness".
Confusion between God's methods and God's intent makes it hard to distinguish between His use of pain and suffering, to bring us to Himself, and the fact that they are not good in and of themselves. Hence the dark voice that whispers to us, 'well, if suffering is so great, why not do God's work for Him, and use it on others instead of waiting for them to use it on us?' "What is good in any painful experience is, for the sufferer, his submission to the will of God, and, for the spectators, the compassion aroused and the acts of mercy to which it leads...Now the fact that God can make complex good out of simple evil does not excuse - though by mercy it may save - those who do the simple evil." And then the kicker: "If you do [Satan's] work, you must be prepared for his wages."
So when I took a break and picked up Charles Spurgeon's "Power in the Blood", it was really to avoid more points on the benefits of the "rebel will" being broken to God's purposes. The first chapter's title destroyed that hope: "Healing by the Stripes of Jesus". Then the innocent pen on my dresser: "Do not be afraid...." (Luke 12:32) That's where I go when I'd like to ignore God's signposts - into a tailspin of fear, control, and mastery of my own course. All useless nonsense, but a powerful temptation. The cure? Keep reading, and resist. It will flee soon. Temptation doesn't stick around for rejection. That's why God's love is so amazing.
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