Perspectives on Spiritual, Intellectual and Pastoral Issues: Host – Lowell Qualls

Posts tagged ‘Pain’

Part 4 – Trust and Disappointment

Can we really trust God?

C. S. Lewis wrote, “If God were good, He would wish to make His creatures perfectly happy, and if God were mighty He would be able to do what He wished.  But the creatures are not happy.  Therefore God lacks either goodness, or power, or both.”[1]

Lewis was an agnostic professor at Oxford University when he began to ponder the possibility that Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic (on par with a man who imagined himself to be a poached egg), or He was the Lord He claimed to be – the Son of God Himself.  Those possibilities served to jump-start his quest for truth … truth that mattered, not just “in the long run,” but in the eternal run.  Maybe you’ve read some of Lewis’ findings.

I found the quote above, “If God were good, etc.,” in one of his books, The Problem of Pain.  In that book Lewis tackles one of the big “whys.”  (You know what the Big Whys are, don’t you?  Why am I here?  Why do bad things happen to good people? etc.)  In The Problem of Pain he’s trying to wrap his mind around this question: “Why is there pain?”  He asks it in the context of three  theories –  that God is good and all powerful, that God is bad, or that God may be good but not all powerful.

Eventually Lewis arrives at a place where he can say that God is both good and all powerful, and because He is, and because there is structure and stability in the Universe, and because He gave Mankind the gifts of choice and freedom … there is pain.

One of the observations Lewis makes along the way is that we live in a material world in which “nature is fixed.”  

I understand that to mean that fire is fire, a tree is a tree, etc.  That is, the nature of fixed material things doesn’t change from culture to culture, language group to language group.  If we were living a world which varied according to our every whim, we would be unable to act in it.  There would be no stability.  No structure.  No predictability.  Think of a world where one day, for no reason, the law of gravity takes a holiday and then returns the next – but with no warning, ever.

Lewis makes this point, and I add my comments in parentheses:  “The permanent nature of wood which enables us to use it as a beam (say, for construction of a house) also enables us to use it for hitting our neighbor on the head.  The permanent nature of matter in general means that when human beings fight, the victory ordinarily goes to those who have superior weapons, skill, and numbers, even if their cause is unjust.” (my emphasis) (page 24)

I’ve observed, as I’ve lived my life and watched others live theirs, that almost every high has its corresponding low, almost every yes its no.  There is black, and there is white, yin and yang, earth and heaven.  There is order in the Universe.  Tao.  There is a balance to and in almost all things that gives our world its stability.

I write and believe “almost” because if life was totally predictable, there would be no mystery, only the unknown.  There are some things that defy explanation.

C. S. Lewis goes on:  “We can, perhaps, conceive of a world (only in our imaginations) in which God corrected the results of this abuse of free will by His creatures at every moment: so that a wooden beam became as soft as grass when it was used as a weapon, and the air refused to obey me if I attempted to set up in it the sound waves (radio, or television broadcasts) that carry lies or insults.  But such a world would be one in which wrong actions were impossible, and in which, therefore, freedom of the will would be void; nay, if the principle were carried to its logical conclusion, evil thoughts would be impossible, for the cerebral matter in which we use in thinking would refuse its task when we attempted 

to frame them.  All matter in the neighborhood of a wicked man would be liable to undergo unpredictable alterations.  That God can, and does, on occasions, modify the behavior of matter and produce what we call miracles, is part of Christian faith; but the very conception of a common, and therefore stable, world, demands that these occasions should be extremely rare … Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free wills involve, and you find that you have excluded life itself.”  (pages 24-25)

For my friend’s, Ellie’s, sake, I wish there was never again the possibility of suffering.

Until the moment time, as we know it, ends, there will be suffering.

We live on a fallen planet, in a world where evil men can fly airliners into buildings in the name of Allah, where people who call themselves “Christians” can demonstrate at the funerals of murdered gay young men and disrupt the funerals of fallen soldiers, where politicians can lie, where policemen can choose to be corrupt, and where people who advocate abortion “choice” stifle free speech of conservatives on liberal college campuses.

I believe, one day, when time as we know it ends, Jesus will set up a Kingdom that will never end … and suffering will end.  He will “wipe away all tears.”

That’s a day worth living for.

Think about it.

[1] C. S. Lewis, The Problem Of Pain; (New York:  HarperSanFrancisco, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, © 1940; copyright restored in 1996), page 16

 

“Pain Can Be My Friend” (an excerpt from Dancing With The Healer)

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Pain takes a mighty toll on our spirit.  Pain is more than a physical phenomenon, but is somehow tied to every part of our being.  Having done carpentry (not well) many times, I believe I’m an expert of sorts.  Instead of driving a 16 penny nail into the wood, I’ve pounded my thumb nail with the hammer.  My thumb nail was physically damaged, but the pain went from my head to my toes, disabling my mind.  Time stood still.

The great English philosopher C. S. Lewis wrote a book entitled The Problem Of Pain.  Lewis poses the following argument from the beginning of the book:  “‘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.”

Pain will make you question whether or not God is good.  Pain will cause you to question His love for mankind.

Lewis tackles the problem of pain by pointing out that because God is good and powerful, He gave mankind the gift of choice – and man’s choices open the door to pain.  Only a Being that is almighty can GIVE such a gift, and only a loving Being would think to give the gift of choice – that is, freedom to act on one’s perceived best interests in one’s own way.

Lewis spends much of the book addresses choice, goodness, love, power and ultimately pain.  In speaking about God’s goodness he states, “Any consideration of the goodness of God at once threatens us with the following dilemma.  On the one hand, if God is wiser than we His judgment must differ from ours on many things, and not least on good and evil.  What seems to us good many therefore not be good in His eyes, and what seems to be evil may not be evil.”

That is an arresting idea.  The Bible puts it this way:  “His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways.”  He and we are “other.”  Contrary to the ancient Eastern mystics, Joseph Smith, and more modern New Age thinkers, what He is we are not, nor can we become what He is … if God is the God that is revealed in the Bible.  If you have come to believe that the Bible’s God is not God, then you may wish to read another book besides this one, because Vicki and I firmly believe that THE God is the God of the Old and New Testaments.

And so we believe that this biblical God is wiser than we are, more loving than we are, and “other” than we are.  He is transcendent – beyond us.

C. S. Lewis arrives at this conclusion after examining the nature of THE God, and taking the reader logically through the arguments that He is good and almighty:  Pain rouses us to understand that “all is not well,” but there is One who invades our painful existence will “healing in His wings,” and rescues us from the consequences of our unwise choices, and the fact that because of choice, the planet on which we live is fallen.  The conclusion of Lewis, and the concluding statements of the Bible lead us to this truth:  Pain will not be done away with on Earth, but in Heaven.  So Paul writes, “ … the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us” when we cross the threshold of Heaven, and come, literally into the presence of the Almighty.

Here, and now, we have pain.  Then, and there, we will not be in pain – not in His presence.  That is a Christian belief, and is so because it is Christ-centered.  Jesus said, “‘Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.  You know the way to the place where I am going.’

“Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we don’t know where You are going, so how can we know the way?’  [And] Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.’”[1]

The “Father’s House” and “the place” that is being prepared for us is Heaven, and there is no sickness, disease, pain, sin, or evil there.

Pain will make you forget about the promise of Heaven.  Pain reveals weakness, and shows us gaps in our faith.  As I’ve said before, anyone can have “faith” when everything is going great.  It’s when the going gets tough that our faith, weak or strong, is revealed to US.  We come to know where we are on the faith scale.  God already knows, and He’ll allow pain to inform us of what He already knows.

Pain is also a tool, or weapon, that God’s enemy – Satan – uses to serve his purpose, and that is, to separate us from God.  He hopes that we will turn our pain into anger, and our anger into distance from God.  Satan’s greatest tactic for building a wall of separation between us and God is the lie that God withholds good things from us.  Satan used that ploy in the garden, when it came to “the knowledge of good and evil” that could be acquired by eating God-forbidden fruit, and he uses pain to convince us that God is still holding out on us – this time, comfort and healing.

It’s important, then, to note that Vicki did something brilliant, and different than most, when she turned her pain-filled anger toward the cancer and Satan.  In Vicki’s case, Satan’s ploy backfired.  Vicki didn’t turn away from God, but toward Him.  As she said on different occasions, “Pain can be my friend.”

 


[1] John 14:1-6