Friday, November 21, 2008

pain

C. S. Lewis wrote on pain, having experienced it toward the end of his life in a piercing to the very heart kind of way, which he had to work through to understand God and God's goodness even in death in a new way. His beloved Joy had died, and he missed his wife in ways he never would have imagined or known apart from this experience. But through it he was enabled to see pain in a new light, as well as reverse his focus from himself, Joy and God to God, Joy and himself.

We are told in Scripture that our present sufferings aren't worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us, in Jesus. But it is true that suffering precedes glory in God's working in us in Jesus in this life. And it seems that this suffering is ongoing if we're to really be embracing and living in the will of God. The suffering opens up new vistas for us of blessing for others, and learning to live in a way not only more pleasing to God, but paradoxically more pleasing even to ourselves, even through the real pain.

C. S. Lewis worked through this after losing his wife, Joy, who died of cancer. In this experience with her, he would note how she would get better only to have a great fall back into the depths of this illness and disease. Life in God through Christ here and now is not about happiness, but involves suffering, which Lewis had always maintained, but which was another thing to live through. In Lewis' continued working over this trouble and trial, he wrote a book that has been a help to many over the years, A Grief Observed, along with The Problem of Pain (written much earlier). In the end Lewis found a new joy from God even in relationship to his beloved Joy, though certainly not replacing her presence with him as his wife which he continued to sorely miss. But Lewis had a new appreciation for God's goodness and work which are still really beyond our human understanding in this life (and we'll never even fully grasp it in "eternity").

Pain is to be instructive to us, but also formative for our lives in God now. Pain helps us see our need for God, helps our focus be on God (even if it's with distress and anger at times; see a good number of the psalms), and helps us find where true joy lies: in God. So that we learn to enjoy God's good gifts of relationships and of God's creation through not only a new theological grid so to speak, but through a new understanding and experience of God. Of course this is not something one just steps in, but something we are to grow towards, I believe. One Biblical character who has come to mind as I've been typing this is Job (who is mentioned in the chapter). He certainly is an interesting case of what can happen through profound pain that reaches to the very depths of one's being and existence. This was surely ongoing for Job, pain existing with comfort the rest of his life. Robert Banks wrote this chapter, "C. S. Lewis on Pain," having lost his own wife of more than thirty years. A good chapter, surely helpful for us all, and especially for those going through this profound pain of bereavement from the loss of a loved one.

We must remember as C. S. Lewis reminds us in The Last Battle, that the best by far is yet to come, the fulfillment of all the good we've experienced in this life, as the resurrection of Jesus takes hold entirely and completely in all of creation and in our lives and relationships.

What would you like to add to these thoughts on pain?

6 comments:

Deb said...

Another great post! The Lord can use one's pain as a tool growth and more dependence upon Him if the pained
one's focus and attitude is right while going through the pain. Not to say that one would not be angry or grieve or be despondent, but where one goes from there.

-bill said...

Thanks so much for this exceptional post! While we do have differing abilities when it comes to tolerating pain, we do indeed all experience it. I agree with Kingsley, who wrote:

Pain is no evil,
Unless it conquer us.

He was on to something, wasn't he? Of course, the classic line from Cervantes must always be kept in mind. He wrote that other men's pains are easily borne.

May God help us all be more compassionate and sympathetic towards those who are experiencing every sort of pain. May God continue to richly bless your ministry as you remind us just how important this is!

Blessings in Christ,
-bill

Chris Godfredsen said...

We exist for the Glory of God to be revealed in us. As we suffer and survive pain, God will often take that pain and suffering - some of which Satan intends for evil - and turn it to good. There are hurting people everywhere we look, if our eyes are open to them. Revealing God's glory and offering hope to the hurting requires those of who have come through the fire to share of His goodness, mercy and love.

Thanks for tackling this topic - great post!

Ted M. Gossard said...

Deb,
Thanks, Honey. Yes, pain is needed in our lives in Jesus, it very well seems.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Bill,
Thanks for your kind words. Yes, it is amazing some of the pain people endure, and how much more a life of pain some live more than others. And besides the physical pain which indeed can be hard on the psyche, there is the inward pain as in emotional which so many of us have borne over the years.

I'm reminded here of Revelation 21:(3-)4:

3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 'He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death' or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

Ted M. Gossard said...

Chris,
Thanks for stopping by and for your good comment. So true. We must learn to see all pain in that way, maybe kind of just acclimating ourselves to this kind of response to all pain. Seems like pain is part of the way in Jesus, and an important part.