Thoughts from C. S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed

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I’m on a little bit of a C. S. Lewis kick. A few weeks ago I read his book, The Problem of Pain, and yesterday I finished another of his works, A Grief Observed.

It was fascinating to see the contrast between these two books. If hadn’t known the author ahead of time, I would have been shocked to find out they were written by the same person. Both were about pain and suffering, but they came at the subject from two very different perspectives.

The Problem of Pain is a reasoned and theoretical perspective of pain. C. S. Lewis’ mind was at work as he logically thought through what Scripture and the world around him have to say about pain and suffering.

A Grief Observed is an emotional and experiential perspective of pain. C. S. Lewis’ heart was at work as he grieved the loss of his wife and considered what his emotions and personal experience have to say about pain and suffering.

“Feelings, and feelings, and feelings. Let me try thinking instead. From the rational point of view, what new factor has H.’s death introduced into the problem of the universe? What grounds has it given me for doubting all that I believe? I knew already that these things, and worse, happened daily. I would have said that I had taken them into account. I had been warned–I had warned myself–not to reckon on worldly happiness. We were even promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accepted it. I’ve got nothing that I hadn’t bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not in imagination.”

I liked both of his books, but I could better relate to A Grief Observed. In this book he asks the questions that feel wrong to ask, but then says something that I found quite profound.

Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily I should think. All nonsense questions are unanswerable. How many hours are there in a mile? Is yellow square or round? Probably half the questions we ask–half our great theological and metaphysical problems–are like that.

As I read A Grief Observed, I often found myself thinking…I can’t believe C. S. Lewis of all people said that! And at the end I breathed a sigh of relief. For if C. S. Lewis, one of the most profound and brilliant writers of the Christian faith, asked those questions and felt those emotions, then I can too.

I highly recommend A Grief Observed, a short yet memorable book that gave me a personal look into C. S. Lewis’ heart, grief, and life.

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2 Comments

  1. Thank you Esther for this post, for taking the time to read this book and share your thoughts on his writings. As I am reading this, my mind thinks back to yesterday. You see, yesterday was the five year anniversary of the death of my dear husband Jeff. He died tragically and suddenly from one of the rarest forms of cancer. They had never seen it in Australia before, so decided to send his blood work to Hong Kong for analysis. I was in shock when I received a phone call in the middle of the night, from one of the specialist doctors at the hospital he was being treated at to come quickly and say our last goodbyes. We had only been married 11 1/2 months and due to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. We met at church the year prior, my son from my first marriage had introduced us, and at our wedding gave a beautiful speech in combination with my daughter, of how well suited we were. I was so grateful to the Lord for giving me the gift of a godly husband who brought such joy, laughter, love and compassion into my days. Yet at the same time I had so many questions. Why would The Lord give such a precious gift only to take it away a short time later. God graciously answered this particular question of mine. He wanted me to rely on Him for absolutely everything. And not on any other human being, I was to find my joy, my peace, and all satisfaction in his presence. God continues to teach me every day to value Him over and above his gifts of health and relationships.

    1. Thank you for sharing your story, Nancy. I cannot imagine the pain of losing your husband so soon after you were married. I admire how you rely on the Lord through everything. Thank you for example of what it looks like to persevere through all forms of suffering. I learn so much from how you live out the life you have been given <3

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