Thoughts from C. S. Lewis’ The Problem of Pain

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just finished reading The Problem of Pain by C. S. Lewis. This book has been on my reading list for quite some time, and I finally started it this past week when I  discovered there is a free pdf version of the book available online. 

My quick review of the book is that it was worth the read, but quite wordy, academic, and slow going at times. Some of what he said was over my head, at least without take the time to slowly digest and process each individual sentence, which I did not do.

The following excerpt is one portion that I highlighted for further thinking. It does not bring to mind any new or never-thought-of-before reasoning, but it did peak my interest and cause me to consider how the suffering of chronic pain can bring us into the frame of mind that God desires us to be in at all times.

“I am progressing along the path of life in my ordinary contentedly fallen and godless condition, absorbed in a merry meeting with my friends for the morrow or a bit of work that tickles my vanity today, a holiday or a new book, when suddenly a stab of abdominal pain that threatens serious disease, or a headline in the newspapers that threatens us all with destruction, sends the whole pack of cards tumbling down.

At first I am overwhelmed, and all my little happinessess look like broken toys. Then, slowly and reluctantly, bit by bit, I try to bring myself into the frame of mind that I should be in at all times. I remind myself that all these toys were never meant to posses my heart, that my true good is in another world and my only real treasure is Christ. And perhaps, by God’s grace, I succeed, and for a day or two become a creature consciously dependent on God and drawing its strength from the right sources. But the moment the threat is withdrawn, my whole nature leaps back to the toys…

Thus the terrible necessity of tribulation is only too clear. God has had me for but forty-eight hours and then only by dint of taking everything away from me. Let Him but sheathe that 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, if not in the nearest manure heap, at least in the nearest flower bed. And that is why tribulations cannot cease until God either sees us remade or sees that our remaking is now hopeless.” 

What do you think of C. S. Lewis’ assessment? Have you found this to be true in your own life?

3 responses

  1. Great quote! Far too often we do become obsessed with “toys” instead of what is truly important. However I don’t believe God gives people chronic pain simply for the purpose of waking them up to what’s important in life. Rather, being able to discover God and grow spiritually through pain is making “lemonade out of lemons.” It can be a bi-product of suffering, if we are open to it, but its not automatic. I like, A Grief Observed, Lewis’ reflections after the death of his wife, better than this book. It is painfully honest. The Problem of Pain was written long before the death of his wife, Joy. I wonder what it would have been like if he had written it after this experience.

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