Death, Where is Your Sting?

Lewis seems to talk a lot about pain and loss. As you know, he has two books clearly on the subject, The Problem of Pain and A Grief Observed. We may throw in The Great Divorce and The Screwtape Letters if we widen the thought of explaining pain with the reality of death and the struggle of this life.

Lewis never attends to an easy answer. He’s not confident in that. Instead, he quotes Augustine: “God wants to give us something, but cannot, because our hands are full – there’s nowhere for Him to put it.” So, what does God do, according to Lewis?

“While what we call ‘our own life’ remains agreeable we will not surrender it to Him. What then can God do in our interests but make ‘our own life’ less agreeable to us, and take away the plausible source of false happiness?” So a heart attack or pancreatic cancer or the loss of a job or the loss of something even more grievous, like a wife in Lewis’s case, is all to hunt us down and break us open for the Gospel. Lewis knows it’s not pretty nor what the ruling reasoned class would have, but if our run is rooted in the love of Jesus, we must trust him.

“We are perplexed,” says Lewis, “to see misfortune falling on descent, inoffensive people… [and then he “implores” us as readers][but] try to believe, if only for a moment, that God, who made these deserving people, may really be right when He thinks that their modest prosperity and the happiness of their children are not enough to make them blessed: that all of this must fall from them in the end , and that if they have not learned to know Him they will be wretched.”

So there are two obvious questions. Lewis would answer “yes” to both, but what are your thoughts. Is it God who doles out or at least allows pancreatic cancer or heart attacks or worse… harder still, does he allow abuse and starvation?  If he does allow these things to occur, is it for the purpose of finding Him specifically (the death and resurrection and salvific work of Jesus)?

Lewis realizes that it’s not as simple as answering in one word. That’s why he has a number of books on the subject, not counting more than a few articles. But, in the end, Lewis is settled in the Truth and his trust that God is not safe but he is good. In that space, perhaps there is peace that passes understanding because the sting of death is robbed and we’re allowed to embrace something beyond ourselves.

The quotes above are taken from The Problem of Pain.

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