“Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
This week, I got a chance to visit some friends at the college I graduated from. It occurred to me on the way there that this would be the first time in four years that I was visiting the school as a guest, and not as a student. Weird, right?
It was great to catch up with people that I haven’t seen since May, but it felt different knowing I wasn’t coming back for classes.
I couldn’t shake the feeling that every college graduate must have when they visit their alma mater: This isn’t home anymore. It was great to visit, but I knew I couldn’t stay.
On the drive there and back, I got a chance to listen to an audiobook of The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis. In his work, the professor of Oxford and Cambridge seeks to explain why suffering is a necessary part of human life. The main idea being that suffering produces and reminds us of our need for redemption in Jesus Christ.
We organize our lives around the avoidance of pain, but as believers, we must fight to remember that this world isn’t home, and we will never be free of suffering while living in it.
Here are my top takeaways from this thought-provoking read (or listen, I guess):
- “We can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
- “But if suffering is good, ought it not to be pursued rather than avoided? I answer that suffering is not good in itself. What is good in any painful experience is, for the sufferer, his submission to the will of God, and, for the spectators, the compassion aroused and the acts of mercy to which it leads.”
- “If tribulation is a necessary element in redemption, we must anticipate that it will never cease till God sees the world to be either redeemed or no further redeemable. A Christian cannot, therefore, believe any of those who promise that if only some reform in our economic, political, or hygienic system were made, a heaven on earth would follow.”
- “We are bidden to ‘put on Christ’, to become like God. That is, whether we like it or not, God intends to give us what we need, not what we now think we want.”
- “Everyone has noticed how hard it is to turn to God when everything is going well for us. We 'have all we want' is a terrible saying when 'all' does not include God. We find God an interruption.”
Like most of Lewis’s writings, The Problem of Pain is full of other challenging quotes and meaty thoughts to wrestle with and apply in our lives.
If you have questions about why God allows pain in the world, or you enjoy C.S. Lewis’s writing, The Problem of Pain is a short, but powerful book. Also, if you enjoyed this article and have questions or comments about it, feel free to drop a line!