Publisher and Publication Date: Harper One. 1940. 1996. 2012.
Genre: Christian nonfiction.
Rating: Very good.
Clives Staples Lewis (1898-1963)
“If God is love, He is, by definition something more than mere kindness. And it appears, from all the records, that though He has often rebuked us and condemned us, He has never regarded us with contempt. He has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense.” Page 33.
To read a C. S. Lewis book, I have to have my thinking cap on. His books are not the type to skim over. They are not the type to passively read. They require a particular skill: thinking. And I love to think. A friend recently told me, “You think to hard about things.” I chuckled. It is true. I love to think; and further, to think about the hard things in life.
In brief, “The Problem of Pain” addresses suffering.
Why God allows suffering?
Why do bad things happen?
What happened to cause suffering?
This is a beautiful book. At first glance, that statement seems odd, out of place. We expect life to be pretty. We expect dreams and desires to be fulfilled. We want success. We want Christmas morning everyday. But life is complicated and it is messy. Life is filled with accidents, sickness, and people who break promises.
“The Problem of Pain” is a book of comfort. Not because Lewis makes me feel all warm and toasty. But he reminds me this life is not all there is, there is an eternal life beyond this temporary, transient life.
Some of my favorite quotes:
When Christianity says that God loves man, it means that God loves man: not that He has some ‘disinterested’, because really indifferent, concern for our welfare, but that, in awful and surprising truth, we are the objects of His love. You asked for a loving God: you have one. The great spirit you so lightly invoked, the ‘lord of terrible aspect’, is present: not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, nor the care of a host who feels responsible for the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist’s love for his work and despotic as a man’s love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father’s love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes. Page 39.
But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world. Page 92.
And as to God, we must remember that the soul is but a hollow which God fills. Its union with God is, almost by definition, a continual self-abandonment-an opening, an unveiling, a surrender, of itself. A blessed spirit is a mould ever more and more patient of the bright metal poured into it, a body ever more completely uncovered to the meridian blaze of the spiritual sun. Page 156-157.
All pains and pleasures we have known on earth are early initiations in the movements of that dance: but the dance itself is strictly incomparable with the sufferings of this present time. As we draw nearer to its uncreated rhythm, pain and pleasure sink almost out of sight. There is joy in the dance, but it does not exist for the sake of joy. It does not even exist for the sake of good, or of love. It is Love Himself, and Good Himself, and therefore happy. It does not exists for us, but we for it. Page 158-159.