Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Honestly confronting suffering through the eyes of C.S Lewis

This year - and in particular the last few months my heart has been grieved over and over again by the suffering of this world.  The brother of my sister in law - a healthy 21 year old who had battled cancer at age 15 and won - had an accident in June and is struggling to regain speech - and the whole family is aching and longing for him to become well again - his situation is a roller coaster as one day he will show signs of improvement and the next day he will be fighting for his life.  I want to take this away for my sweet sister in law - but I can't.  Another friend is facing divorce - two wonderful children suffering, and the whole family wanting to take away the pain.  More than one of my friends are facing custody battles and dealing with issues of abuse and it feels so helpless.  I want to take the children and protect them from what they are going through - but I can't.  There are friends fighting cancer, unemployment, loss of a child, loss of a parent ... and so much more and this is just in people who are close to me! 

Well, about now you are thinking what a downer I am and wishing you never came across my blog.  But, we all know that this is true!  Life hurts, there are days when it takes everything to keep going - to keep believing that there is something better that comes later, that will be make it out to the other side, that there will be joy that comes in the morning. 

C.S. Lewis wrote a little book (A Grief Observed)- it's more like a journal actually, when his wife Helen died of cancer.  It is shocking in it's honesty.  It's painful to read - but at the same time it's healing.  He is brutally honest about the agony he is going through and for some reason that is a relief.  If you look at the Psalms you will see that David went through times when he just wanted to give up, where He questioned God, where He felt utterly helpless.  So, why do we tend to think it's not ok to be honest when life hurts so bad we can't breath?   Lewis ended the book much as it started - in pain longing for the one he loved and lost.  It isn't a great resolution to the question of suffering, it's a true recount of one man's suffering and struggle to hold onto God.  It's hard to read his pain because it is a mirror of thoughts probably every one of us has but are too afraid to say out loud.  It's a comfort to read because he held on to faith through his agony. Here are some quotes from the book:

"I have gradually been coming to feel that the door is no longer shut and bolted.  Was it my own frantic need that slammed it in my face?  The time when there is nothing at all in your soul except a cry for help may be just the time when God can't give it:  you are like the drowning man who can't be helped because he clutches and grabs.  Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear.  On the other hand, "Knock and it shall be opened."  But does knocking mean hammering and kicking the door like a maniac?  And there's also "To him that hath shall be given."  After all, you must have a capacity to receive, or even omnipotence can't give.  Perhaps your own passion temporarily destroys the capacity."  (p 53-54)

"You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you.  It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box.  But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice.  Wouldn't you then discover how much you really trusted it?" (p 25)

I'm not here to try and solve the problem of suffering - but I think we all can use reminders that it's ok to be honest, and that there are others who have gone before us through dark, wicked suffering yet who came out on the other side and still had/have faith.

If you are reading this in the middle of your own suffering - hold on.  And when you don't have the strength in yourself to hold on, let Him hold you. 

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