Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Pain as a Necessity in the Christian life

Sometimes the writing of other people is so good (and most of C.S. Lewis
is that way) that it stands alone and needs no comment

If we claim to be without sin (1 John 1:8)
    Until the evil man finds evil unmistakably present in his
    existence, in the form of pain, he is enclosed in an illusion.
    Once pain has roused him, he knows that he is in some
    way or other "up against" the real universe: He either
    rebels (with the possibility of a clearer issue and deeper
    repentance at some later stage) or else makes some
    attempt at an adjustment, which, if pursued, will lead
    him to religion. It is true that neither effect is so certain
    now as it was in the ages when the existence of God (or even
    of the gods) was more widely known, but even in our own
    day we see it operating. Even atheists rebel and express,
    like Hardy and Housman, their rage against God
    although (or because) He does not, on their view, exist;
    and other atheists...are driven by suffering to raise
    the whole problem of existence and to find some way of
    coming to terms with it which, if not Christian, is almost
    infinitely superior to fatuous contempt with a profane life.

    No doubt Pain as God's megaphone is a terrible instrument;
    it may lead to final and unrepented rebellion. But it gives
    the only opportunity the bad man can have for amendment.
    It removes the veil; it plants the flag of truth within the
    fortress of a rebel soul.
Where your treasure is (Mathew 6:21)
    We are perplexed to see misfortune falling upon decent,
    inoffensive, worthy people -- on capable, hardworking
    mothers of families or diligent, thrifty, little tradespeople,
    on those who have worked so hard, and so honestly, for their
    modest stock of happiness and now seem to be entering on the
    enjoyment of it with the fullest right...Try to believe, if
    only for the 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 this must fall from
    them in the end, and that if they have not learned to know
    Him they will be wretched. And therefore He troubles them,
    warning them in advance of an insufficiency that one day
    they will have to discover. The life to themselves and
    their families stands between them and the recognition of
    their need; He makes that life less sweet to them. I call
    this a Divine humility because it is a poor thing to strike
    our colors to God when the ship is going down under us;
    a poor thing to come to Him as a last resort, to offer up
    "our own" when it is no longer worth keeping.
Left your first love (Revelation 2:4)
    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 this whole pack
    of cards tumbling down. At first I am overwhelmed, and
    all my little happinesses 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 intended to
    possess 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: I am even anxious, God
    forgive me, to banish from my mind the only thing that
    supported me under the threat because it is now associated
    with the misery of those few days. 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 else 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.