I have made this error twice before. First, when selecting French poetry in college as my foreign language literature option. I don’t know what I was thinking. I don’t even understand poetry in my own language. Then I did it again when I chose Melville’s Billy Budd as a novel option for a class. (The word “novella” sucked me in.) It was the longest seventy-six pages of my life. I sat with book in one hand and dictionary in the other as I tried to maneuver through thick symbolism and monstrous vocabulary.
Anyway, I am a C.S. Lewis fan, primarily because of the excerpts and quotes I have read of his, of his book The Screwtape Letters, and of the Narnia series, which if you didn’t know was written for his goddaughter, who was young.
I knew Lewis was an Oxford academic, an intellectual, and an apologist, so I selected a short book––The Problem of Pain. It was only 154 pages and fit the category of “a book about suffering.” But once I started reading, memories of French poetry and Billy Budd immediately returned. However, I persisted and was rewarded.
It was challenging but enlightening. While some apologists want to dive right to the heart of the matter, Lewis starts at the beginning, laying the groundwork for his argument. He begins with God’s Omnipotence and then proceeds logically from there, discussing every question or objection or concern.
I cannot discuss everything here, but if you are willing to focus, concentrate, reread, look up words, and think, then I would encourage you to read this book, which discusses the questions surrounding Divine goodness and man’s wickedness; human pain verses animal pain; heaven and hell.
No one quote can encapsulate the entire problem of pain, but the need is founded in God’s desire to have us His while our desire is to have anything and everything but. I found that the following section hit the heart of the matter and one to which I could wholly relate:
“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 But the moment the threat is withdrawn, my whole nature leaps back to the toys: I am even anxious, God forgive me, to banish from my mind the only thing that supported me under the threat because it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.” (pages 106-107)
If you have read or are reading a book that you think the rest of us would enjoy and/or benefit from, please let us know. There are many more categories to check.