Friday, January 23, 2009

The Problem of Pain - Human Pain

C. S. Lewis addresses the question of: “Why does God allow suffering?” in chapter six, “Human Pain,” of his book The Problem of Pain. He not only deals with our concept of pain, but also investigates the reason for pain and common perceptions of pain in his day. First, we’ll deal with the two definitions of pain. Pain can either be the sensation caused by specialized nerve fibers which a patient recognizes and dislikes, or it can be any experience which the patient dislikes. C. S. Lewis makes it clear that he is going to address the second definition of pain. Everyone understands physical pain of the body, but what of this other more relative pain, possibly mental or physical?

So we come to the question, “If God is good, then why does he allow suffering?” First, we must recognize that we our mistaken when we ask this question. God is not to blame for our pain. God did not create pain or in general evil if we choose to go there. Evil/pain would be defined as the absence of God or the absence of pleasure. We are to blame, not God. We chose to sin and thus as a result fell into sin and now must live with the consequences. If we believe in total depravity, then of course, we have no right to happiness and most likely probably deserve to suffer.

Some may still argue insisting that God is good and therefore should not allow pain. Perhaps, we must realize that goodness is like love. There are two main definitions of love in today’s culture. The first love is that of giving the patient whatever he or she wants. The giver does not hold back anything desired by the patient. He spoils the patient. The second definition of love is that of doing what is best for the patient. It is like when a parent feeds their child broccoli and other vegetables because cake and ice cream every meal is not healthy for the body, even though it tastes good and that is what the child wants. Perhaps, you could say that this is sort of a tough love, a love which allows pain with a greater purpose in mind. And, going back to the original question: “why does God allow pain if he is good?” we should maybe remind ourselves that God might be suffering more than us when we suffer. Again, it is like a parent and a child. When a child is hurt with a scrape on his knee the parent wishes so much that he could take away the pain. He probably feels worse or suffers more than the child.

What is interesting to note is that when we suffer the most, it is when something most dear and precious to us suffers or is lost. It is like when you paint a beautiful picture and then it either gets ripped or spilled on with a careless person’s hot coffee. We suffer so much because of all the time and effort put into our project. I believe that this is how God feels about his creation. He made it good, and then we started a cycle of destruction. What pain God must have felt compared to our humble pains of scraped knees and broken relationships. C. S. Lewis writes that “the ugliest things in human nature are perversions of good or innocent things” (The Problem of Pain 92). Suffering and evil do not exist by themselves but rather on their ability to distort goodness. We see at work beauty being distorted by sin, a beautiful picture and creation tainted by hot coffee or man’s autonomy.

C. S. Lewis also addresses the question: “Why do some people suffer?” However, perhaps the question that should be asked is: “Why don’t all people suffer?” Man does not deserve happiness. He is totally depraved and caught in sin. Man himself is to blame for his suffering; hence presumably, all men should suffer. The beauty, though, is in God’s love for us. He saves us even though he didn’t have to get involved. God ultimately stepped in and gave hope to our endless cycle of suffering.

There are benefits to pain. This is not to say that all pain is good though. First, pain awakens us to our tragic situation. It can show us the danger we are in when we forget God in our lives. Often when times are good, we dislodge God and let him drift away, but then later when we scramble to paddle over to him. It is like in the lecture we listened to in class where a pilot knows that there is a parachute in his plane, but hopes that he doesn’t ever have to use it. I believe that this is often how we view God. We hope to ignore him until we absolutely need him. We like to fill our mind with toys and then complain when they are broken as C. S. Lewis puts it in chapter six, “Human Pain.” Perhaps, we must recognize that when our cards and toys tumble down, this is “the frame of mind that I should be in at all times. I remind myself that all these toys were never intended to posses by heart, that my true good is in another world and my only real treasure is Christ” (The Problem of Pain 107).

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