The Problem of Pain

God is committed to our happiness - but not to our shallow, temporary, self focused, happiness. It is a deep, eternal, wholeness that the Godhead envisions for us and is working toward, not one that springs from or orbits our comfort only, but one with depths we have not yet plumbed and one that will make us partners with God in Heaven’s benevolence - willing the good of all creation and redeeming it. He wants to ruin us for the things that used to make us “happy” because they are not the things that will make us whole or of a mind to want (in any real and motivating sense) the true wholeness and happiness of others. 

God wants our health - but not just our individual, physical health. Not just our personal, emotional health; not just our financial ease; not just the peace of our small personal world - that one where we are the center. No. God wants us to know the deep Joy of true connection with each other and the LIFE that comes from embracing and abiding in the LOVE which every other love we have ever known is just an echo of. 

We see God move. We see God heal, We see God rescue. . . and in the sense that those things draw our attention heavenward, they serve that greater purpose. These things shine brightly and stand out in stark contrast to the dull gray, mostly silent desperation all around us. We need more of His visible movements in our lives and in our worlds!

But what was it that made us hunger for that in the first place? Wasn’t it some need in us? Some inability? Some pain we could not ease in the usual ways? Some desperation that made our heart reach out and cry out? We may have had a taste of heaven’s bounty. We may have even had a gulp. Maybe even a BIG GULP. Yet deep down we wonder why we still struggle, or suffer pain or have to wait a lifetime for some good thing we either need or think we do. More wrenching still, the nagging, deep question. Why is someone I love hurting? Why hasn’t God fixed it yet? 

This quote from C.S. Lewis' book "The Problem With Pain" (which follows) came to me in an email last night. I read it and read it again. And then yet again. So many people that I love are in need, feel pain, struggle in some way. It want to fix it. I want GOD to fix it. NOW! Sometimes I actually get overwhelmed with the enormity of the need I see and hear about. Sometimes I feel on the verge of shutting down because the need just seems so huge. But by the grace of God I haven’t and with His help I won’t. 

I am not now nor will I change my opinion that God wants people healthy and happy and free. I have too much experience with Him to ever think otherwise. I will not stop calling heaven to earth so that His Kingdom will come and His will can be done in any and every person and situation. I will not cop out and start saying that the brokenness and pain and death of this world is His will. Never. It's very simple really. If all the sadness and horrors you see and everything that is happening in the world today was really His will, then why would Jesus himself tell us to pray like this. "THY KINGDOM COME. THY WILL BE DONE IN EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN." If God's will is already being done then a prayer like this is useless and pointless. So don't buy into any system of thought that tells you it is.

But I will say this. I am a finite being who is being prepared for an infinite future and an ongoing, eternal relationship with the One who is Light and Life and Love. In this broken world I am sure that I really don’t know fully what it means to be healthy and happy and free or what the God who loves me so fiercely is willing to let me walk through to help me understand and experience more of that and more of Him. My current healthy, happy & free will be laughable when I look back at it from a few miles down the road in my journey deeper into his Love. I am truly going “Further Up and Further In.” One horizon line will ever give way to another. On and On and On. 

So I do realize that He doesn’t just want to fix my personal present world. His plan is MUCH bigger than that. He wants to change ME - from glory to glory into the image of the Son. We may, indeed, need God to fix our current situation, but perhaps not nearly as much as we need him to fix our perspective of our situation. This (whatever it is) will pass. One way or another. But He will still be there wanting and willing more and better for us than we even know how to ask for. Yet we resist Him in this because getting there puts at risk our current idea of what happy is. 

Below is the quote that got me thinking in these directions last night and early (very early) this morning. I hope it touches you as much as it did me. 

"If the first and lowest operation of pain shatters the illusion that all is well, the second shatters the illusion that what we have, whether good or bad in itself, is our own and enough for us. Everyone has noticed how hard it is to turn our thoughts to God when everything is going well with us. We ‘have all we want’ is a terrible saying when ‘all’ does not include God. We find God an interruption. As St Augustine says somewhere, ‘God wants to give us something, but cannot, because our hands are full—there’s nowhere for Him to put it.’ Or as a friend of mine said, ‘We regard God as an airman regards his parachute; it’s there for emergencies but he hopes he’ll never have to use it.’ Now God, who has made us, knows what we are and that our happiness lies in Him. Yet we will not seek it in Him as long as he leaves us any other resort where it can even plausibly be looked for. While what we call ‘our own life’ remains agreeable we will not surrender it to Him. What then can God do in our interests but make ‘our own life’ less agreeable to us, and take away the plausible source of false happiness?" 

From The Problem of Pain 
Compiled in A Year with C.S. Lewis