Friday, January 23, 2009

The Problem of Pain (6)

I found this chapter really interesting because it was all about human pain. It applies to me because I have been through some difficult times of physical pain, such as being in the hospital for a week with a severe leg infection. I also have felt pain in many other trials the Lord has sent me, such as death of a friend’s little sister, grandparent, and classmate. There are two human pains that Lewis mentions. The first is a painful sensation of the nerves; the second is an unpleasant experience. Lewis focuses on the second kind of pain in this chapter. This second kind of pain is synonymous with suffering, anguish, tribulation, adversity, or trouble. These hardships are difficult at the time, and I cannot get through them on my own so I find myself looking to God for comfort and support. In this chapter, Lewis explains that these tribulations keep us on the right path and focus our attention towards God.

In order to understand why God sends us trials, Lewis presents to us a few analogies. He writes that when pain hits him, he is overwhelmed and all his little happinesses look like broken toys. “Then,” he writes, “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.” At our lowest and most painful moments is when we focus our attention on God. If we always thought of God and relied on Him this much, he would not need to send us trials to keep us walking straight on our path.

Lewis gives another analogy about his behavior after a trial is passed. He writes, “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…into the nearest flower bed.” Lewis continues by saying that this is why our tribulations cannot come to an end, until God either sees us remade or sees that our remaking is now hopeless. God sends these hardships to His people out of love so that they can grow. Just as a parent spanks his child because he wants the child to learn how to behave, so God cares about the salvation of His people and sends trials to strengthen their faith.

Another important point that Lewis brings up is how we fail to acknowledge God when our lives are flowing smoothly. Lewis writes, “We ‘have all we want’ is a terrible saying when ‘all’ does not include God. We find God an interruption.” This is a powerful statement to me because I find it true too many times in my life. I think I have it so good when I am on vacation and get to hang out with friends or family, or I do not know what to ask for at Christmas because I have everything I need. When my life is flowing smoothly like this, I am so absorbed in earthly pleasures rather than putting God first in my thoughts. On the contrary, when our lives are in turmoil, Lewis writes, “We regard God as an airman regards his parachute; it’s there for emergencies but he hopes he’ll never have to use it.” Many people today view God like this. For example, after 9/11, people began to pray to God and go to church services. A few years later, these same people stopped because their lives were flowing pleasantly again.

Knowing that it is our tendency to rely on God only in times of need, we must make an effort to rely on God during the good times in our lives also. The way we show our thankfulness for the salvation He has given is to devote our lives to him, and worship Him in any circumstance of life we are in. We may not get angry with God for the trials He sends us because He knows what is best for us and is working all things for the good of our salvation.

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