Monday, January 24, 2011

The Problem of Pain: Ch. 6- Human Pain

The pain Lewis talks about in this chapter is "any experience, whether physical or mental, which the patient dislikes" and is synonymous with "'suffering', 'anguish', 'tribulation', adversity', or 'trouble'."  He says "the proper good of a creature is to surrender itself to its Creator" so we human beings as God's creation should be surrendering ourselves to God.  However, Lewis describes us as "rebels who must lay down our arms" because we find that "to surrender a self-will inflamed and swollen with years of usurpation is a kind of death"; we won't do it unless we find something wrong with our own will.  I found it interesting how Lewis says surrendering ourselves to God is "good".  I had never really connected this idea of surrendering to God and the concept of good and evil.  But it's true, apart from God, we cannot be good.

Lewis goes on to describe three purposes for pain:

1). "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain; it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world."  Pain is God's tool to alert people know when something is wrong, either their actions or their surroundings. "A bad man, happy, is a man without the least inkling that his actions do not 'answer', that they are not in accord with the laws of the universe....But pain 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."  I had never thought of pain as giving a chance for people.  I guess it would be considered pain when someone rebukes or corrects you.  Sometimes you dislike the correction, but in the end it makes you confront and change yourself.

2).  Pain is used to show we cannot be self-sufficient; we have to depend on God.  If life if good, people don't recognize their need for Christ, that all their blessings could be gone and ultimately, God is the only One who will be there. Maybe the normal family that doesn't hurt anyone experience pain so they depend on Christ all the more.  Lewis describes a quality of God which he calls "Divine humility".  "[God] stoops to conquer. He will have us even though we have shown that we prefer everything else to Him, and come to Him because there is 'nothing better' now to be had."

This reminded of some verses from James 1: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance."  By facing hard times, we can grow stronger in our faith.  God's Divine humility struck me because it shows how patient God is. God will still accept us and love us even though He is our last resort before Hell.  It shows how He is willing to be ignored, to wait on us, until we can figure out with our stupid minds that He is the only one we can depend on and there is no way we can survive on our own. 

The third use of pain is to know when we have chosen to follow God's will.  Before the Fall, what we enjoyed doing was what doing things for God's sake.  "Pleasure was then an acceptable offering to God because offering was a pleasure."  But after the Fall, our desires often ignore God.  If our pleasure is the thing God wants us to do but we don't do it because it is God's will, "it remains a happy coincidence.  We cannot therefore know that we are acting at or, or primarily for God's sake, unless the material of the action is contrary to our inclinations, or (in other words) painful, and what we cannot know that we are choosing, we cannot choose.  The full acting out of the self's surrender to God therefore demands pain: this action, to be perfect, must be done from the pure will to obey, in the absence, or in the teeth, of inclination."

Again, I had never thought of this application of pain.  It was really interesting how Lewis describes the before and after of the Fall.  But if you have the perfect relationship with God, then you will want to do what He commands.  I agree with Lewis that pain is definitely an indicator for God's will.  And yet, I don't think every time we choose to follow God's will, pain is a part of it.  Nobody is perfect, but I think there are people who have reached a point in their faith where they find pleasure in doing what God says, just because it is His will, at least some of the time. 

"Human will becomes truly creative and truly our own when it is wholly God's, and this is one of the many senses in which he that loses his soul shall find it."  This is totally opposite of what one thinks; one usually thinks holding on tighter will give them the ability to control their life. 

A question I was thinking about is whether pain is evil.  Is it something that is evil that God turned for good?  I don't think I mean pain, in Lewis's sense, in which we dislike it, but where it hurts us? 

*Reminder: Lewis is talking about Pain as any experience, whether physical or mental, which the patient dislikes" and is synonymous with "'suffering', 'anguish', 'tribulation', adversity', or 'trouble'."

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