Friday, January 23, 2009

Problem of Pain

The problem of pain is that it exists simultaneously with a loving God. The simple answer, which Peter Kreeft points out, to this problem is that “love may cause some alteration to the object of its affection if that object needs the alterations to become more loveable.” The more difficult answer for man to understand is that God’s ways are not our ways. No man can fully understand the mind and purpose of God, thus we cannot attach to him the attributes we have defined by our actions.

For instance, Lewis shows how humans often question why a “decent, inoffensive, worthy” person experiences misfortune. We believe that such a person should receive the blessings of a pain-free life. The problem is that the blessings we wish upon them could very well get in the way of them receiving greater blessings. Lewis says that sometimes pain or suffering is used by God to warn “them in advance of an insufficiency that one day they will have to discover.” It would be better for them to suffer in this life than in the eternity which follows. Lewis goes on to say “the creature’s illusion of self-sufficiency must, for the creature’s sake be shattered.” Jesus says that it is “easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven.” When a man is “blessed” with things of this earth he too easily dismisses God- the one person who can give him eternal blessings.

Another question that humans often ask is why following God must involve pain; people who are doing God’s will are clearly not blinded by the ‘blessings’ of this world so why do they need to experience pain? Lewis answers this by explaining that if God’s will allowed us to do painless activities then we would not be doing them for the right reasons and thus not truly following God’s will but rather our own. “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. How impossible it is to enact the surrender of the self by doing what we like.” Lewis references Hooker when he says “they err who think that of the will of God to do this or that there is no reason besides His will.” It is an act of true surrender to the will of God when we endure pain in following His will.

We cannot suffer this pain only for a short time or only once because it is our nature to dispense of God when we are no longer in need of him. Thus, human suffering will continue until we are no longer affected by it or until we have become completely remade into the image of Christ and completely obedient to God.

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