Friday, July 24, 2009

The Problem of Pain

 I'm moving books today, trying to get them in a more efficient layout. How nice it would be if they'd all fit in piles around my feet & I never needed to leave them.

Anyway, my husband loves C. S. Lewis. He insisted a while back on buying everything written by the least, everything that was available at Half Price Books that day.

So I'm moving piles of Lewis' writings, reading titles, thinking. I try to soak a lot up from titles these days, busy as I am. Actually...I've always been that way, given my vivid imagination & impatience with pages upon pages before getting to the good part. Then upon getting to the good part, I'm mad that it's over. I have a sort-of love-hate relationship with books & reading.

Anyway, I came upon the title The Problem of Pain...or was it With? Anyway, I was thinking about Lewis' title, thinking about the question of a good God who allows people to suffer. (I assume that's the topic of the book; it's the topic of so much religious discourse.) I don't like this topic. Not only is it ugly & complicated, it produces so many weak answers. There are the weak defenses of suffering from those who haven't suffered, and there are the weak-minded defenses of God from those who are afraid to look hard at the question, afraid that perhaps suffering is indeed proof of God's depravity, or, perhaps worse, of his nonexistence & thus our own meaninglessness in a wide, senseless universe.

I don't like the question.

But thinking about pain, thinking about it as a problem in a philosophical sense, I began to imagine a world without pain. We would still point our fingers at God, for the absence of pain would be proof to our fragile minds that we had no need of salvation, no need of divine help of any kind. We would think sin was a lie or a fable for making children mind; we would think sacrifice was a foolish waste.

Ironically, we see the presence of pain the same way. It's proof for us that God is either cruel or nonexistent. With or without pain, I think, WE would be the same. Since pain is a natural consequence of a fallen world, though, I suppose it is more honest of Him to allow suffering. If we can somehow make the connection between the pain we see & feel & have no control over & the judgment we pass, the anger we entertain, the arrogance & self-righteousness & other kinds of lies we tell—then maybe we can begin to turn to him, begin to see the logic of sacrifice, of giving up our rights so that sin cannot breed, so that the curse cannot pass my doorstep because here the law is love, though it cost me everything.

We think that the answer is forgiveness, & that's a good answer, but I think that's an allowance for the human condition. I suspect that the goal is giveness. No 'for.' Like in Les Mis: if you give that which someone tries to take, there's no place for forgiveness, repentance, Hell's victory, for there was no sin in the first place. There's only the soul that you have saved from sullying itself. There's only the advancing of the kingdom of God on earth. There's only love.

So maybe I'll read beyond the title one of these days. For now, I've got a toddler who just ran SMACK into the foot of my bed, & so I've got my own problem of pain to handle.

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