A Theology of Suffering from C.S. Lewis

How do we make sense out of suffering? The first step is to realize that suffering is a result of human sin and a consequence of the fall of Adam. Another necessary notion to make sense out of suffering is that suffering may have redemptive purposes or good ends. This should not be confused with saying that suffering is good in and of itself. In other words, suffering is not good, but suffering may have good consequences. C.S. Lewis speaks to this in explaining that suffering is “God’s megaphone,” by which he means to call us back to the Creator.

Now the proper good of a creature is to surrender itself to its Creator – to enact intellectually, volitionally, and emotionally, that relationship which is given in the mere fact of its being a creature. When it does so, it is good and happy. Lest we should think this is a hardship, this kind of good begins on a level far above the creatures, for God Himself, as Son, from all eternity renders back to God as Father by filial obedience the being which the Father by paternal love eternally generates in the Son. This is the pattern which man was made to imitate – and wherever the will conferred by the Creator is thus perfectly offered back in the delighted and delighting obedience by the creature there, most undoubtedly, is Heaven, and there the Holy Ghost proceeds. In the world as we know it, the problem is how to recover self-surrender. We are not merely imperfect creatures who must be improved: we are, as John Henry Newman said, rebels who must lay down our arms. The first answer, then, to the question why our cure should be painful, is that to render back the will which we have so long claimed for our own, is in itself, wherever and however it is done, a grievous pain.[1]

[1] C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: Macmillan, 1947), 78-79.

Author: Zach Maloney

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