This was my 50th read of the year, and it should have been my first. Well, I also read Mere Christianity this year, so perhaps this should have been mThis was my 50th read of the year, and it should have been my first. Well, I also read Mere Christianity this year, so perhaps this should have been my second. At any rate, wow. I was reading someone else's reviews (of a different book -- I don't remember which) where they stated that they only give 5 stars to "life changing" books. That is indeed what I am doing in this case, or at least, what I hope I am doing since only time will tell if my life has really been changed.
My wife has a chronic illness with which, much of the time, the pain and fatigue is so intense and persistent that it keeps her bedridden. Seeing her in all that pain and being utterly helpless to do anything substantial for her is superlatively difficult. I think, "God, why are you allowing this to happen to her?" Then, while I'm trying to fill in for what she is unable to do on her own, I (selfishly, and with plenty of guilt afterwards) get overwhelmed and frustrated and find myself thinking, "God, why are you allowing this to happen to ME?! What did I do wrong or what am I not doing right? What good can possibly come of this whole situation? What good is it that I try to be an obedient Christian if I'm still left with this misery?"
Of course, there are the quieter moments, when at least part of the house is clean, we don't desperately need to make a trip to the grocery store, all 4 kids aren't screaming and I start to feel some peace. In these moments I think, "Ok, God. I think I might see at least one angle here. Maybe you're trying to show me that I can make it through this in one piece because something even bigger that I would have previously thought impossible or at least insurmountable is coming up in my life. Maybe you're showing me that I too can be content in all things. Maybe that's the point here, at least for me." This thinking is (at least) incomplete and (at best) partly wrong (knowing me, it's probably wrong on multiple levels, but it's only part of my story so let's keep moving).
Reading The Problem of Pain helped me to put together a bunch of pieces that I had previously learned and combine them with some new things hadn't quite sunk in before, and made me realize that I was focused on the wrong thing: me. Certainly there's the fallacy of self-sufficiency to consider: "The creature’s illusion of self-sufficiency must, for the creature’s sake, be shattered; and by trouble or fear of trouble on earth, by crude fear of the eternal flames, God shatters it ‘unmindful of His glory’s diminution’." (pg.95) But more than that, I was focused on what all this means for me, when the fact that there is pain and the fact that I am not perfectly comfortable in life does not have to be about a lack of faith on my part or a lack of provision by God -- it's actually part of an unimaginably intricate and complex process by which my wife, me, my kids and all those encounter us are also being changed in some positive ways. God may not have "brought this on us", but he is certainly using everything to further his Will, even our situation. Besides, if we were all comfortable here, how would we feel any desire for heaven?
"The settled happiness and security which we all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the world: but joy, pleasure, and merriment, He has scattered broadcast. We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy. It is not hard to see why. The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and oppose an obstacle to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bathe or a football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home." (pg. 116)
Reading this book helped me get to the point where now I really do believe that my job is simple: realize that I'm just a human that is reliant on Him, ask Him for help with all of it (little and big), and remember that this life isn't the end -- as a forgetful person I need constant reminders that there is something unimaginably better waiting for me and my family. The tougher moments are my reminders, and now I will try to think more about the purpose of the reminder and what is on the other side....more
This book helped me find answers to questions I had and some that I had not yet thought of. While I didn't agree with 100% of what C.S. Lewis had to sThis book helped me find answers to questions I had and some that I had not yet thought of. While I didn't agree with 100% of what C.S. Lewis had to say, I did agree with nearly all of it and enjoyed all of his similes....more