God’s Megaphone

And we are conscious that all things are working together for good to those who have love for God, and have been marked out by his purpose. Romans 8:28 – Bible in Basic English

Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God . . . Romans 11:22 – KJV

From the Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis:

When our ancestors referred to pains and sorrows as God’s “vengeance” upon sin, they were not necessarily attributing evil passions to God; they may have been recognizing the good element in the idea of retribution.  Until the evil man (note that Christ referred to even His disciples as “evil” – Matt. 7:11) finds evil unmistakably present in his existence, in the form of pain, he is enclosed in illusion. Once pain has roused him, he knows that he is in some way or other “up against” the real universe: He either rebels (with the possibility of a clearer issue and deeper repentance at some later stage) or else makes some attempt at an adjustment, which, if pursued, will lead him to religion.

It is true that neither effect is so certain now as it was in ages when the existence of God (or even of Gods) was more widely known, but even in our own days we see it operating. Even atheists rebel and express. . . their rage against God although (or because) He does not in their view, exist: and other atheists, like Mr. Huxley, are driven by suffering to raise the whole problem of existence and to find some way of coming to terms with it which, if not Christian, is almost infinitely superior to fatuous contentment with a profane life.  No doubt pain as God’s megaphone is a terrible instrument; it may lead to final and unrepented rebellion. But it gives the only opportunity the bad man can have for amendment. It removes the veil; it plants the flag of truh within the fortress of the rebel soul.

If the first and lowest operation of pain shatters the illusion that all is well, the second shatters the illusion that what we have, whether good or bad in itself, is our own and enough for us. Everyone has noticed how hard it is to turn our thought to God when everything is going well with us. We “have all we want” is a terrible saying when “all” does not include God. We find God an interruption. As St. Augustine says somewhere, “God wants to give us something, but cannot, because our hands are full – there’s nowhere for Him to put it.” Or as a friend of mine said, “We regard God as an airman regards his parachute; its there for emergencies but he hopes he’ll never have to use it.”

Now God, who has made us, knows what we are and that our happiness lies in Him. Yet we will not seek it in Him as long as He leaves us any other resort where it can even plausably be looked for. While what we call “our own life” remains agreeable, we will not surrender it to Him. What then can God do in our interest but make “our own life” less agreeable to us, and take away the plausible sources of false happiness.

It is just here, where God’s providence seems at first to be most cruel, that the Divine humility, the stooping down of the Highest, most deserves praise. We are perplexed to see misfortune falling upon decent, inoffensive, worthy people – on capable, hardworking mothers of families or diligent, thrifty little tradespeople, on those hwo have worked so hard, and so honestly, for their modest stock of happiness and now seem to be entering on the enjoyment of it with the fullest right.

How can I say with sufficient tenderness what here needs to be said? It does not matter that I know I must become, in the eyes of every hostile reader, as it were, personally for all the sufferings I try to explain . . . But it matters enormously if I alienate anyone from the truth.

Let me implore the reader to try to believe, if only for the moment, that God, who made these deserving people, may really be right when he thinks that their modest prosperity and the happiness of their children are not enough to make them blessed: that all this must fall from them in the end, and that if they have not learned to know Him, they will be wretched. And therefore He troubles them, warning them in advance of an insufficiency that one day they will have to discover. The life to themselves and their families stands between them and the recognition of their need; He makes that life less sweet to them.

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Published in: on February 26, 2008 at 3:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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