Welcome to Inklings Week 2022! You can find all the posts for this week here.
When Jamie told me the theme she had in mind for Inklings Week this year was “courage” my interest was immediately piqued. In the last two years words like “courage” and “hero” and the like have been thrown around a lot. There have certainly been people who have embodied those words. Unfortunately, words like “courage” and “hero” are often bedfellows with words like “grief,” “confusion,” and “pain.” With this lens we are going to be looking at C.S. Lewis’ works A Grief Observed and The Problem of Pain.
If you’re not familiar with either of these, I’ll give you a quick overview of each:
A Grief Observed is Lewis’ thoughts about life, death and faith following the death of his wife, Joy. It’s honest, sad, vulnerable, and hopeful. It’s one of my favorites of his works. The Problem of Pain is a book about *wait for it* the fact that pain exists, and it sucks. “Why must we suffer?” is a big, complicated question that Lewis does his best to answer even though we know that with some things we will be without satisfactory answers on this side of heaven.
Also, these covers? Swoon.
Grief and pain were not foreign concepts to Lewis. His mother died when he was 9. His wife Joy died after five short years of marriage. He lost several of his college friends during WWI. As if WWI wasn’t enough, he also lived through WWII, and even though he didn’t serve in the armed forces in the second war he ministered to RAF pilots and knew people who fought and died. His brother Warren was an alcoholic and watching his only sibling struggle in this way must have grieved and pained Lewis as well.
I always think “How could this man who had these heartbreaking experiences still love God so fiercely? How did he still find comfort in Him and His promises when there was so much to endure?” Which then leads to the inevitable thoughts of “I am no C.S. Lewis. I’m no great figure of faith. If I was presented with the sufferings that C.S. Lewis was presented with, how do I know that I would react like Lewis, craving His holy comfort? And not just become bitter, hard and distrustful?”
If in our lives we have to hold grief and pain in one hand, then in the other must be courage and faith. What other tools would we have to combat such sorrow?
Here are some of my favorite quotes to share you up when you are in need of your own courage:
The Problem of Pain:
“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts to us in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
“…nor have I anything to offer my readers except my conviction that when pain is to be borne, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all.”
“Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.”
A Grief Observed:
“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” (I think about this quote a lot – when I am reaching out to a friend who is grieving this is often a sentiment I include in a note. Sometimes grief surprises us.)
“We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it. I’ve got nothing that I hadn’t bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination.”
“Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape. As I’ve already noted, not every bend does. Sometimes the surprise is the opposite one; you are presented with exactly the same sort of country you thought you had left behind miles ago. That is when you wonder whether the valley isn’t a circular trench. But it isn’t. There are partial recurrences, but the sequence doesn’t repeat.”
Pain, grief, and suffering are going to be a part of all of our lives – and we might not always get the answers we seek or the comfort that we crave. Hopefully, though, we can draw some courage from the people who have gone before us.
Thank you so much Wesley for joining in! Wesley is a reader and blogger extraordinaire! Be sure to follow her for plenty of book recs and bookish chatter. You can find her at http://libraryeducated.blogspot.com/ and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/whoffs.