The End of Many Books

The Problem of Pain

by C. S. Lewis

Work with me here for just a second. I like the Burger King Whopper with cheese. I order it as is. Before I eat it, I wipe off almost all of the toppings: tomato and onions and pickles and lettuce and condiments. I carefully choose a couple pieces of the more greenish-looking lettuce to replace on the burger, and then dig in. I like the overall flavor, but still have some texture issues.

This book is way more filling if you can scrape off the parts about theistic evolution and man’s free will. This book is worth the work to do so, I’m just warning before you take a big bite.

Lewis identifies the “problem”:

‘If God were good, He would wish to make His creatures perfectly happy, and if God were almighty He would be able to do what He wished. But the creatures are not happy. Therefore God lacks either goodness, or power, or both.’ This is the problem of pain, in its simplest form.

He answers the question pretty well, not only in terms of what our sin deserves, but especially in terms of how God uses suffering/pain/troubles to not let us be satisfied with anything less than Himself. So:

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

This is not from a detached position. There’s no Lewisian Stoicism.

When I think of pain—of anxiety that gnaws like fire and loneliness that spreads out like a desert, and the heartbreaking routine of monotonous misery, or again of dull aches that blacken our whole landscape or sudden nauseating pains that knock a man’s heart out at one blow, of pains that seem already intolerable and then are suddenly increased, of infuriating scorpion-stinging pains that startle into maniacal movement a man who seemed half dead with his previous tortures—it ‘quite o’ercrows my spirit’.

Lewis has chapters on Hell and Heaven which are also connected and good, and overall he accomplishes his goal to provide “a little courage” and “the least tincture of the love of God.”

4 of 5 stars