The Problem of Pain by CS Lewis: A Book Review

The Problem of Pain by CS Lewis: A Book Review

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” – Romans 8:18

As I was trying to look into my next book to read, I concluded that I should go with a Christian book. After all, I felt dry in my faith; after going through many struggles, I began questioning God about why everything was happening to me. Why am I feeling so much pain? Why can’t I be happy? Why can’t I have a better mindset and not be depressed all the time? I looked into my bookshelf and saw a brand new CS Lewis classics collection from my last visit to Koorong. Instantly, the title of the book jumped out at me: ‘The Problem of Pain’. What intrigued me about the title of the book is that Lewis actually affirms there is a problem with pain and suffering; it’s not something that we should be experiencing. I picked it up and began reading the blurb of the book: “Why do people or animals have to suffer pain, especially if there is a God?”. This was exactly the book that I had been looking for! I picked it up and started reading the book, in the hope of potential solutions to my doubts and questions.

What does this book say about pain and how it impacted me

When I first started reading this book, I expected it to be able to solve all my emotional pain of suffering. However, in the opening chapter, Lewis puts a disclaimer that this book is not a self-help book that focuses on psychological therapy, but rather one that deals with the intellectual problems raised by pain. Yet, as I went on reading I realised something much more profound and applicable to me. Lewis approaches the problem of pain by first introducing how and why an omnipotent and good God can create a world where there is pain. He proposes that in a world where there is free will, God must also allow individuals to use it for good or evil so that humans won’t just be mindless robots programmed to worship their Creator. The next two chapters go on to talk about human wickedness and the tendency for us to disobey God as a part of our constitution. This is followed by discussing the purpose that human pain serves for us and six necessary propositions that fulfil the account of human suffering. There were two propositions which were most impressionable on me, the first of which is that suffering explains why this world can give foretastes of joy but never lasting security which can only be found in Heaven. The second proposition states that if pain is necessary, then naturally it would mean that pain will not cease until God redeems the world from sin. The book ends on the real horrors of hell contrasted with the beautiful notion of hope and heaven. Ultimately, this book reminded me of biblical truths that humans are flawed and will continue to suffer as long as we live; but if we put our faith in Christ, we can have an eternal assurance in a future with God.

What I found encouraging

What I found most impactful was when Lewis talks about human pain in chapter 6 and explains how pain leads us to search for happiness in God. This was something that I had never given proper thought to before; I always thought of pain as a separating factor between God and humans. Lewis argues that the God who made us knows that our happiness lies in Him, and if there are any other measures of happiness, our natural tendency is to seek those instead of Him. Thus, by making us realise the false happiness that exists around us through the existence of pain, he allows us to instead seek a relationship with Him. Upon reading this, I realised that a large part of my own life required me to go through sufferings and hardships in order to come back and rely on God. These experiences made me realise how weak I truly am and that whatever worldly happiness I relied on was all temporary; in the end, I will never truly be happy without having God in my life.

How Christianity reassures me

In the last few months, God has really been teaching me to remember the glory of heaven as my days on Earth are numbered. When I am feeling the agony of life, I can look forward to a future and yearn for a day where everything will be made right again. As much as our faith may be tested during times of trial, the problem of pain should never be one that incites believers to question the existence of God; instead, it should guide believers to hope and desire for a future where there will be no more pain. God’s promises to His people have been fulfilled in the past, as evidenced through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus; and thus, it will also be fulfilled in the future. There will be a day where we will leave our corrupted bodies and be reunited with God in heaven. Christianity reassures me of a meaningful hope of the future and that my life on earth still has a purpose. I am not simply a random creation, but rather, a created being who has a relationship with the Creator.

by Morning Yang