One of the struggles that many people have is understanding suffering. I have been given cause to think about this a lot more lately. I see suffering in the world around me, near and far. And I have taken action at times to alleviate some of the suffering... certainly not as much as I could or should, but definitely more than I had in the past.
I have used logic and Bible texts to explain suffering in light of a loving and caring God who doesn't wave a magic wand to fix everything. Logic and Bible texts often fall on deaf ears. I couldn't help but be reminded of all that today...
This afternoon, I read the penultimate chapter of The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis to the kids. (If you haven't read the book, you really must. If you have read it, but not recently, pick it up and read it again. These last couple chapters are amazing.)
We started reading just after Narnia had been created and near the beginnings of its corruption. Uncle Andrew had been listening to, and following, Jadis, the witch from Charn. She had convinced Uncle Andrew that the Lion, Aslan, was out to get him. Polly, one of the young children, asks Aslan, the Lion, to say something to "unfrighten" Uncle Andrew. Aslan responds by saying:
But I cannot tell that to this old sinner, and I cannot comfort him either; he has made himself unable to hear my voice. If I spoke to him, he would hear only growlings and roarings. Oh Adam's sons, how cleverly you defend yourselves against all that might do you good!
|Uncle Andrew, caged by the animals for his own good|
Further in the conversation, the young child, Digory, is confessing that he was tempted to steal magical fruit that would have healed his mother, saving her from her pain and suffering.
...the Witch tempted you to do another thing, my son, did she not?"
"Yes, Aslan. She wanted me to take an apple home to Mother."
"Understand, then, that it would have healed her; but not to your joy or hers. The day would have come when both you and she would have looked back and said it would have been better to die in that illness."
And Digory could say nothing, for tears choked him and he gave up all hopes of saving his Mother's life; but at the same time he knew that the Lion knew what would have happened, and that there might be things more terrible even than losing someone you love by death. But now Aslan was speaking again, almost in a whisper:
"That is what would have happened, child, with a stolen apple. It is not what will happen now. What I give you now will bring joy. It will not, in your world, give endless life, but it will heal. Go. Pluck her an apple from the Tree."
For a second Digory could hardly understand. It was as if the whole world had turned inside out and upside down. And then, like someone in a dream, he was walking across to the Tree, and the King and Queen were cheering him and all the creatures were cheering too. He plucked the apple and put it in his pocket. Then he came back to Aslan.
"Please," he said, "may we go home now?" He had forgotten to say "Thank you", but he meant it, and Aslan understood.
And that is a better explanation of suffering and God's love than I could ever give. Forget for a moment that piece of fruit that Digory took home. Digory understood that it was better for his mother to have to suffer through pain and illness than to have gone against Aslan's plan and use the apple heal his mother.
Lord, may I never be so arrogant as to think that I know or understand better than You. There is much about this created world that I don't understand. Try as I might, I can never know all that there is to know. I look forward to the day that I will understand things perfectly. Until then, you have my heart, even though I can only see and understand you as through mirror, dimly.