a coda to suffering


Just after spending a few weeks thinking about suffering, I picked up A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis to see how he described his suffering after his wife died of cancer. Because grief is suffering, too. Many passages struck me as thoughts I’ve had myself, but of course his clear writing articulates them far better than I could. This is that:

When I lay these questions [about why his wife died] before God I get no answer. But a rather special sort of ‘No answer.’ It is not the locked door. It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate, gaze. As though He shook His head not in refusal but waiving the question. Like, ‘Peace, child; you don’t understand.’

Can a mortal ask questions which God finds unanswerable? Quite easily, I should think. All non-sense questions are unanswerable. How many hours are there in a mile? Is yellow square or round? Probably half the questions we ask–half our great theological and metaphysical problems–are like that.

And this captured me by making me nod in agreement for the first paragraph, then gasp in astonishment with the second. Yes. This is the thread between human suffering and Christ’s suffering that’s been slowly crystalizing in my mind:

Yet this [a spouse’s pain and suffering] is unendurable. And then one babbles–‘If only I could bear it, or the worst of it, or any of it, instead of her.’ But one can’t tell how serious that bid is, for nothing is staked on it. If it suddenly became a real possibility, then, for the first time, we should discover how seriously we had meant it. But is it ever allowed?

It was allowed to One, we are told, and I find I can now believe again, that He has done vicariously whatever can be so done. He replies to our babble, ‘You cannot and you dare not. I could and dared.’




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