May 06, 2014
There are many aspect of Lewis’ understanding that we have observed in the past three posts (if you missed them, read the first here, the second here and the third here) in this series. Lewis wrote frequently about the issue of pain and suffering, recognizing that it is one of the biggest challenges to Christian faith. His helpful understanding of the role of experience and reason alongside his helpful imagery make Lewis one of the most quoted Christian thinkers on this subject. His dialectic of reason and experience provides a more comprehensive view of pain and suffering. I want to conclude this series with three particular ways Lewis offers help to pastor-theologians.
1. Pastoral care often requires signing up for the long haul.
Lewis helps remind pastor-theologians that being with people in grief is often a commitment for the long haul. Lewis says people who suffer may never truly “get over it” because suffering sometimes means nothing will ever the same again. Utilizing the amputee image, everything from bathing to dressing will always be different. This is particularly important as Lewis reminds us that “in grief nothing ‘stays put.’” One who is suffering may never truly get beyond the phases of suffering. He describes grief as a long winding valley that reveals new, difficult landscapes. Providing pastoral care means we are willing to be with people.
2. Pastoral care is often expressed in seeking to understand rather than seeking to be understood.
Lewis teaches pastor-theologians how to engage. Those who preach and teach often forget that communication is more than just talking. They use their mouth at the exclusion of their ears. They use their words at the exclusion of their tone. They want to be heard instead of to hear. Lewis teaches us what it is like to be the sufferer. He describes the feelings of grief as feeling mildly drunk or concussed. “There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says....It is so uninteresting.” This comes from a man who loved words. He wrote books on words and studied philology. He spoke and wrote for a living. And yet, he reminds us that words often fail to interest when one is in the trenches of suffering. Lewis writes, “Talk to me about the truth of religion and I'll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I'll listen submissively. But don't come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I show suspect that you don't understand.” Lewis concludes that theology alone fails to deal with reality because it is often written from a disinterested point of view.
3. Pastoral care points others to Christ as our primary understanding of suffering.
Christ came to a sinful world to become sin on its behalf (2 Cor. 5:21). Lewis reminds us that “Christianity is not the conclusion of the philosophical debate on the origins of the universe: it is a catastrophic historical event.” Christianity is not just a philosophical defense or even a theological argument; it is an incarnate Messiah who tells us about the heart of God. Nothing less than Christ will do. Lewis tells us, “I need Christ, not something that resembles him.” In point of fact, Lewis reminds us that God’s commitment is for our ultimate redemption and will leave all false ideas of the Messiah in ruins. “God becomes a Man and lives as a creature among His own creatures in Palestine, the indeed His life is one of supreme self-sacrifice and leads to Calvary.” We may not be able to resolve the question completely to our satisfaction of why God allows suffering, but because of Christ, we know that it’s not because he doesn’t care.
It is obvious why Lewis continues to have an impact on Christians during times of need and suffering. I hope you will find comfort in Lewis as a friend and pastor, speaker and listener.
Josh and his wife, Tara, are from Washington State. Josh is pursuing an MAR and MATH while Tara works as a hairdresser in Manchester-by-the-Sea. Together, they are most captivated by the story in which God has placed them in this fascinatingly bizarre world that spins across this universe. In the midst of it all, they are stabilized by what Sally Lloyd-Jones describes as “God’s 'Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love' in Jesus" (Jesus Storybook Bible).
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