Thursday, October 09, 2014

C. S. Lewis: A Grief Observed

On Monday we looked at The Problem of Pain (written in 1940), where C. S. Lewis wrestled with the issue intellectually. Today I want to talk about A Grief Observed, where he wrestles with his own personal grief over the death of his wife, Joy Davidman in 1960.

The book was first published under the pseudonym N.W. Clerk. It wasn't until after Lewis's death in 1963 that it was republished under his own name. Joy's first name was Helen, so Lewis referred to her as "H" throughout the text.

Madeleine L'Engle wrote in an introduction to the 1989 edition: 
"I am grateful to Lewis for having the courage to yell, to doubt, to kick at God in angry violence. This is a part of a healthy grief which is not often encouraged. It is helpful indeed that C. S. Lewis, who has been such a successful apologist for Christianity, should have the courage to admit doubt about what he has so superbly proclaimed. It gives us permission to admit our own doubts, our own angers and anguishes, and to know that they are part of the soul's growth."
Douglas Gresham, (Lewis's step-son), describes the book as “a stark recounting of one man’s studied attempts to come to grips with and in the end defeat the emotional paralysis of the most shattering grief of his life.” (1994 Introduction to A Grief Observed)

This is the first sentence Lewis wrote in A Grief Observed:
No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” 
He proceeds to ask the big questions most of us find ourselves asking sooner or later:
Where is God in this? Why has he (seemingly) abandoned me? Why did he let us go through this suffering?

Lewis also questions his own faith, saying “my house has collapsed at one blow.” He calls his faith a  house of cards. He says that the danger, for him, is not of ceasing to believe in God completely, but rather, "The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him.”

He also talks about how you know what you really believe:
You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth of falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn't you then first discover how much you really trusted it?” - C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
I would recommend this book as a must read for anyone. We will all lose people we love dearly, if we haven't already. It may help to see how Lewis wrestled with the big questions, to see how he struggled. I know it encourages me in my own struggles with doubts and suffering.

Towards the end of the book, Lewis writes:
I thought I could describe a state; make a map of sorrow. Sorrow, however, turns out to be not a state but a process.” ― C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed
And so it is. Grief and sorrow are roads we all must travel, much more often than we would wish. I pray that when you do, you are able to call out to God with the same kind of honesty that Lewis does in A Grief Observed.

In response to the 31 Day blogging challenge, I will be posting every day in October. You can read previous posts HERE. Follow me on Facebook and/or Twitter to be notified of new posts. You can also Subscribe to get posts sent to you by email. (There is a simple form towards the top on the right where you can do this.)

Feel free to comment with your own thoughts and questions!

Index of Posts:
Day 1: 31 Days of C. S. Lewis (Introduction)
Day 2. C. S. Lewis on Longing (In "The Weight of Glory")
Day 3. C. S. Lewis on Sehnsucht (Longing and Desire in The Weight of Glory)
Day 4. C. S. Lewis Audio Recordings
Day 5: C. S. Lewis Online Resources
Day 6: C. S. Lewis: The Intolerable Compliment (The Problem of Pain)
Day 7: C. S. Lewis: What is "The Weight of Glory"?
Day 8: C. S. Lewis: The Great Divorce and The Weight of Glory
Day 9: C. S. Lewis: A Grief Observed
Day 10: C. S. Lewis, Myth, and Postmodernism
Day 11: C. S. Lewis, Myth, and Postmodernism (Part 2)
Day 12: C. S. Lewis and Postmodernism (Part 3 - Conclusion)

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