Monday, October 06, 2014

C. S. Lewis: The Intolerable Compliment (The Problem of Pain)

Be thankful for the struggle. How counter-intuitive! But that turmoil inside? The restlessness you feel as you wrestle with sin and flesh, pain and grief? The struggle to die to yourself and submit in obedience to God? It is evidence of the living Holy Spirit of God living inside of you! So praise God for the struggle! Praise God He won't leave you where you are! He loves you far too much and so He pays us the "intolerable compliment":
"If God is Love, He is by definition something more than mere kindness. And it appears from all the records that though He has often rebuked us and condemned us, He has never regarded us with contempt. He has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us in the deepest, most tragic, most inexorable sense." - C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain.
What does this mean?
"God wills our good, and our good is to love Him... and to love Him we must know Him: and if we know Him, we shall in fact fall on our faces...Yet the call is not only to prostration and awe; it is to a reflection of the Divine life, a creaturely participation in the Divine attributes which is far beyond our present desires. We are bidden to "put on Christ," to become like God. That is, whether we like it or not, God intends to give us what we need, not what we now think we want. Once more, we are embarrassed by the intolerable compliment, by too much love, not too little."
I spend so much time and energy trying to avoid pain, and I'm fairly certain I'm not the only person on the planet who does this. But what if the pain is the one thing that will get bring us to our knees, willing to really listen and hear from our Savior?

So much of my prayers consist of me begging God to take the pain and suffering away, when at the core of the Christian life, isn't it all about coming to an acute awareness of our desperate need for Jesus? Knowing that we can't save ourselves and we can't live a good or holy life on our own, resulting in daily, moment by moment surrender to our Lord.

But when things are going relatively smoothly I am quick to trust in my own devices, attempting to be self-sufficient, ignoring the God who created me and redeemed me. So time and time again it would seem that in order to be most loving towards me, God must use the megaphone of pain to grab my attention.(1) 
"We are, not metaphorically, but in very truth, a Divine work of art, something that God is making, and therefore something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character.  Here again we come up against what I have called the 'intolerable compliment'. Over a sketch made idly to amuse a child, an artist may not take much trouble: he may be content to let it go even though it is not exactly as he meant it to be. But over the great picture of his life - the work which he loves, though in a different fashion, as intensely as a man loves a woman or a mother a child - he will take endless trouble - and would, doubtless, thereby give endless trouble to the picture if it were sentient [the ability to feel and to have subjective experiences]. One can imagine a sentient picture, after being rubbed and scraped and recommenced for the tenth time, wishing that it were only a thumbnail sketch whose making was over in a minute. In the same way, it is natural for us to wish that God had designed for us a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are wishing not for more love but for less." - C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain.



1) “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” - C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
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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)

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