One of the great mysteries of life is the problem of pain. If God is good and all-powerful, why does He allow His creatures to suffer pain? C.S. Lewis, one of the most renowned Christian authors and thinkers, examined this perennial question in his book The Problem of Pain. There, Lewis offered some answers to this crucial question in an attempt to help a hurting world better understand this issue.
The Bible has the ultimate answer to the question of pain and suffering. The Bible traces the origin of pain to the Garden of Eden and the Fall of mankind. As a result of the Fall, humans have been placed under a curse. God allows His creatures to suffer pain because of sin.
However, where sin abounds grace does much more abound and, in Christ, cursing has been turned to blessing. The problem of pain moves from judicial punishment to molding character for those who are in Christ. The author of Hebrews explains. “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons” (Heb. 12:6-8). In other words, pain helps to shape and transform our character to something better than what would be possible without the experience of discomfort.
When viewed correctly, the pain and suffering that God inflicts on His own for personal transgressions, is designed to arrest sin, change their character, and conform them into the image of Christ. In this way, cursing is turned into blessing. Therefore, the heart can embrace the following concepts and be comforted.
First, if (and that is an important if, for there are many other reason for pain in life) the pain and suffering is directly traced to sin in the life of the believer that needs to be dealt with, the heart can know that God is dealing with the soul in the context of love. “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth.” It is a blessed moment when the heart can remember to say, “God loves me. Christ receiveth sinful men, even me with all my sin. I am His, and He is mine.”
Second, because God loves His own, He will chasten and scourge His children when needed. Some Christians need only a glance, as Peter, from the eye of the Lord, and their hearts are broken. Other children of God are very stubborn. Their hearts have grown gospel hardened even though they engage in God talk and continue in Christian work. But the Lord knows where their heart is. “Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men” (Isa. 29:13). Fear of God is something that can be taught of men as a religious precept. But then, it is only an academic exercise in rhetoric. The heart does not quiver before the Lord as Isaiah trembled in the presence of God. Therefore, sometimes, the pain and suffering the Lord inflicts on His children must be severe.
Third, if the chastening of the Lord is endured, it will end in a closer walk and more intimate fellowship. The child is reassured of being part of the family of God. The patriarch Job said, “But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).
Here then are some of the great benefits of being broken by God. Cursing is turned to blessing. The dross of sin is taken away, and the soul comes forth as gold. The heart is reassured of the love of God. The family ties grow stronger.
To receive these benefits, the heart must be broken before God, not in theory, but in authentic anguish and honesty. Being honest with self, with God, and with others is perhaps the hardest part for pride struggles to reign on the throne and protect self. However, the pride must go, as Jesus taught in the parable of the prodigal son.
The story of the prodigal son is a precious story. The turning point in the story is when the son says, “Father, I have sinned.” That is all it took and the concerned father, the looking father, became the running father, and the running father became the forgiving father upon confession. Then, it was over. The sin, the shame, the failure—it was all in the past. The future brought nothing but rejoicing. Suddenly, there was fantastic future to look forward to and enjoy. It all came about because of the blessing of being broken.