Have You Ever Wrestled With The Problem of Pain?

In preparing last week to teach our Connections Class on Tim Keller’s new book, The Reason for God, it was on the second chapter on How Could a Good God Allow Suffering? This was the chapter on the problem of evil, which is basically the challenge that the God of Christianity cannot exist because evil and suffering exist. The case in point: If God were all-powerful and loving and good, then he would not allow “bad” to happen to those he loved and wanted to do good toward. This can either be a philosophical reason for rejecting the Christian faith (i.e., a kind of impossible syllogism), or a more personal one for doubting the Christian faith (i.e., “I can’t believe in a God who allows suffering because such a God cannot and should not be trusted”).

While Tim Keller does a nice job of providing helpful answers to this age-old challenge, and I encourage you to read this chapter if this is in any way your dilemma, I still felt that I needed to shore up a bit more on this issue before trying to lead a lesson on that chapter. I knew there are a lot of educated, thoughtful people in this class, so I decided I should better prepare for this discussion by also reading C.S. Lewis’s The Problem of Pain (a whole book on just this issue).

Strangely enough, although I have personally read thousands of pages of Lewis’s writings, I have never read The Problem of Pain. Now after having read it, I think I can honestly say it’s probably the best C.S. Lewis book I’ve ever read (note: C.S. Lewis wrote both The Problem of Pain and Mere Christianity within the same year, both of which were written in the first year of WWII and when Germany was heavily bombing England; which is why there is a kind of raw reality of the human condition as the background in both of these books. From reading his personal letters written that same year, it’s apparent that C.S. Lewis strongly believed that soon the Nazis would occupy England and he would either be imprisoned in a concentration camp or executed; he was literally saying “Goodbye” to his friends at the end of his letters! In my opinion, that’s why there is a kind of real intensity in these books, and why Mere Christianity has remained a classic “must-read” for 68 years.).

If you want to read one of the greatest Christian minds of the twentieth century, writing on a topic that all of us can greatly benefit from thinking about in a deeper, more thoughtful way, then I highly recommend you pick up and read The Problem of Pain. It is thin enough to complete in a reasonable time. And his last chapter on Heaven is worth the price of the book all on its own. I loved it. I loved the entire book. And it provides a contemplative perspective on a reality no one escapes—suffering and “evil” from the hands of a good and loving God. Your faith will need these answers.

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