A friend and blog reader sent a C.S. Lewis quote that prompted me to venture a few more thoughts about the purpose(s) of pain, grief and suffering.
The quote, often attributed to Lewis, actually originated with the movie Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010), but does not appear in Lewis’ book of the same title. It is true that hardships can prompt some to accomplish unimaginable feats, as those I’ve watched in the Paralympics. But while many triumphs thrill us, we need to also consider those whose lives, like mine, are ordinary.
As a baby boomer, I rarely heard the word hardship. Adults spoke of life’s challenges, difficulties and ups and downs. Yes, neighbors and friends excoriated my parents for allowing me to play with their children, despite the fact that my parents had no idea I had contracted polio. My mother did not talk to me about this for almost 30 years, and even then did not call it hardship. But then, my mother did not live under the barrage of talk radio and television.
Finding an immediatepurpose or answering the “Why did this happen?” question has seldom occurred quickly in my experience.
For example, my 8th grade Sunday school teacher, Lois James, offered four tiny silver spoons to anyone willing to memorize 200 verses of scripture. It seemed like a good project for my year-long hospital stay, so I memorized passages from the King James Version from July,1960 until Easter, 1961. For that holiday my parents managed to get me, encased in 60+ pounds of plaster, home in the back of a neighbor’s station wagon, a humorous feat worthy of its own story another time. While home I said all 200 verses and references at one sitting.
Years later I participated in a Bible study of Psalm 119, and verse 71 caught my attention. “It was good for me to be afflicted that I might learn your decrees.” Thinking back to 1960, the plaster cast year, the two surgeries, the loss of my freshman year with my friends, I now caught sight of at least one of God’s purposes in my suffering. What a gift He had planted in me during that year! When would I have worked diligently to commit that much scripture to memory at the beginning of high school?
If you struggle with finding a reason for the pain, grief, or suffering in your life, focus outside yourself and the circumstances. And be patient. The enemy wants to paralyze you, to stagnate you thoughts; the Savior seeks to draw you into light and hope.