Hospitals showcase the range of emotions and experiences—from the proud Dad, beaming with joy, celebrating the birth of his first child to the elderly woman in unspeakable grief after losing her beloved husband and soul-mate of fifty years. Walking down the hallway, you can almost see these stories written on people’s faces. It reminds me of something that C.S. Lewis wrote in his classic book, The Problem of Pain.
An author of more than thirty books, C. S. Lewis (1898-1963) taught English literature at both Oxford and Cambridge Universities during his life. As a World War I veteran teaching at Oxford during World War II, Lewis addressed the hard questions brought on by war—specifically the problem of evil. In his book, The Problem of Pain, one of my all-time favorites, Lewis understands pain as one kind of evil, which God superintends for the good of mankind—as a megaphone to wake up the sleeping sinner, alerting him to his need.
The human spirit will not even begin to try to surrender self-will as long as all seems to be well with it. Now error and sin both have this property, that the deeper they are the less their victim suspects their existence; they are masked evil. Pain is unmasked, unmistakable evil; every man knows that something is wrong when he is being hurt. . . .1
And pain is not only immediately recognizable evil, but evil impossible to ignore. We can rest contentedly in our sins and in our stupidities; and anyone who has watched gluttons shoveling down the most exquisite foods as if they did not know what they were eating, will admit that we can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world. A bad man, happy, is a man without the least inkling that his actions do not ‘answer’, that they are not in accord with the laws of the universe. . . .2
Until the evil man finds evil unmistakably present within his existence, in the form of pain, he is enclosed in illusion. Once pain has roused him, he knows that he is in some way or other ‘up against’ the real universe: he either rebels (with possibility of a clearer issue and deeper repentance at some later stage) or else makes some attempt at an adjustment, which if pursued, will lead him to religion. . . .3
No doubt Pain as God’s megaphone is a terrible instrument; it may lead to final and unrepented rebellion. But it gives the only opportunity the bad man can have for atonement. It removes the veil; it plants the flag of truth within the fortress of a rebel soul.4
1 C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), 90.
2 Ibid., 90-91.
3 Ibid., 93.
4 Ibid., 93-94.