The Riddle of Suffering

The Body of Christ Borne to the Tomb c.1799-1800 by William Blake 1757-1827

“The Body of Christ Borne to the Tomb” by William Blake, watercolor

“Why, LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”
(Psalm 10:1)

If God is all-powerful and all-loving, why does He allow so much suffering?  Arguably, this question lies at the core of human existence.  The silence that seems to greet it pierces our hearts.  Who will comfort us?

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“God Knows” by Minnie Louise Haskins

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“God Knows”

by Minnie Louise Haskins (1875-1957)

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

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Introduction to the Book of Job by G.K. Chesterton

“The Iliad is only great because all life is a battle, The Odyssey because all life is a journey, The Book of Job because all life is a riddle.” ~ G.K. Chesterton, “The Everlasting Man”

The Book of Job is perhaps one of the most difficult books in the Bible to read, both intellectually and emotionally.  In many ways, it presents us with a disconcerting riddle.  G.K. Chesterton agreed that it is a riddle, but that it is disconcerting to us is where the problem really begins.

In his book, The Everlasting Man, Chesterton had this to say, calling Job a literary, “colossal cornerstone” of the ancient world:

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Lion’s Business and the Problem of Animal Pain With C.S. Lewis

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Owl at The Kilns, the home of C.S. Lewis.

“Tu-whoo, tu-whoo! Wake up, Puddleglum. Wake up. It is on the Lion’s business.”

We were in Oxford on the Lion’s Business.  Our daughter’s stuffed owl got to visit C.S. Lewis’s house since she and her sister did not join us this time.  Here is the report our daughter received from her favorite owl:

Owl found the house to be welcoming and cozy and he thought the grounds were quite lovely and perfectly wild.  In particular, he enjoyed the picture of Paxford in the kitchen with one of Lewis’s favorite cats named Tom on the counter.  Paxford reminds him of his favorite Marshwiggle named Puddleglum. Of course, he plans on returning in the evening when he hopes to catch the Parliament of Owls in session.  Tu-whoo!  

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The Dearest of All Wet Blankets

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“Here on the mountain I have spoken to you clearly: I will not often do so down in Narnia … as you drop down into  Narnia the air will thicken.  Take great care that it does not confuse your mind …. that is why it is so important to know [the signs] by heart and pay no attention to appearances.  Remember the signs and believe the signs.  Nothing else matters.”   – Aslan to Jill from “The Silver Chair” by C.S. Lewis

CosmosI believe this quote captures one of the primary themes of C.S. Lewis’s, The Silver Chair (the next to the last book in his Chronicles of Narnia).  Lewis scholar  Michael Ward argues in his excellent book, Planet Narnia that Lewis imbued the Chronicles with Medieval cosmology, each of the seven books having its own tutelary planet. Mankind has always been fascinated with the Cosmos, believing that the stars and planets influenced the affairs of men and nature.  The Medieval church baptized many of these ancient beliefs, discarding what was clearly heretical and infusing what remained with the doctrine of an orderly universe governed by God’s decrees where the heavens declare His glory (Psalm 19 and Psalm 136).  In the medieval worldview, God upheld the universe with His love, being as Dante wrote in the final words of The Divine Comedy, “the love that moves the sun and the other stars.”  Each of the seven planets of medieval cosmology influenced nature with its own unique qualities.  Ward claims very convincingly that Lewis infused The Silver Chair with lunar influences (the medieval mind considered both the sun and moon as part of the collection of seven planets, the other five being Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn).

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