Suffering

C. S. Lewis, his worlds, and his faith.

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Suffering

Postby DiGoRyKiRkE » Jul 27, 2010 5:41 pm

Recently we had a magnificently wonderful "mod moot." Many of you knew of this, and we appreciate with the fact that you allowed us to have this much needed break (and that the forum didn't break ;)) ). On Sunday night, we watched the film "Shadowlands," a film that focusses on the life of C.S. Lewis and his relation to his wife, Joy Gresham. The central theme of this movie, was the suffering endurred by both characters, and I was wonderring what it would be like to look at the suffering endured by the characters of Narnia.

Suffering is typically used to make us stronger in our walk with Christ. It is what molds us into a masterpiece. A block of stone is turned into a sculpture only by painfully chipping away all of the unnecessary bits. A toothache is only remedied by painfully pulling out the offending tooth.

So I began to wonder, how can we relate the suffering that happens within the world of Narnia, with the suffering that each of us endures throughout our every day life? Certainly we can relate to the fact that each character grows through suffering, but I was looking for more specific ways. How can we grow through suffering? How do the Narnians grow?

*looks forward to this conversation*
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Re: Suffering

Postby stargazer » Jul 27, 2010 8:33 pm

Great questions, Digs, and one I’ve actually thought about a bit since you quoted that very moving and significant section of MN at the moot. If I may be so bold as to piggyback off it (and please pardon the long quote):

…[Digory] thought of his Mother, and he thought of the great hopes he had had, and how they were all dying away, and a lump came in his throat and tears in his eyes, and he blurted out:

“But please, please – won’t you – can’t you give me something that will cure Mother?” Up till then he had been looking at the Lion’s great front feet and the huge claws on them; now, in his despair, he looked up at its face. What he saw surprised him as much as anything in his whole life. For the tawny face was bent down near his own and (wonder of wonders) great shining tears stood in the Lion’s eyes. They were such big, bright tears compared with Digory’s own that for a moment he felt as if the Lion must really be sorrier about his Mother than he was himself.

“My son, my son,” said Aslan. “I know. Grief is great. Only you and I in this land know that yet. Let us be good to one another. But I have to think of hundreds of years in the life of Narnia. The Witch whom you have brought into this world will come back to Narnia again. But it need not be yet….”


Aslan goes on to instruct Digory that the boy must retrieve the seed for the Tree of Protection.

This passage is so rich in imagery and meaning, as we discussed after your very moving recitation. Digory is at first focused on Aslan’s feet – those claws, which seem to represent justice and potential punishment. But then he looks up to see tears in the Lion’s eyes, showing understanding and mercy. And later Digory experiences these again, and grace, when Aslan allows him to bring the healing apple home to his mother.

As was also discussed, however, Aslan has a bigger plan – he sees the bigger picture – he must concern himself with not only Digory’s needs but also those of the many Narnians affected by the presence of the Witch. This comes first. And Digory catches a glimpse of this bigger picture, and learns of his place in it. He grows in obeying Aslan’s command, even as the Witch tries to tempt him to do otherwise and smuggle a healing apple back to his mother.

How does all this relate to me? Among the conversations I enjoyed at the Moot was one in which Dr Ransom asked about my coming to faith. For various reasons I never actually got to finish the story – but I was reminded once again of the importance of medical trials in my own life and growth (and in the lives of others in my family). For this reason the Digory character, with his suffering mother, is one I’ve long related to. And I’m one of those people that find it harder to see a loved one going through pain and sorrow than to experience it myself.

God has used severe medical trials in my family – among these my younger brother years ago, as well as my aging parents’ experiences in more recent times – to spur me on to greater dependency and trust in Him. He’s in charge, and I’m not.

But in hindsight this was clearest to me a number of years ago, when my brother nearly died of ongoing complications from an earlier illness. His situation seemed to change hourly, and he was halfway across the country. All I could do – all any of us could do – was to hold him before our Father in prayer and trust that His sovereign will was best. Some of us did fly out there to help his wife with their two young children, and I was able to help out a bit after he came home from the hospital.

It was during this time we all grew so much, and learned even more of God’s provision through His people – especially as we heard stories of people from their church, and even strangers (parents of children the kids went to school with) bringing over food or offering to help in other ways. Coworkers offered their sick time when my brother’s ran out.

And I was reminded of the short nature of the span of days we’re all given, and that each is by the Father’s good grace, when my brother’s family and I visited the Field of Dreams movie site in Iowa the following summer. If I may quote from something I wrote at the time, in which I speculated on why people still visited the movie site so long after the movie was made:

But this place proved to be a special one to me as well, for different reasons. And perhaps it was not the place itself, but what I saw there. For as I sat on the bleachers in the Iowa sun, my 4-year old niece cuddled next to me, I watched my brother - who had been literally on his deathbed two short months before - trot the basepaths with his young son. To everyone else, it was an ordinary sight, to be sure. But I was so moved to see it, for it was a reminder that he had been granted a new lease on life by our gracious Father - as we all are with each new breath we take.
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Re: Suffering

Postby Elluinas Mirion » Jul 31, 2010 11:51 pm

There's a big difference between the suffering (and development) of the children characters (Edmund, Eustace, etc) and the suffering of many of the other more "mature" characters (Lucy, Reep).

Nickabrick went through much suffering, but it was no longer to any purpose. Puddleglum likewise suffered much (apart from his personality) yet to great purpose. But neither of these can be said to have improved or grown, for they were already fully grown into their final state (or meta-state).

There is also the case where sometimes great ordeals and suffering result in a semi-permanent fracture of the person. The classic example is Frodo Baggins who is around 50 years old when he starts his ordeal, and never quite recovers from it (in this life- so to speak). There ARE at least two examples of this in chronicles: Ramandu, and Coriakin and they get less attention than they deserve. Another example (from the space trilogy) is Dr Ransom who sustains one physical wound that will not heal on earth, (and who, one suspects, bears a few other wounds invisible). Like the sword anduril which served its purpose and then broken, awaited the time when it would be reforged and called to duty again.

Which is not to say that I disagree on the role suffering can play, just that at some point, like Odysseus, it is less about becoming, and more about being and doing the tasks destiny and formation have prepared for us.

Well that's just an initial observation, after thinking about it for three days. The sands of time alter our perspective; maybe I'll add a bit more later...

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Re: Suffering

Postby DiGoRyKiRkE » Aug 02, 2010 7:25 pm

Elluinas Mirion wrote:Nickabrick went through much suffering, but it was no longer to any purpose.


Hmm, I don't quite know what suffering Nikabrik went through. He lived a fairly decent life (at least as decent as all of the other Narnians did). In what instance do you see him suffering?

Also, do you think that suffering gets to the point where it doesn't serve a purpose? I have to disagree there as well. Suffering is always meant to serve a purpose; if it didn't it would mean that our God, and the Narnian equivalent of God would be nothing more than a sadist who liked to watch us suffer. Now the sin of bitterness can creep in and turn suffering into something that doesn't serve a purpose. . . but that's our fault, not God's.
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Re: Suffering

Postby TheGeneral » Sep 26, 2010 7:14 pm

I don't think it's God who causes the suffering brought upon people, at least not in our modern days.
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Re: Suffering

Postby Xenophanes » Oct 04, 2010 6:15 pm

DiGoRyKiRkE wrote:
Suffering is typically used to make us stronger in our walk with Christ. It is what molds us into a masterpiece. A block of stone is turned into a sculpture only by painfully chipping away all of the unnecessary bits. A toothache is only remedied by painfully pulling out the offending tooth.


I would have to agree, Dig. However, such metaphors as these makes me always ask the sorts of questions, "Why couldn't the stone have been made in such a way that it did not need to be painfully chipped in the first place?" Or perhaps, "Why was the tooth made in such a way to be put under the pains of a toothache?" ;)


How can we grow through suffering?


Suffering not only strengthens and prepares us for more evils in the world, but it also teaches us how to enjoy the good moments. However, I find it rather odd for people in our modern society to talk of suffering, when most of us have hardly ever gone through true suffering. While I'm sure all of us have gone through the pain of losing loved ones, it is hard to comprehend the pain that people who are are in danger of dying of hunger go through each day.
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Re: Suffering

Postby Devin Brown » Oct 07, 2010 6:57 am

This is Devin Brown checking in. I have been enjoying the discussion.

Lewis describes the cure for our rebellious nature in The Problem of Pain where he points out, “While what we call ‘our own life’ remains agreeable we will not surrender it to Him. What then can God do in our interests but make ‘our own life’ less agreeable to us?” Coriakin’s life was made “less agreeable” by being assigned the frustrating and thankless task of overseeing the Dufflepuds. At the conclusion of Eustace’s corrective punishment, the narrator reports, “The cure had begun.”

Like Susan, who in LWW seems to say she would have preferred to have a safe Aslan, we, too, sometimes want a God who will be all consolation and no correction. In chapter three of The Problem of Pain, Lewis writes, “What would really satisfy us would be a God who said of anything we happened to like doing, ‘What does it matter so long as they are contented?’ We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in heaven.” Lewis goes on to note that if our concept of God’s love evokes merely an image of this kind of smiling, benevolent grandparent who only coddles and never disciplines, then our conception of God’s love needs to be changed.

Lewis was well aware that the potter’s hand which shapes flawed humans into something perfect, while always needed, might not always be pleasant. He concludes his discussion from chapter three of The Problem of Pain this way: “It is natural for us to wish that God had designed for us a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are wishing not for more love but for less…. We may wish, indeed, that we were of so little account to God that He left us alone to follow our natural impulses—that He would give over trying to train us into something so unlike our natural selves: but once again, we are asking not for more Love, but for less.”
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