In the Preface to his book, The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis states:
…the purpose of the book is to solve the intellectual problem raised by suffering; for the far higher task of teaching fortitude and patience I was never fool enough to suppose myself qualified, nor have I anything to offer my readers except my conviction that when pain is to be borne, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all (p. 10).
Last November I was in Virginia for a lectureship that centered its attention on the book of Job. As you can imagine, one of the main themes was the issue of pain and suffering. Several speakers were asked to tell of particular incidents in their life that, in some way, mirrored Job’s experience. One brother’s grandson drowned in the family pool. Another brother was responsible for the death of another in a car accident, and he himself was subjected to a host of surgeries. My friend, Don Ruhl, talked about his kidney transplant a dozen or more years ago. Another friend told us about his house burning down, and the need to start over. Each story put a lump in my throat.
No one, among all those speakers, many with PhDs, professed to have all the answers, or to be able to explain every adverse thing that happens to us. Ironically, I don’t know if I could tell you why all the good things happen to us. We tend to think we don’t deserve any of the bad, and yet who among us deserves the appropriate pleasures of life—and yet, we never question the good—as if we deserved it. (Perhaps someone should write a book titled, The Problem of Pleasure.)
I think Mr. Lewis has hit on something very important where suffering is concerned. Since no one has all the answers, God being the exception, it may very well be that “a little courage helps more than much knowledge.” You could have a great deal of understanding concerning the subject, but of what value would that knowledge be without an ounce of courage?
Courage is a virtue. Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the ability to move beyond the fear to do what needs to be done. It is neither rashness nor cowardice. It is something that rests between these two extremes. It is something for which we must develop a desire. It is not something that can be acquired for us.
On the other hand, when we are with those who are suffering, Mr. Lewis affirms the value of “a little human sympathy more than much courage.” All you need to do is read the book of Job to learn that trying to intellectualize the suffering of another rarely carries with it any comfort for them. Job’s “friends” were miserable comforters. If they had only come to sit with him and to weep with him, their presence may have been far more comforting to this man of sorrow.
Mr. Lewis ends his purpose statement by affirming that even the slightest evidence of the love of God would be of greater value than courage or human sympathy. When challenged to question the integrity of God, we should search for evidence of His love. When we see it, we will find in His love the power to remove all hostility toward Him.
Job was never told about the things that went on behind the curtain—of Satan’s involvement in creating trouble for him. And yet, through it all, Job affirmed “though he slay me, I will hope in Him” (Job 13:15). This is sage advice.