March 16, 2016

Pain is a funny beast. I think C.S. Lewis says it well when he starts his book on grief in saying “No one ever told me grief felt so like fear”. The overwhelming heartache that is sorrow and grief is not merely the pain itself but it is also the fear and awareness of the pain and the knowledge that you cannot make it leave. When the heaviness and the sorrow feels overwhelming, there is no sense of escape. Thoughts, feelings, and actions are all filtered through the gut wrenching physical and emotional turmoil of loss and everyday feels unliveable.

As Lewis continues to express he is struck by what seems like the meaninglessness of life in the midst of such pain. Is life worth living if pain must be the ultimate end? Is the risk of life worth the loss of pain? This is even more potent a question for Lewis as the loss of his wife came after a short and unexpected marriage. Lewis had no desire to be married but when he did he experienced joy that he did not know possible. This joy however was so short lived Lewis was forced to question whether it would have been better not to experience it at all.

This question causes me to pause. How much of life is worth the risk knowing loss is not only possible but likely? Is a relationship worth it, especially after a painful experience? Is starting a new business worth it even if it fails? Phrased another way, is vulnerability worth it?

I don’t mean to ask the question lightly as I myself know the great pain of unbearable sorrow and loss. It feels all consuming and painful beyond belief. It is not a minor experience and often leaves us with the fear of its return, a shadow that seemingly that can never be erased. But yet, I too am forced to consider the reward that comes with risking once again.

In another part of his book Lewis questions his faith and the strength of his beliefs. In a emotionally raw moment, he comes to the conclusion that “only a real risk tests the reality of the belief.” I want to settle here on the meaning of these words. In my life sorrow has made God not just a figure but a reality. Lewis uses the example that you don’t really know how much you trust a rope until it is holding you off the edge of a cliff.

In my own life, I have hung off the cliff and, while in the moment it was terrifying and never ending, in the long run the rope held. God never left, never let me fail, and never stopped holding. When I sit with people, I can always sense who has encountered great suffering and learned the strength of their rope. For me then, the depth and fullness that comes from a belief being a reality is worth the risk. To know the strength of the God who holds you is an unfathomable treasure gained no other way.